Women are good at sales. Hubspot reports that women are 5% more likely to close a deal than men, and a slightly higher percentage of women make their quota over men (70% vs 67%). A study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that companies with higher gender diversity are 15% more likely to have higher profit. Other research has shown that organizations with women in board member roles have a 42% higher return on sales than companies with fewer female board directors. Moreover, women stay an average of 1 year longer in their roles than men.
Why are women good at sales? It appears that the traits where women are generally strongest are the very qualities sales professionals need to excel: listening skills, customer service, personal interactions.
In order to best serve customers, you must have a high level of emotional intelligence. Those with a high emotional quotient (EQ) are masters of the art of listening respectfully and actively. The fact that many women are naturally emotionally intuitive makes them a natural fit for sales, having an innate ability to build trust, nurture relationships, and listen.
Acquiring Emotional Intelligence
Whether you are selling as a cloud sales rep, an attorney or a bartender, the ability to listen well and engage others separates top sellers from middle-of-the-road salespeople. The underlying point of departure is emotional intelligence. For the most part, emotional intelligence is essentially common sense. But it is less common than you might think. People who are emotionally intelligent are likable, enthusiastic, and trustworthy. They are not difficult to be around, irritable, or negative.
People with a high emotional quotient (EQ) are self-aware, able to build and maintain meaningful connections with other people, empathetic, and enthusiastic. This is important in sales because people buy from people they like. You can have the most logical list of reasons why someone should buy from you, but ultimately your prospect will likely base their decision on your ability to appeal to their emotions. Of course, features and pricing affect purchase decisions, but emotions play a large role. So, the better you understand how your prospect feels, the better chance you have of closing the sale.
Sellers with high EQs have the patience to maintain enthusiasm through long sales cycles, adapt to their prospects’ emotional states, remain positive despite frequent rejection, and build strong bonds with customers that improve retention rates, client satisfaction, and customer success in the long term.
If you are looking to boost your EQ, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be mindful of your own emotional state.
- Listen more than you speak.
- Spend time putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes.
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
- Try to be positive whenever possible.
- Always be curious—ask more questions.
- Get comfortable with adversity.
- Keep stress at bay.
Listen Like You Mean It
The days of telling a customer what you have to offer instead of asking what they need are over. To succeed, we must listen to customers. This requires leaving our desires at the door and tuning into customer’s true needs. It asks that we advise, not dictate. Serve, not sell.
Listening also means tuning into colleagues and competitors for advice in order to gain an understanding of both the customer and the industry. Unfortunately, what passes for listening today is waiting long enough for the speaker to finish, meanwhile preparing a response before taking the time to hear what they are actually saying. But you need to hear if you want to understand what someone means. To nurture active listening skills:
- Be present. Stay focused on your conversation and remove distractions.
- Paraphrase often. Repeat what you hear back to your prospect.
- Focus outside, not inside. Hear what the prospect is saying, not what you are going to say next.
- Try thinking aloud. Voice your thoughts along the way so you can determine whether you and your prospect are on the same page.
Taking this to an even higher level, Respectful listening has three levels. Three-level listening build trusts with clients, helps you remember more about them, and encourages them to share more with you.
- Get Data: Pay attention to the facts that your prospect shared.
- Get Context: Take time to identify why that is meaningful.
- Acknowledge: Take what you have learned and acknowledge its significance.
Extending Yourself and Your Service
One of the defining traits of being an empathetic salesperson who actively listens is to continually ask yourself how you can better serve the person you are interacting with (whether a colleague, a prospect, or a current customer). It requires asking yourself what can I do to make this person’s life easier? Or, asking them directly.
Sales is a win-win opportunity when you spend time serving customers and building trust, rather than sweet-talking them into buying. Think of it this way: you are not selling something to someone, you are collaborating with your prospect to solve a problem. If you change your goal from getting the sale to helping the client, the sale itself becomes a byproduct, not the goal. Paradoxically, if you focus on helping the client you are apt to get more sales.
To be a better servant for your clients:
- Have their best interest at heart.
- Seek to understand their interests.
- Offer advice that is useful to them.
- Operate on their timeline, not yours.
- Be completely transparent and honest.
- Stay engaged post-sale to ensure your customer’s success.
- Be proactive.
Get involved in tough discussions. Don’t shy away from challenging discussions. Instead, offer applicable solutions as soon as possible.
Don’t sell and run. Stay engaged and attentive to ensure your customer’s success, even after they sign on the dotted line.
Sell by doing, not telling.
The sooner you start providing a service, the better. Always show your trustworthiness through your actions, not words alone.
Every Interaction Matters
Every new interaction is a chance to build a relationship and your own reputation. To boost the impact of your interactions:
Pick up the phone or, better yet, meet in person to have a conversation. Too much happens via text or email. We are all busy, but it goes a long way to make the effort to spend time with your prospects personally.
Keep your tone positive. If you are always positive with your connections, they will associate you with positivity.
Make eye contact. Eye contact is extremely important when establishing a personal connection. Non-verbal communication matters. Both body language and your appearance give your prospects clues about your authenticity and investment in what you are selling.
Tap Into Your Soft Side
The reality is, people buy from people they like. Thus, it is important to appeal to your prospects’ emotions, not just their logic.
Listen more than you speak. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Take responsibility for mistakes and acknowledge shortcomings.
Keep your own emotional state in mind. Make stress reduction and mindfulness a priority.
It’s Time to Diversify
As noted earlier, research clearly shows the benefits of diversifying the salesforce. Yet despite the supporting statistics, the shortage of women sales professionals is cause for concern. Women still only make up about 39% of the sales workforce, a number that has grown only by 3% over the past decade, according to a 2018 LinkedIn report. Furthermore, only 19% of VP and C-suite sales positions are held by women. What’s more, the sales profession has the second-largest gender equity gap in America compared with other professions.
Given this, innovative sales organizations of the future would do well to diversify their salesforce, their executive leadership team, and to work to rectify gender inequality in the workplace. 50/50 should be the lowest goal, however from what we have seen in the field, 75% female to 25% male might be most rewarding if you really hire for the right attributes and capabilities.
The traits that allow you to excel at sales aren’t gender dependent. As an industry, sales at every level need to become better at embracing all genders and cultivating the qualities that make sales a praiseworthy profession.