Lori Richardson is the founder and CEO of Score More Sales. She is an expert on B2B front-line sales growth in mid-market companies and also writes about sales for technology brands. Lori is President of Sales Shebang, which features the world’s top B2B women sales experts.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori about why she thinks the sales industry is ripe for a women-focused sales organization.
If you frequent sales conferences, you probably notice much of the same cast and crew. Richardson became disheartened after attending many sales conferences where nearly half the attendees were women yet all but one or two presenters were men. “Diverse opinions and ideas is what makes a conference great – not just the same people we always see speaking at industry conferences,” said Richardson.
That’s why Richardson took over Sales Shebang from Jill Konrath, who created the community back in 2007. The original vision was to host an event for women sellers where all of the presenters were women sales experts. The first event, in Minneapolis, drew a great crowd – but more than anything the sales experts hit it off and wanted to meet up annually.
Richardson said that this is just the beginning for Sales Shebang. The organization’s mission is two-fold. “We are currently revamping our online platform to really be able to showcase women sales experts, including speakers, consultants, authors and bloggers. It will be a hub where women considering a sales career can learn, and where sellers can get sales ideas. There is not another place on the web right now dedicated to women specifically in B2B sales.”
An online presence for women in sales isn’t the only gap. Women sellers and leaders are underrepresented in technology sales and other industries too. CNNMoney probed 20 U.S. tech companies to uncover workforce diversity data and received government reports for five of them. In sales for example, only 22% of employees, 631 of a total 2,850 are women.
When asked why women are underrepresented in sales and sales management roles, Richardson said, “A number of things at play. In some cases, women have not traditionally stepped up to want a management role. Another big issue is how we recruit and interview for sales positions. Trish Bertuzzi wrote a great post about interviewing in a way that would encourage more women to come on board.”
Bertuzzi offers the following tips for recruiting more women in sales:
- Make job descriptions gender neutral: Watch your pronouns, “AE isn’t afraid to have his performance measured against others” or “Candidate must take ownership of his territory.”
- Balance the ‘perks’: Kegerators-on-demand, competitive darts, flag football, etc. might not be balanced benefits.
- Lay off the war words: Hunt, kill, crush – these words tend not to appeal to female candidates. “The VP Sales is looking for other sales animals.” (Some might argue that ‘ninja’ & ‘rockstar’ are male-centric too.)
Richardson said, “aggressive words generally resonate less for women sellers, though it doesn’t mean they (women) will be less effective. Many managers look to hire women because of the strengths we bring.”
She added, “sales is a great career for someone who is entrepreneurial, who believes that they can really build something. A sales career can be the best job on earth if you are. As a single parent, I had flexibility. If I did my numbers, I generally wasn’t bothered. And there are more options for remote professional selling now. There are a lot of options for women in sales. It’s a great career in general. A lot of times, women go into marketing or other roles as opposed to sales because they can get an actual degree and it seems more tangible. There is great opportunity to make much more money and gain other rewards in a professional selling career. That’s what I want women to know. Over the course of their career it could be millions of dollars difference and amazing relationships.”
Another thing Richardson wants people to know is that working in sales is admirable.
“When you think of a salesperson, what comes to mind? People often think of used car salespeople – which by the way, I’ve worked with very professional salespeople in the auto industry, but we tend to think of the guy with the white shoes, white belt, and greasy hair. People think it’s an aggressive type of position but the most successful professional sellers are collaborative and have mastered relationship based selling. Bad sales is the image of that sleazy person, but that’s not good sales.”
Like many professional sellers, Richardson wants to change the perception of the profession for men and women. “Why does “salesy” have to be negative? I think of “salesy” as a positive.”
Selling is often misunderstood. The most common first job after college is a sales career, and yet there still are not many sales degree programs.
“Selling is really about having conversations with people and helping improve their company or their life. So if you look at it like that, selling is a very admirable thing to do. That is a very important part of this conversation. It is an admirable career if you represent products and services you believe in and that help people.”