Technology leaders don’t love to admit it, but sales has a perception problem that prevents many great candidates – especially women and minorities – from pursuing a career in technical 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 put off from the trade because of the sales culture. Too much emphasis is placed on “alpha male” personality traits rather than the soft skills that allow individuals to thrive. Sales leaders must create a culture of success for all salespeople, regardless of background.
The reality is that many go-to-market (GTM) plans are shifting towards product-driven growth (PLG). By placing the product itself in the driver’s seat, the product should be easily accessible, well documented and usable without the need for “gatekeepers”. In this context, the role of sales is changing from pushing products to empowering customers to make informed decisions.
Enablement includes everything from access to additional resources, volume discounts, and navigation security to supplier management, procurement, and product roadmap visibility. All of 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 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 holdover from the early selling days of technology and is often depicted in television and movies. While it makes for good drama, it leads people who would excel at tech sales to think they don’t have the right personality for the job.
This is a big myth. Extroversion, charisma, and alpha personality traits do not drive sales success. The real skills that make salespeople effective include:
- Discipline and organization.
- Intellectual curiosity.
- The ability to navigate complexity and create clarity from ambiguity.
- Creativity and problem solving ability.
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 positions. Instead, they find solace in marketing, accounting, finance, and human resource roles, all of which have more defined playbooks with well-understood responsibilities.