Technology leaders don’t like to admit it, but sales has a perception problem that deters many fabulous candidates — especially women and minorities — from pursuing careers in tech sales. I’ve seen and experienced these biases firsthand as a woman of color in tech sales.
Unfortunately, some of the best salespeople are often deterred from the profession because of sales culture. There’s too much of an emphasis on “alpha male” personality traits rather than the soft skills that allow individuals to thrive. Sales leaders need to create a culture of success for all salespeople regardless of background.
The reality is that many go-to-market (GTM) plans are shifting to product-led growth (PLG). Putting the product itself in the driver’s seat means that the product needs to be easily accessible, well documented and usable without requiring “gatekeepers.” In this context, the role of sales changes from pushing products to enabling customers to make informed decisions.
Enablement includes everything from access to additional resources, volume discounts and navigating security, to vendor management, procurement and understanding product roadmaps. All this has less to do with selling and more to do with giving customers a well-managed buying process. Good tech salespeople enable customers to get the most out of their investment by giving a voice to their needs and concerns.
Extroversion, charisma and alpha personality traits do not drive sales success.
Substance over charisma
The charismatic alpha-male trope is a remnant of early technology sales days and is often depicted in television and movies. While it makes for good drama, it leads people who would excel in tech sales to think they don’t have the right personality for the job.
This is a major myth. Extroversion, charisma and alpha personality traits do not drive sales success. The real skill sets that make salespeople effective include:
- Discipline and organization.
- Intellectual curiosity.
- Ability to navigate complexity and create clarity out of ambiguity.
- Creativity and problem-solving.
These are gender-neutral soft skills that apply equally to introverts and extroverts. Unfortunately, the perception of sales environments deters many talented women from sales roles. Instead, they find comfort in marketing, accounting, finance and human resource roles, all of which have more defined playbooks with well-understood responsibilities.