Special note: This article was inspired by a Super Bowl XLIX advertisement that posed the question: What does it mean to do something “like a girl?” Initially, it mocked how girls run, fight and throw balls. Then, it showed young girls throwing themselves into these activities with passion and intensity. Finally, it concluded by saying that young girls confidence plummets during puberty and challenging us to change that.
It got me thinking. What did it mean to “sell like a girl”? And why is it that so many women feel like they don’t belong in sales? Could it be that we’re not tough enough? Or, that we lack the killer instinct?
If that were the case, then why did I know so many top women sales professionals? Clearly we bring different talents and mindsets to the sales field—ones that weren’t initially associated with sales success.
So I thought I’d share my story. For fun. For truth. For perspective.
I’ve been rebelling from the day I entered this (still) male-dominated profession. I didn’t intend to. In fact, when I first started out, I tried really hard to do what the guys did.
But being pushy, wasn’t part of my nature. I hated pitching; it felt so self-serving. I detested anything that smacked of manipulation. And I never was able to bring myself to use the trite closing techniques that my male colleagues claimed were so effective.
I was repeatedly told that I needed to “play with the big boys” and to “get in bed” with my customers. I learned that it was a “war” out there; that my competitors were the enemy and my job was to destroy them.
And, despite being in an environment where people took great pride in making tons of calls (“Sales is a numbers game!”), I felt it was a waste of time if they weren’t good ones.
Yet I was wildly successful. Beyond what I ever thought possible …
Because I sold like a girl. I still do.
Instead of focusing on products, services and slimy sales techniques, I focused on my customer. That’s the only thing that mattered to me. I wanted to understand their status quo, their challenges and their objectives.
I asked tons of questions. Seventeen magazine taught me how. (You can read about it here: Finally! The True Secret to My Sales Success Revealed)
I focused on conversations and collaboration. When I didn’t know the answers, I said so. My intent was always on making a difference for their business. At my core, I knew that if I could make that happen, I would benefit too.
As a result, my prospects felt like I truly cared about them. They trusted me. My credibility skyrocketed. When I made a recommendation, they believed it was in their best interest. It was.
I wasn’t a pushover though. At times I could be really tough. I told people their expectations were unrealistic. Or, I told them they weren’t expecting enough. I made ‘em think.
I frustrated them too, when I didn’t just do what they said. But I couldn’t because it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Yes, I sold like a girl. I created win-win relationships. I still do.
I’ll never forget the time, a few years back, when I’d proposed a one-day workshop to a manufacturing company. The VP of Sales was considering me and a of couple guys for the program. He liked my stuff the best.
But then he got nervous. Because I was a GIRL and all his sales reps were men. He left me a voicemail, sharing his angst.
I thought about it … but not for too long. There was only one possible response. I had to do it.
So I called him up. “Jim. It’s Jill calling. I know you’re concerned about bringing me in to train all your sales guys. But I just want you to know that I have more balls than those two other male trainers combined. That’s all I have to say.” I got the job.
I sold like a girl. I was open about his concerns, but not afraid to address them.
Today, when I speak at my sales meetings, my job is to wake people up to what it takes to be successful in today’s rapidly evolving sales world. I get in people’s face. I challenge their thinking.
But I do it ever-so-nicely, like a velvet hammer. Like a girl.
It still amazes me how many companies don’t think girls are really cut out for this business. They see us as too soft, too people-oriented — and perhaps not “money-motivated” enough. Or, they create macho cultures where women don’t quite fit in.
What a shame. They’re missing the opportunity to capitalize on the incredible talents of 50% of the workforce.
The truth is, ALL the best salespeople I know, sell #LikeaGirl — whether they’re male or female.