“A Sales Pitch for Women “

March, 07, 2018

While the industry and every organisation including ours grapples with the challenges of salesforce retention, let’s on this the International Women’s Day try and address another issue that ails our sales forces – the gross under-representation of women in sales, all over the country.

Let’s begin by trying to understand the three top qualities that we look for in a sales person; confidence, communication skills and the zeal to tackle and overcome the market forces. 

Besides these, a good salesperson should be polite, understand people and their needs, be a good listener and be creative enough to sell the product or service at hand.

The irony is that we search for these qualities in men while conveniently forgetting that women are born with these skills. In fact, even while advertising for a salesperson, organisations often tend to write ‘his skills’ instead of ‘his or her skills’.

The problem seems so evident, it is staring us in our faces.  Can we really afford not to address it or introspect about it?

Let me illustrate my point with my own little story.

When I was in the process of selecting the MBA stream I wished to pursue, the first and most common advise given to me was to pick HR. ‘More women in this field, less risky, flexi timings and quite a comfort zone for women’, I was told. 

Well, I defied all advice given to me and chose marketing instead. 

I had everything going for me - a good education, strong role models , proper guidance, empowerment to choose my career path and most importantly people who thought I was good enough to do the job.

But, almost a year back,  when I chose to take up the sales responsibility in the POS (Point of Sale terminal) industry, I was least prepared for the kind of reception I would get from a world which was predominantly led and built by men.

The initial challenge started within the organisation when the male salesforce was apprehensive about accepting a young woman in a senior sales responsibility. I had all the pre requisites for the job, a 5-year education, a healthy professional experience, strong role models , proper guidance from my senior management and the confidence they bestowed upon me to achieve my goals in my own way. 

But that apparently wasn’t enough.

My real challenge lay in convincing my team that I could do the job as well as the previous 38 year old male sales manager.

Their apprehensions also originated from a very basic societal bias that a woman cannot have a long, fruitful conversation with a partner or a dealer. And I must admit here that initially I really found it difficult to strike conversations with our business partners since most of them asked me only personal questions - what about your family, why are you not married and so on.

But, after the initial surprise and discomfort of a young woman calling and claiming to be the sales point of contact wore off, I worked really hard to establish and convince the dealers that I was well aware of the product, technically or otherwise as well as in tune with the industry I work in. My persistence began to pay off, slowly but surely. And once they were convinced about my credentials, it was a little easier to proceed with business related talks. 

Luckily for me, ever since I have grown in my job steadily and consistently.

Of late, I have also been able to establish a sense of trust and power with my dealers which enables me to strike fruitful conversations with them. 

My first successful sales call happened when I spoke to a prominent business partner who finally raised no questions whatsoever about my work experience or my gender but merely proceeded to take the conversation to where it mattered – the business goal and how to achieve it. 

I recently read somewhere that balance is what keeps the cosmos in motion. But, sadly, when it comes to sales, I feel we still need to go a long way before achieving that balance – a balance where we are more accepting of a person based on their knowledge and merit, instead of their age and gender  

According to a recent study, it was found that women salespersons end up being in an organisation much longer than men (mostly by a year or more). This maybe because women identify and choose opportunities more easily within their immediate surroundings than men. What then is stopping us women to embrace this industry wholeheartedly, I wonder. 

In my current job, I have interacted with over 4000 business partners and many other customers in the IT industry and it is pretty evident to me that a saleswoman’s word is clearly more trusted than that of a salesman as her communication is often much clearer and free of any tall, false promises as compared to her male counterparts. 

However, the underrepresentation of women in sales jobs still rankles my mind. I feel that this could be due to the lack of interest in this profession among women themselves, who seem to be a victim of the stereotyping that has happened in our society. 

Let’s face it, many women do not even consider opportunities in sales and get bogged down by all the imaginable obstacles even before they start - long working hours, extensive travelling and a spouse who would not be able to accept his wife in this role .

This is not always true in today’s day and age. Sales is a high pressure job no doubt, but it also requires one to take big decisions, provides great work exposure, better communication opportunities through digital media and much better opportunities to get to the top of the corporate ladder. Let’s not allow this wonderful opportunity to slip out of our hands.

This International Women’s Day let’s look beyond the imaginary glass ceiling we have built around us and change all perceptions that have been created around this glorious, rewarding and empowering career option. Let’s give sales as much importance as any other job we cherish.

We deserve it.

(Sanuja Sajeevan is currently the youngest business women in IT industry who has sought fame within five years of her professional carrier. With her excellent sales and marketing skills, she has lead ESY from the front and had succeeded in establishing the ESY brand across Indian market. Sanuja is Product Marketing Head at ESY India where she has proved her mettle that ‘Girls can Sell Better’. She truly deserves to be role model for thousands of girls in India who are dreaming of being into sales profession.)

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