Revenue Generation leaders from across North America converged on our virtual stage recently, as GDS Group hosted our perennially well-attended RevGen Summit. The virtual conference brought together sales and revenue experts to discuss the best ways to drive lead generation and revenue in today’s digital-first world.
In her opening keynote for the final day of the summit, Cynthia Barnes delivered a talk entitled, “Embracing Diversity: Navigating Assimilation and Accommodation in Sales.” As Founder and CEO of National Association of Women Sales Professionals, Barnes is devoted to supporting diversity in sales roles. She shared her valuable insight with attendees, explaining how companies can bring out the best in every seller on the team.
Here’s some key learnings leaders can glean from this conversation, including why diversity matters for revenue teams and effective strategies for supporting sellers.
One surefire way to ensure sales success? A diverse team! In her address, Barnes explains why teams work better when not everyone looks the same. “If you have only one gender, one race on your sales team—or any team for that matter—you have one school of thought primarily. But the more diversity you have in demographic, the more diversity you have in thought.” It’s the multifaceted team that gets ahead, says Barnes, in good ideas and good numbers. “There’s a revenue bump up to 15% when you have a diverse team.”
“There is a huge push for adding women to sales teams.”
– Cynthia Barnes, National Association of Women Sales Professionals
Is There Anyone Who Looks Like Me?
Sales is still a heavily male-dominated space. According to numbers from Zippia, more than two-thirds of B2B sales representatives are men. The majority of sellers (72.5%) are also white. “For a lot of black women in sales,” shared Barnes, “we are the only one. Either we’re the only one that looks like us as far as color, or the only one who looks like us as far as gender.”
Shifting the tide and working to create less homogenous teams is not only important internally, but it matters to external customers, too. “Let’s not forget,” says Barnes, “that your customers are looking at your sales team to see, ‘is there anyone who looks like me?’ And if there’s not, they may go someplace else, where the diversity is reflected in the team.”
We Want You to Sell Like This Person
Diversity matters when it comes to sales training and enablement, as well. “Traditional sales approaches were created by men, for men, at a time when men made up the entire salesforce,” says Barnes.
In today’s sales setting, those traditional sales approaches will not fit everyone on the team. If revenue leaders aren’t taking that into consideration when planning for the development of sellers, they’re in danger of leaving some people behind. “As a sales enablement professional, if you only bring in one type of sales trainer, you are essentially saying, ‘we want you to sell like this person you don’t look like.’”
Instead, Barnes says, have a diverse roster of trainers—as diverse as the sales team you have. Or, in some cases, make your training team as diverse as the sales team you want to have. It’s the difference between equity and equality.
Barnes explains that equality says, ‘everyone gets sales training,’ while equity says, ‘everyone gets training that fits them. “We can offer blanket sales training to everyone on the team regardless of gender, race, class… but what if we approached it from a lens of equity? That says I’m going to give whatever subset group what they need to thrive… where they are.”
Ask and Listen
So, how will revenue leaders know what each seller needs to thrive? Barnes says it’s as simple—and powerful—as asking them. This helps a team move from a sales culture of assimilation to one of accommodation. Barnes describes the difference. “Assimilation is something that those who do not look like the majority… do to fit into their environment.” No leader should want a seller to have to assimilate to feel they belong at the company. “Accommodation, on the other hand,” Barnes continues, “is creating an environment, i.e., your sales team, where that person is free and feels safe to be their authentic self.”
So how can a sales leader tell if they have a culture of assimilation or accommodation? Barnes offers two simple questions for sales leaders to ask themselves:
- Would my sister/aunt/niece/daughter feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging on my team?
- Would she thrive?
Celebrated (Not Tolerated)
Before she founded National Association of Women Sales Professionals, Barnes shared that selling was sometimes a lonely journey. But she says it also built resiliency and it’s what keeps pushing her today, as she works to create a new culture, “where people like my niece won’t have to go through those challenges.” And she’s hopeful that revenue leaders can change things, and that every seller on every team can proudly say, “at my job I’m celebrated, not just tolerated.”
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