Dana Mata: Trends of Women in Sales

July 26, 2014


As a woman in sales, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed 25 rewarding years selling and leading in Silicon Valley. With incredible mentors, I quickly climbed (and sometimes cracked) the “corporate ladder” from telemarketer to CEO, each step witnessing a wide diversity gap for women in sales in all roles, especially leadership. Yes, past and present - women represent the minority in the room - like many others. Next, I’ll share how I got started in sales, how the sales role has collaboratively evolved, my recipe for sales career success, and simple solutions to help narrow the gender diversity gap together.

Ready, Set…

As a woman and single-mother, I knew that sales would be a natural fit for me. I love people, teamwork, solving problems and technology. In my first inside sales role at AT&T, I received world-class foundational sales training emphasizing consultative-solution style selling vs. products and features. I learned to listen carefully, discover deeply, and share insightfully, always focusing on maximizing value. Placing customer needs and objectives ahead of my own personal gain, and being passionately committed to identifying and solving business problems with relevant value-driven solutions have always been my priorities. More important than “closing deals,” is being recognized as a “valued consultant and trusted advisor,” being the ultimate reward, complement, and vote of customer confidence, while building trustworthy and transparent long-standing relationships.

The Perfect Partnership Storm

We now live in a fact based, data driven, decision making world where having - and knowing what do with - the right knowledge and skills are critical. Buyers are astutely aware of market offerings prior to any sales engagement. They already know what your product is. They want to know what it does and how it (you!) can help transform the way they do business and drive immediate measurable value. Overly aggressive sales people with a self-centered “bull in a china shop” approach will no longer make it through the door physically or virtually. It’s now imperative for sellers to be agile with deep and adaptive situational fluency while customizing and consistently directing the flow of relevant information and thought leadership.

Go-to Recipe for Sales Career Success

I truly believe that selling - like life - is a collaborative team sport and a fulfilling career for women - anyone - if:

  • You’re CURIOUS, with an insatiable desire to learn and openness to change.
  • You’re CONNECTED, and fully leverage social selling to expand mindshare.
  • You’re MOTIVATED, with the ability to set goals and execute to strategy…repeatedly.
  • You’re INSIGHTFUL, with visionary and analytic perspectives clearly communicated.
  • You’re DETERMINED, with focus and resiliency in pursuit of excellence and ultimate customer satisfaction.
  • Your “SOFT SKILLS” are refined, including effective communication, collaboration, emotional intelligence (EQ), social graces, and positivity. Indeed, soft skills are sexy again and here to stay, giving women - and anyone who masters them - a distinctly competitive, authentic, and transparent edge.

Simple Solutions to Narrow the Gender Diversity Gap

Organizational Changes

1) Mirror Image? Don’t always hire “the man in the mirror.”  Pun intended. Instead, complement your teams with diverse recruiting efforts highlighting differentiated strengths and skills based upon key profiles for individual, team, and company success. Reflect, look, and think outside of the mirrored box and act responsibly, including eradicating gender biased job descriptions, such as “ninja,” “dragon slayer,” “whale hunter…” Sounds dangerous? Weapon and costume required?

2) Transparent Diversification and Inclusivity. Champion diverse networks, groups, and actively participate in discussions that bring focus to helping women -any minority- further advance in sales and leadership roles. Let’s address this hefty “elephant in the room,” put a colorful bow on it, and have openly mindful, inclusive, collaborative, and productive discussions, like LinkedIn's Koka Sexton and Alex Hisaka have done here!

3) Develop. Encourage and implement leadership development programs within your (sales) organization. It starts with hiring, developing, and promoting qualified and diverse talent. Make your company an awesome place to work and grow. Invest now.

Individual Changes… (Listen up ladies - well, everyone!)

1) Stretch. Remove self-imposed boundaries. Seek out and apply for stretch assignments and roles that will grow you and your (sales) career. No one is a “100% perfect match” for any job description. We all have shortfalls...initially. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Do seek solutions to rapidly augment potential skill gaps. Go!

2) Communicate and Leverage.  Promote and sell yourself directly and indirectly through executive sponsors and mentors. Share your aspirational goals and how much you value their expert guidance and advocacy. Fully leverage your network - especially LinkedIn! Seek to understand. Mentor. Get engaged. Stay connected. Yes, “Lean In!”

3) Learn. Continue to enhance your knowledge and expertise. Read, learn, attend seminars-webinars, obtain specialized degrees or certifications, and offer valuable and insightful comments on blogs and posts such as this one. Start now!

4) Share. My eyes, ears, and soul are wide open and welcome your valued voice and  below perspectives on other creative and collaborative ways to help narrow the gender diversity gap for “Women In Sales,” through this amazing Linked(In)clusive open forum.