How a career in sales can be a ticket to a better life for women

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It’s Women’s Health Week (September 7-11). This is a national campaign, raising awareness of the importance of maintaining good health and wellbeing for all women and girls.

As a woman who’s been in business and sales for over 30 years, a business owner for 25 years of those years and a working mother for 22 years, I thought I’d weigh in on this topic.

I want to share some interesting insights and research about how sales and sales leadership careers help empower and enable women to forge their own careers, rise up the corporate ladder, and enhance their earning potential, all of which can be very good for women’s overall health and wellbeing.

The central theme here is agency. In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. It’s been well proven that education gives girls and women agency, which is vital for their overall health and wellbeing.

Mastering the skills of professional salespeople gives women agency too. Learning the craft of professional selling is very empowering for women.

It opens many doors. It can be their ticket to a better life and career, with job prospects, choices and money.

Starting your own business

One such ticket is starting your own business, which I did on January 9, 1995.

The one thing that gave me courage and confidence to open the doors to my new business was that I knew how to sell. I had been well-schooled in sales in my previous role which I am eternally grateful for.

I recall making over 100 prospecting calls in the first week and getting around 16 appointments in the first two weeks and closing my first deal on Friday of the first week.

I even asked to be paid upfront so I could start the project and my new client said ‘yes’, signing a $10,000 cheque which I banked before 4pm that day.

I was on my way and have never looked back.

Even during COVID-19, I am really glad I know how to prospect and sell. Despite the challenges and limitation, I have called hundreds of people and made many contacts, opening up new and brighter opportunities.

While the pandemic has been tough on me and my team mentally, emotionally and financially, because we have the sales disciplines in place, we have been able to find a positive pathway forward.

There are no quick fixes, but knowing you have some agency over your future, and the ability to find and create opportunities because you can sell ethically and sustainably, is vital for anyone’s health and wellbeing.

Career pathways to leadership and power

Having highly visible roles help women get noticed more readily by those at the top and selling is one of the most visible careers on the business landscape.

Being in a sales career opens doors to new opportunities, to better jobs, to leadership roles, and positions of influence.

Why women are great for other people’s health, wellbeing, and the bottom line

It’s time we give women more credit for the real value they deliver to teams, customers, and business results.

Women are very good for business.

Women as sales leaders are also very good for other people’s mental health and wellbeing as well as the bottom line.

Research has found that, by and large, sales units led by female managers who had higher levels of behaviour control activities displayed:

  • Higher effectiveness in the form of better job satisfaction and involvement;
  • Lower role ambiguity, job anxiety, and burnout;
  • Higher organisational commitment; and
  • A lower propensity to leave.

The results show that sales teams led by female managers display significantly higher levels of civic virtue, sportsmanship, altruism, courtesy, cheerleading, peacemaking, and overall citizenship.

This suggests the management style of female managers (perhaps most particularly, their higher levels of behaviour control activity) encourages and facilitates higher organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) among salespeople working in the sales unit.

While the research showed that both female and male sales managers were able to achieve comparable sales performance, the effect that sales management behaviour control practices had on OCB was positively linked to critical factors such as:

  • Superior performance with customers;
  • High sales unit performance;
  • Helping with work-related problems;
  • Effective organisational performance; and
  • Higher employee retention.

What selling teaches you about yourself (among other things)

Despite the negative tropes of about ‘used-car salespeople’, the best salespeople are highly empathic, compassionate, helpful and purposeful.

Most women in sales are standouts.

Women in sales are also some of the most courageous and tenacious people in business and this builds certain resilience, personal confidence and the mental skills to know how to handle sets backs and challenges.

I mean, most days you will get a no, but you soon learn not to take it personally and you can keep on going.

I believe that teaching women and girls how to sell ethically and sustainably gives them a vital set of life skills that will enhance their personal health and wellbeing and give them agency in their lives so they can go out pave a pathway forward to create great opportunities for themselves and others.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

NOW READ: Women bosses bring profits: Company values soar $80 million under female CEOs, world-first study shows

NOW READ: Five steps to a power shift: How women in business can ‘build their dream careers’

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