Generation Equality in Sales = much better sales results


This Sunday, 8 March 2020, marks International Women’s Day and the United Nations’ theme for 2020 is:

I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.

The theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Given the theme of Generation Equality it seems only apt that we take a look at what women and men can learn from each other when it comes to having successful sales careers. But before I dive into the topic in more depth here is a brief history on how International Women’s Day came to be:

The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February 1909.

In 1910 the Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women.

International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I in 1913. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. The following, around Europe, on or around 8 March, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

With I am Generation Equality as our backdrop let’s take a look at the topic at hand.

With more and more women entering sales roles, especially B2B sales roles where they are doing very well I might add, I thought it would be worth exploring what women bring to sales roles, teams and organisations.

Let me start with an article I wrote about The Yin & Yang of Selling way back in 2010 where I proposed that the profession of selling has been out of balance for some time and to its detriment i.e. too much hyper aggressive Yang energy had dominated. I looked at how selling had been evolving over the last 50 years, where we were seeing a distinct shift occurring from the aggressive one sided approach where conquest was king (too much yang) to a more delicate balance between the masculine and feminine aspects of yin yang. 

We cannot deny that selling requires yang – a proactive, focused, go-out-into-the-world and find opportunity approach (prospecting); however, selling must be balanced with the ability to genuinely listen and respond to the subtleties of more complex relationships which involves patience, nurturing, and dealing with ambiguity which is yin. Think of the types of conversations you now need to have with your prospective customers where listening, questioning, resolving problems, collaboration, empathy and understanding are encouraged.

This was not just a fantasy. In research on elite sale performers women rated significantly higher than men on 5 of the 7 emerging competencies which gave them a distinct advantage in selling. Some of these capabilities included:

  • listening beyond the product needs;
  • engaging in self appraisal and continuous learning;
  • orchestrating internal resources;
  • aligning customer/supplier strategic objectives; and
  • establishing a vision of a committed customer.

These capabilities are in the realm of yin – the feminine. That doesn’t mean that they are exclusive to women. We can all learn these skills.

Research also shows that women have a higher win rate than men, which is consistent with the fact that women rate higher in key competencies for top sales performers. However, research by CEB shows that the sales function has the second largest gender equity gap of all business functions after supply chain. The same research shows that companies with more women in their workforce achieve better business results.

So, business and sales leaders, what are we waiting for? Generation Equality is here.

NB: the website ‘’ is not affiliated with the official UN Women’s International Women’s Day Movement and seeks to overly commercialise the day and co-opt people away from the good work the UN does for women.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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