For those of you who do not know Lauren Bailey - you should. She is a seasoned sales expert and a powerful force for changing the stigma around sales, both for women and for sales reps everywhere. She is the founder of Factor8, The Sales Bar, and #GirlsClub, where her overall mission across everything she does is to make people feel more confident and successful at work.
Based on her years of hard work, she puts all of her knowledge, experience, and expertise into these businesses to help solve the problems she sees in sales - from sales reps being totally unprepared to make sales phone calls, to helping more women realize their potential in the field of sales.
We look up to her here at Ciara an immense amount, and we were lucky enough to chat with her about some topics that are relevant to the sales world (and world in general) today. Read on to learn more about promoting women in sales, what she thinks the future of inside sales looks like, and who she, as an influencer, looks up to!
In the last 5 years, I have been asked to speak a lot about “why aren’t there more women in sales leadership?” And I resemble that remark, because when I was a young sales manager, I was the only female in so many of my experiences. My colleagues were all men, I didn’t have mentors or role models that were women, and, to be honest, that was business as usual. I didn’t feel abnormal at the time, and it wasn’t until I found mentors and role models as entrepreneurs that were women that I realized what a gap I had coming up in sales.
By the time I was asked to speak on my fifth or sixth panel about the lack of women in sales leadership, I thought, “honestly I’m sick of talking about it, I want to do something to solve it.” At about the same time, I read an article that Forbes published about a study called “The Confidence Gap.” It says that if there is a job posting, for example for a team lead position, and from a list of 10 qualifications, a man will raise his hand and apply if he has 60% of the qualifications, but a woman waits until she has 100%. This really spoke to me, and gave me insight of where I could try to fix it. The fix became #GirlsClub.
#GirlsClub, first and foremost, is a community. We help build the network so women feel like they have peers and role models and an opportunity to work with other women in sales and women in sales leadership, because they may not have that in their company. There are four main parts of GirlsClub, which are:
1. Management training program
I would say that this is the heart of Girls Club. That is really the fix, if you will. The first thing I did was grab the management curriculum from Factor8, because if women feel like we aren’t ready for the job of a manager, then we can help train you and get you there better than most people out there right now.
2. Confidence building
Section two of the program is about the confidence building, which is everybody’s number one goal when they come into the program. We do that through so many different methods, but I would say the favorite method is really trying to quash perfectionism and enable risk-taking. Some of the ways we do that is by helping them see that other women who have succeeded also have fears and failures and that that’s okay! Just the visibility into “wow, you can be successful, without being perfect?” and “oh my gosh, those women feel that way too?” is very freeing for a lot of people.
We spotlight great role models, we do things called “RiseUp On Records,” which is like a confessional where people talk about their failures and their fears, and it gives them permission to not be perfect. And then we do targeted content, like “how to raise your executive presence” or “how to ask for development or ask for the promotion” and I think that that’s everybody’s favorite stuff. It’s so gratifying to watch these women take off like rockets with the confidence building curriculum.
3. The community itself
The third part of the program is really building a community. We pair everyone up with a mentor so they can have a female mentor, and a male mentor if they’d like, and these are folks who are already sales leaders. Typically, they’re VPs or Directors, and they meet with them a minimum of once a month just to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about.
4. Shining a spotlight on women in sales
If those are the three legs of the stool - the content and management training, the confidence building, and the community - then the seat of the stool is the spotlight that we shine on them. We try to help raise their visibility in their workplace by making sure they have an advocate that’s working on a curriculum with them. We’ll give them activities to do every month, which might be something like shadowing a manager or a skip-level meeting or running a meeting, so that they’re being seen in their own organization. Then, we help those who want to also raise their profile outside of their companies. We will spotlight them on Linkedin with our “Takeover Tuesdays”, and give them lots of visibility, or we will help get them in webinars or onto stages so we raise their profile along the way.
Overall, those are the components of #GirlsClub, and we are in our second generation right now. The first generation was a phenomenal success. For me, the best part is watching them thrive afterwards. The first generation is still connected with the program and with each other, I still get messages and pictures all the time from women who meet up with other women from #GirlsClub all over. They help each other in so many ways - networking, getting a new job, and overall the network has just grown exponentially.
Right! So for us at #GirlsClub, the piece of the elephant that we chose to bite off was the women who are already in sales, helping them get to the next level. But we’ve learned so much from this community about how we can do a better job of recruiting women into sales, and I have a couple tips:
1. Work on your About Us page
First, women very deliberately check companies for other women and diversity. So, companies who have an “About Us” page, women will go and check that, and when it’s all filled with white males, they don’t apply. They feel like they won’t be able to thrive there. So if you can’t get a woman on your executive team or on your web page, take the pictures down, and you’ll be surprised about how many more female applicants you get.
2. Update your job description language so that it appeals to more people
The second thing you can do is take a look at your job descriptions. One reason we are learning that women aren’t applying is that we set up sales to be a super competitive sport. We use “war” language, like “you’re going to crush quota” that sales has developed over time and that doesn’t speak to a lot of women. Even though study after study shows us that women are actually more successful in sales. We are helpers by nature, so when we can rephrase some of the language from “competing, crushing, and winning” into “serving, helping, and building relationships,” it will speak to a larger percentage of women.
This doesn’t speak to all women though, I mean I still got into sales and it spoke to me just fine. But I always did have that fear that if I don’t succeed, then I won’t make the money and set myself up for success. So if we show the job as more about helping versus winning and dominating, then I think we will see that open up.
3. Be realistic about your “ideal candidate” requirements
The third one is that we always like to say “here is the ideal candidate” and put out a laundry list. However, let’s learn from that Confidence Gap principle, if there are 10 things, you’re only going to get a woman applicant if she has all 10 things. So take the number down! Rather go for three or four things that you definitely have to have.
For example, instead of talking about “the ideal candidate will have five years of sales experience,” think about would you actually take someone with 2 years of experience? Zero years of experience? Of course it is a plus to have someone with experience in your area of business, but think about if it is actually a requirement.
Take into consideration the people you have been hiring and whether or not they have that experience you’re asking for. If they don’t, then take it off the job description. Put it rather into the interview questions. You’ll get more applicants by reducing the number of things on the job postings.
4. Speak up for women whenever you can!
The last thing you can do is ask! Women are waiting to be asked! Some of that is on us, and that’s what we try to work on with #GirlsClub. Before you go seek out a new candidate for a sales role, look at the women in other roles or departments beforehand and reach out to them. Tell them why you think they’d be a good fit in this role and find out if they’d be interested!
What I see changing isn’t necessarily on the sales side. There are a couple areas I see changing that are connected to sales, and they are:
1. Marketing - I think that marketing took giant leaps ahead with insights, lead generation, funnels, tools (MarCom/MarTech), etc.
2. Customers themselves - I also think the customers took giant strides. The customer lifecycle has massively changed over the last few years. They used to have to talk to salespeople to get information, and now they already know 70% before they want to talk to us. They’re using their social networks and the internet and doing their own research before they come to us.
3. Sales technology - The third area that really took off in the last 10 years is sales technology. There is a tool for everything! The average rep now has about 7 ½ tools - they didn’t have that before.
In terms of sales tech, basically, we systemized and operationalized sales as it connects through marketing and for just the speed and efficiency of selling. But what we didn’t do necessarily was upskill our people. We had fewer people to choose from, which means they came to us with less experience. We gave them a more demanding customer and a customer who’s harder to reach. And then, we gave them more tools to master, but we didn’t see the time or spend in their training and development increase. What happened next was we wound up trying to rapidly hire numbers of people to hit these VC-funded, disruptive-growth goals and we did it by operationalizing, systemizing, and scripting reps.
I think we’ve heard loud and clear that it isn’t working and our customers are not enjoying the experience. One of the latest stats from Hubspot said that 3% of customers trust sales people. A few years ago, that was in the double digits.
So, it’s clear that the customers aren’t liking it, but on the other hand, neither are our salespeople. The average lifespan of a rep has drastically been reduced, in fact, I think we’ve even cut it in half in the last 5 years. We are getting younger and younger people into sales, shoving them into an outbound-specialized BDR role, which is the hardest role, and we’re only giving them tools and scripts. If they’re voting with their employment, they’re voting out. Which saddens me because we are basically teaching people not to love sales!
Now, enter COVID - I think this is going to help sales and salespeople in a lot of ways, such as:
1. Bringing the human aspect back to sales
The first way this has helped us is people got very human, very fast. Even the grossest sales pitches and cadences are starting to see instant feedback that they don’t work and the “spam-demic” is hurting those companies now. We are forced to connect on human levels - that’s all people are doing right now, just having human conversations and it’s gorgeous! I think the pendulum shifted way over to the humanization of sales and I don’t expect it to shift all the way back. I think that’s a great thing.
2. Remote work
Here’s the next thing it did for us - we figured out how to work virtually. I think that in the next few years smart companies will learn that their hiring pool just exploded. You don’t have to be within a 10 mile radius of an office to work there. That’s going to expand the hiring pool so we can match the right talent with the right job without the constraints of geography. We have the tools to do it, it can be virtual, and I think that’s going to help so many of us going forward because before we were in a hiring crisis. Unfortunately now we are seeing layoffs and there is more talent available, and I think that they will get scooped up by companies that aren’t in their backyard and we will see that that works.
3. Altering the future of sales itself forever
The third thing that is happening is that the field of sales itself is being forced to go virtual. I think in 10 years we won’t call it inside sales, we will just call it sales. We are getting more and more requests from traditional face-to-face sellers who now have to figure out how to do it over the phone - which is where I was 20 years ago! We’re going to teach them how to be more efficient and how to sell virtually. Our traditional view of sales will be different in the future because of that.
Many industries have made this shift over the past 20 years, and it has been so fun for me to watch. Huge manufacturers have had to keep up with disruption that companies, for example Dell, were creating such as selling direct-to-consumer, which wasn’t the norm at the time. This kind of disruption was sucking the margins out of large companies and was basically forcing them to go virtual. We’ve watched a similar pattern unfold industry by industry over the last 20 years. Software went there next and they’ve been extremely successful at it.
In fact, some of my first training jobs was teaching people how to sell technology over the phone and then software over the phone, and at the beginning of each of those, someone always stood up and said “it’s not possible. You can’t sell a million dollar software package over the phone.” Yeah, you can! Guess what, we do now, easily, everyday. And since then, we’ve watched more industries go virtual too. Distribution, manufacturing, some big box retailers, and now recently we’ve seen medical and big pharmaceuticals make the switch. I think that more companies will get there faster because of where we are with COVID.
Yes, that’s so good! So, part of what inspired me to start #GirlsClub as I said was this women’s entrepreneur group I was in. It was started by Jill Konrath, who is an amazing sales author, and what she did in starting this group is by saying it’s the “abundance mentality” and we have to help each other. Everybody in this group competes with somebody else in the group, but we’re all there to help each other. We all get together throughout the year and help grow each other’s businesses. So the “abundance thinking” and helping people around you I admire greatly. We are here to serve and that’s our main mission.
Today, the club is run by Lori Richardson who does a better job than me for beating the drum for women in sales. She works to get women into sales and trains companies on how to better do that, she does phenomenal research, and she’s writing a book. So those two inspire me greatly, but they’ve helped me access more fantastic women who are sales influencers.
And finally, my mentor is Shari Levitin. She is an author, a speaker, and a trainer, and I think she is amazing - I love what she does.
Thanks again to Lauren for joining us in discussing these topics! If you have any follow-up questions, or are interested in learning more about Lauren or her companies, connect with her on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/insidesalesadvisor/.
Check out Factor8 and #GirlsClub here: