Women have come a long way from simple remedial jobs, to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts in the sales industry.
Breaking down barriers and changing stereotypes is nothing new for women, but it’s a battle they have faced across industries, and Sales is no exception. However, despite the blockers they have encountered, women are making their mark in sales leadership roles, and their contributions are transforming the industry.
This year in the lead-up to Consalia’s International Women’s Day campaign, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Bianca Portulan, Executive and Organisational Coach at The Preston Associates, for a Q&A to get her insights on the sales industry embracing more women, the importance of visibility for women in sales, necessary industry changes and more.
Having started her career in Latin America, working for leading financial organisations such as HSBC, BankBoston and JP Morgan Chase, Bianca now brings over 20 years of international corporate experience to her role as an executive coach. She is also a Programme Director - Msc Programme in Leading Sales Transformation for Consalia, adding to our efforts to transform the sales industry through sales education.
In her coaching role, Bianca helps her clients to better understand their leadership style, manage their underachievers, deepen their self-awareness, and raise their own performance.
During our interview with Bianca, we had the opportunity to ask her about her experiences as a leading sales, and her perspectives on the challenges facing women in the sales industry. Here are some of the insights that she shared with us:
Q: How can organisations embrace more women in sales?
A: I think the core here is to create a sense of belonging. What I hear and observe quite often is that women feel almost as if it's (the sales industry) a men's club. There's also this perception that women are softer and less aggressive, so negotiations can be softer.
So, what I think organisations can do is create a sense of belonging. It’s not about training women to be around men, right? It's about men learning to be around women and accepting that they have a different way of selling.
And I think there's also a fear from women of the pressure to balance workload and family commitment. So, there's a lot of work that organisations could do to support women in that sense.
Q: What changes might the industry need for there to be more representation for women?
A: it's very much linked to what we discussed about creating that sense of belonging. Also understanding what would attract a woman to a job.
Create an environment for women to use their intelligence and their sense of negotiation. But also give them the confidence to feel comfortable and confident that they can succeed in the job. This will lighten the pressure.
Q: Why is it important for women to be more visible in the sales industry?
A: To gain the respect they need and the recognition that they can be good salespeople. Also, to give confidence to other women. Personally, I would like to see more women being women and succeeding in this career without trying to match men's behaviour to succeed in Sales.
Get women into the inner circles where they can prove they don't need to have all the skills. This understanding gives visibility to women and the confidence that they can make it.
Q: What positive changes have you seen in your career regarding women who have a career in sales?
A: I have seen many women that really made it through and are very successful.
In terms of using women, they are very good at building relationships, listening and engaging, right? I have two women very clear in my mind who were able to build their careers and win very big deals because of their relationship building skills.
To close big deals, it’s not only about listening to internal sales, you also need to have internal stakeholders on your side. You need listening skills and customer-centricity to build the right stakeholders with the client. They were very good at that.
Q: How can we encourage more women to pursue a career in sales?
A: I think the women in sales leadership today have important work to do. To create a coaching culture in companies today to really encourage other women to pursue this career. Share their best practices and what they did to build their career. Really advocate because this is something women are not very good at; advocating for other women.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to have a diverse workforce in sales?
A: Diversity is in everything! you cannot only hire people coming from consultancy, because they have a certain mindset. Diversity is also in the way of thinking. If you can hire engineers you need to also hire marketing people. It’s in the way you think…creatives, engineers, and women all think differently. So, the more diversity you have, the more different ways of selling and different ways of engaging you have. This way you can really combine the best.
Q: Lastly, what support do you wish was available to you when you were first starting your career in sales?
A: I wish I had done a more focused training in sales.
I did an MBA at the time but it was not specific to sales. It was more in strategy and leadership. That's where I think the Executive Master’s programmes Consalia has in and their apprenticeships are good. The learnings that are offered are very much about the skills you need for sales. So, I wished I had those resources.
How Consalia is doing their part
As we wrapped up our Q&A with Bianca Portulan, it is clear that there is a lot that women bring to the sales industry. While the industry can still do more in terms of embracing women in sales, it is great to see that there are many trailblazers like Bianca paving the way for future generations of women in sales.
Throughout our conversation, Bianca emphasised on the importance of visibility, support and mentorship for women in sales, and the need for industry-wide changes to support women's sales career growth. From creating a more inclusive culture to offering targeted coaching, there are many steps that companies can take to support the development of women in sales and enable them to thrive.
Like Bianca, Consalia is dedicated to supporting women in sales, and those that want to pursue a career in sales. Through sales education, we are transforming the sales industry. Not only to be more agile and further develop the sales values which deliver a competitive advantage but also to create a space for equality of women to thrive and add to their skill set.
Consalia offers accredited programmes to build the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours for your salespeople today and in the future.
- Level 6 and Level 7 apprenticeships for developing sales professionals
- Executive Master’s courses for senior sales leaders who want to challenge their thinking and develop new sales leadership skills
- Coaching for sales managers who want to learn to grow their team through coaching
Let us continue to work towards a future where women are equally represented in all areas of the sales industry.
Connect with Bianca Portulan on LinkedIn