Why Sales Skills are Necessary for Women in the Workplace

The Mad Hatter: “What a regrettably large head you have. I would very much like to hat it. I used to hat The White Queen, you know. Her head was so small.“

The Red Queen: “It’s tiny. It’s a pimple of a head.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)


The Mad Hatter then goes on to winning the possibility of hatting the Red Queen because he accurately accessed the Queens motivation.  The Mad Hatter had great sales skills.


Learning basic selling skills is essential to every career woman’s success and advancement. Most people, unless they are in sales, pay very little attention to sales skills. Most of us recognize good sales skills when we come across them but do not consciously assess them. Someone who has good sales skills will always leave a lasting impression or image on those whom they come into contact with. A man’s size and stature automatically aids him in creating this lasting image. Combine this with the workplaces’ tendency to be more male oriented, especially in management, means that men have a far easier time at leaving a lasting impression or image than women do. Having good sales skills are therefore essential for women no matter what position they are in, especially if they want to leave a lasting impression.  Good sales skills can also make women more effective, I have observed this many times in my career.  Here is one example.


I once had two project managers, both who were responsible for the reporting of critical projects and communicating them to the CEO in the form of tracking reports, project milestone reports, and critical open ticket reporting. Their essential task was tracking projects to ensure we were moving the company forward. Their success was based upon the cooperation of the entire management staff that was providing them with status reports.


The first project manager was a young male 6, feet 2 inches in his late 20’s and who had a pleasant personality. We will call him Mike for the purposes of this story. As part of his job he used an open communication style utilizing both e-mail and personal contact. He never had any difficulty getting the needed information for his reports. His size and mare presence along with his communication style contributed to a working relationship where automatic cooperation from the staff was the result. His was an instant success, he did not have to sell the importance of his job to the staff.


When he moved on, a new project manager took over this position. She was highly qualified, overly efficient, and extremely smart women and in her early thirties. We will call her Sally for the purposes of this story. Although Sally had been in the company for some time, she had difficulties taking over Mike’s position because she approached the job in the same way Mike did.


Sally would send out thousands of e-mails asking people to provide her with the critical information needed to complete the reports. She would lock herself away in her office trying to put the information together, but people were not responding to her requests. She began to miss deadlines, critical tickets, and critical information because it was not being provided to her. So what went wrong? Why did people not behave the same way with Sally as they did with Mike?


Sally wrongly believed that since her job was basically only gathering and reporting information, she did not need to motivate people to do this. Mike’s, physical presence alone was able to motivate people but if Sally wanted to be successful, she would need basic selling skills to make people want to deliver that same information. She was not going to be successful without selling her job to the others.


Unfortunately, this example is more the rule than the exception.  In management, we need to motivate people to deliver.  Good sales skills help us learn how to motivate people.  We sell them their own ideas so that they motivate themselves.  This is good management and this is a sale.  Use the example above to help you understand why sales skills are critical in almost every position for women.


Women want to achieve, move ahead and do their jobs but they do not live in an isolated world. Success often does not depend on your own skills alone but on the getting others to deliver what is necessary to do the job.  Good sales skills can help achieve this.


  1. Good sales skills begin with understanding the needs and motivations of others, no matter if it is a customer, colleagues or your boss. Open-ended questions, observation of the environment, body language and noticing other small aspects will help to determine the needs of others. As in the situation above, understanding the needs means understanding someone else’s job and priorities are. Sally was never going to be successful without understanding what the driving factor behind the others failure to deliver was.


  1. Knowing and believing in the value of what you have to offer is essential in sales. You cannot sell without the belief in your product. Sally had to believe that her reports were critical to assessing how the company was moving forward. She needed to communicate that belief and e-mail was probably not the best way to do this. Her e-mails probably said, “I need your status reports because the boss wants them,” but it would have been more effective for her to say “I need your status reports because without them we cannot support you in achieving your targets and moving the company along.”  This kind of passionate message brings more influence than a simple message.  It also brings more influence when done in person.  Mike probably made the importance of delivery transparent through his position, as well as his presence, whereas Sally needed to communicate the importance to others.


  1. Good listening skills are essential in the selling process. A good listening skill not only helps to understand the needs and motivation of others, but also helps one understand what the roadblocks and objections are.  What is blocking the ability to reach fulfillment? For example in the true selling of products and services, price is often used as an objection, but it is seldom a real objection. The real objection is often value, or the relationship between product and needs. In our story, Sally’s colleagues often told Sally that they did not have time to do the reports. She was puzzled because this was not the case when Mike was in the same position. Had the workload changed? Probably not, Sally just had to use additional selling skills and understand that time was probably not the objection, perceived value was.


  1. Without proper communication, one cannot sell. While Mike used e-mails in his communication, he also made sure to use one on one communication. His mare presence when he walked into someone’s office would help to motivate people to act. Sally, on the other hand, used very little one on one communication which was a big mistake when trying to sell. Sally needed to do more one on one communication to help establish her role and be more effective. She also needed more frequent communication because she did not have the lingering presence that Mike had.


  1. Begin with a good impression and the rest is easy. Good sales skills begin with a good presence and introduction. Looking and communicating the part will open doors. Mike’s being male (and automatically part of the club), as well as his size, automatically opened the doors for him. To be successful Sally had to make up for both of these characteristics by giving a different impression. She needed to be more professional in her communication, better dressed and demand control in her first meeting or she would begin at a disadvantage.


  1. Good negotiation and argument skills are part of successful sales. One’s ability to turn objections into questions and give solutions are an essential part of selling and cannot be done by e-mail; sally probably failed on this point.


  1. Closing at the buying signal and leaving with a lasting impression makes the sales process successful. The sale is only complete when the product, service or the awaited delivery is agreed upon and that all parties have a lasting good impression. Mike always closed the deal and left a lasting impression, one that would make people cooperate each and every time. Sally would need to use good sales skills to accomplish the same thing.


The moral of the story is that sales skills are not just for sales people. Some people like the Mad Hatter are just born with intuition and good sales skills. If you are not fortunate to be one of those people, sales skills can be learned. Sales skills are the necessary skills that can help one be successful in their job. The degree, to which they will be needed, depends on the particular job. Not everyone has to have super sales skills in every job although anyone managing projects and people need good sales skills to an extent. Sales skills are also more necessary for women then they are for men.


It is easy to become aware of what skills are related to sales and how these skills can help you be more successful. There are plenty of books about developing basic sales skills and how to use them.  Check out the bookstore, the Internet or look for a sales skill workshop near you or just ask The Mad Hatter for his advice!