Typically sales has always been a male-dominated function. Being an “all boys club”, it becomes especially difficult for aspiring women to get a deserving break in sales and progress to leadership positions in the sales arena. The reason behind the lesser representation of women in sales leadership positions could be an orthodox industry mentality that females cannot excel in sales jobs and as a result fewer women proactively opt-in for sales careers.

As opposed to the usual assumptions, organizations with a gender-diverse sales team had proven to outperformed on their revenue targets over those sales teams who did not have enough females in their sales force. Not only the inclusion of women in salesforce ensures higher sales quota achievement rates, but it has been noticed that female sales reps stay in their roles longer compared to male teammates.

Despite the factual data, females are still hugely under-represented in the sales function. According to Linkedin – Top Trends of Women Sales Professionals the average percentage of women in sales in Director & above positions is under-represented at 27% only.

This post is an effort by Clodura.AI to recognize the leading female sales leaders of the world and also get their valuable inputs to inspire, nurture, and develop the next generation of female sales leaders. Clodura as a company currently has a women majority workforce. 70% of our team members are female.

Let us keep reading to know more and learn from these 10 most influential & inspiring female sales leaders (listed in no particular order).

Top Women in Sales (2020) – Sales Insights From 10 Most Influential Female Sales Leaders

1. Lori Richardson

Lori Richardson Founder, Score More Sales President, Women Sales Pros

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Lori: I’ve been in B2B sales for more than 30 years in one capacity or the other. My first career was as a teacher. I became a single parent and could not support my family on my teaching salary so took a risk to become a sales representative selling technology products and services. Initially I began on straight commission – no pay until I sold things. Fortunately I had some great mentors who helped me as I learned and grew as a professional. I spent 15 years in tech and have also sold fintech, professional services and marketing services. I launched my own sales strategy firm a number of years ago to help other companies with their sales efforts. In 2014 I launched Women Sales Pros – to help get more women into sales and sales leadership roles.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?

Lori: Five things we call the “Will to Sell” – desire, commitment, outlook, motivation, and responsibility – oh, and coachability.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?

Lori: Be a sponge – learn from the most successful people around you, and don’t let negative people or disbelievers get in your way. Know that sales is an admirable profession that can offer you freedom and flexibility, in addition to learning life skills like communication. I think it is the best career out there!

 

2. Sally Duby

Sally Duby Chief Sales Officer | Partner The Bridge Group

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Sally: I’ve been in sales over 30 years! I started in one of the hardest selling jobs, selling insurance to individuals and businesses. This back in the day of going door to door of businesses. I walked in to one office that had a sign above the receptionist desk saying “We shoot every 3rd sales person and the 2nd one just walked out”! You learn to find humor in every situation and not take anything personally.
I decided early on that a career in Sales Leadership was more my thing. So I worked my way in to management and have been in it ever since.
I love the energy, excitement and challenge of Sales Management. Everyday is different.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?
Sally: I look for people who are inquisitive, ask lots of questions. Did they prepare, do their research on the company and myself?

I look for people who actively listen and ask follow-up questions to what I talked about.

Communications skills- are they comfortable in conversations, what kind of phone skills  do they have?

And last I look for people that are determined and have the tenacity to keep going when hit with rejection or even worse no response.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring sales reps and women in particular to progress in their sales career? Sally: As women we have some unique characteristics that make us perfect for a sales role. Our ability to listen, nurture and want to help others, perseverance and multi-tasking are just a few. Believe in yourself and your capabilities no matter what is going on around you.
Find mentors and engage them to help you.

 

3. Heather Combs

Heather Combs COO 3Pillar Global

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Heather: I have been in sales for over 20 years. Before joining 3Pillar, I was the Chief Business Development Officer at the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), where I was responsible for overall revenue strategy. I have also been the Chief Business Development Officer at Aronson and Chief Sales Officer at Hanover Research, and I spent 13 years at the Corporate Executive Board, where I led product management, sales and strategic partnerships initiatives.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales? 

Heather: Be approachable. Women in business often don’t want to come off as “too nice” because they think it makes them look weaker or makes them less respected than their male colleagues. Don’t worry about fitting into or not fitting into stereotypes. In sales, being approachable is one of the best qualities you can have.

Be passionate about what product or service you’re selling. If you’re not excited about it, how can you expect a client or prospect to be excited about it?

Be willing to put your hand up. You won’t get an opportunity if you don’t ask to be considered for it. I look for candidates who say yes to every opportunity, and when one door closes, they find another one to open.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?

Heather: Network, and don’t feel guilty about it! You should consider networking just as important as your job – men do. Say yes to events and opportunities to meet new people. Studies have found that women tend to be more modest in selling their skills and more reluctant to use their connections, and we shouldn’t be. And for every opportunity you’re given, try to give one to another woman. We need to make sure we help each other out.

 

4. Colleen Francis

Colleen Francis Owner Engage Selling Solutions

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Colleen: I’ve really been in sales for about 40 years! When I was a kid, and we had to raise money for a sports or band trip my parents made me go door to door. No one would take my fundraiser to work! I paid for University with sales jobs, and when I graduated, I went directly into sales with an investment company. You could say that selling is the only thing I’ve ever known.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?

Colleen: The willingness to be coached in #1. I don’t care about experience, I care that they don’t think they know it all, or have all the right contacts. I want to know if and how they are investing in themselves, learning and evolving. Second is their willingness to take responsibility for the good and the bad in sales. If they blame others for their mistakes (such as a lost client) I won’t hire them.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?

Colleen: Seek out mentors and coaches. Always be learning and invest in your career. Don’t be afraid to try something new and look for people who are successful now in your environment (current team members for example) as Avatars.

 

5. Kristie Jones

Kristie Jones Principal Sales Acceleration Group

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Kristie: I’ve been in sales since I started waitressing at 16 years old. I loved that I could be in total control of my income. I spent time in retail sales out of college as a department manager and buyer for Macy’s. This gave me a nice background in CPG and B2C. After a few years I jumped head-first into sales leadership positions with privately owned SaaS software companies. I spent 16 years leading sales teams, SDR teams, and Customer Success teams for privately owned and VC-back SMB companies. In 2016 I decided to start my own sales consulting company to help Founders of privately-owned and VC-back startups improve their sales process, strategy and people. I love helping early-stage companies grow their revenue and teams!

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?

Kristie: I spend about 20% of my time helping my clients hire and onboard new sales reps. Here’s what I’ve learned. The best predictor or future behavior is past behavior. Based on that, I do an in depth behavioral-based interview with each sales candidate. I’m looking to see how they’ve handled sticky sales situations in the past, if they understand why they’ve been successful, and if they will be willing to be held accountable. People who’ve had a taste of success in the past whether that be as an athlete, employee, or student want that feeling again, so I’m also looking for past winners.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?

Kristie: Know your worth and don’t settle!

 

6. Kate Bradley Chernis

Kate Bradley Chernis CEO Lately

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Kate: Honestly, we are all always in sales! The moment you open your mouth in hopes that someone will do what you ask, congratulations – you are in sales!

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?

Kate: The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s so easy. Also, there’s no shame in selling – during a global pandemic or any time. But you do have to be considerate, always. Humans buy from humans. Don’t jump right into the sale… Warm me up. BE HUMAN. Get to know me. Ask me questions. Learn what I care about. Then use that information to close the deal. This is not news, selling has always worked this way. “Social selling” is the only kind of selling and has nothing to do with technology – it’s only been made faster by the tech available. It’s amazing how many people still get this wrong. They forget the human factor.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?

Kate: Be aware when others are wasting your time and have the courage to call them out on it. Someone told me a long time ago that men will take a meeting with a woman who is attractive just to say they did. I didn’t believe this. It’s 100% true. The most difficult thing I ever did was to walk out of a meeting when this was happening – I was shaking and scared; the man, after wasting my time for over an hour, sat back in his chair, put his arms behind his head and said, “so how can I be helpful to you?” (Which I’ve since learned is code for: I have zero interest in doing business with you.) I stood up, shaking with nerves and replied, “you can be helpful by never doing this to another woman ever again.” To which he pretended to be surprised and asked, “what do you mean?” I continued, “you lectured me, dismissed my responses, referred to me metaphorically as your daughter throughout our meeting and fell asleep on me not once but TWICE.” Then I stomped towards the door, which was stuck… I couldn’t open it and had to ask him to open the damn door so I could get the hell out of there. It was very embarrassing! But it felt awesome standing up for myself.

 

7. Catie Ivey

Catie Ivey RVP of Sales - National Demandbase

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?
Catie: I took my first sales job right out of college, and like so many sales leaders I meet today, it was definitely an “accident”. I knew nothing about sales and very little about business in general, but I was competitive and a hard worker and was determined to learn.
It took me some time to build my confidence as a seller, but I was a natural people leader from day 1, which certainly helped to accelerate my career. I moved into a sales management role 6-months into that first job and haven’t looked back since.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales? 
Catie: Resilience – a career in sales means facing rejection. Lots of it. Great sellers learn how to handle rejection and setbacks and see them through a lens of learning and opportunity.
Solution oriented – great sellers are always solving problems. They take ownership and accountability for what comes their way and refused to see themselves as victims.
Intellectual curiosity – great sellers are learners and they are curious. They enjoy learning and want to understand both people and business, which leads them to ask great questions and really seek to understand.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?
Catie: You are capable of more than you’ve even begun to understand. Set big goals and dare to push yourself towards them. Don’t wait for someone to offer you a seat at the table or to offer you that promotion or raise you’ve got your eye on. Ask for what you want and know your worth every step of the way.

 

8. Alea Homison

Alea Homison Vice President, Go-To-Market AlphaSense

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?
Alea: I’ve had quite the journey in sales where I’ve either been in a sales role or have been a strategic partner alongside sales in some way or another for nearly all of my ~20 year career.
I started my career packaging and selling risk management portfolios to large industrial clients in Pittsburgh, PA. I then when to the client side of risk management for a few years until deciding to go to business school and make a career pivot into investment banking where I had some great learnings trying to sell and buy companies, as well as the ability to take a company public. Since leaving investment banking, I’ve spent the last decade in sales strategy and go to market roles where I partner deeply with sales teams on positioning, packaging, pricing, product enhancements, sales process, insights, etc.

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?
Alea: In my interactions with candidates, I focus on the following four core talent traits, which the data tells us are statistically correlated with job performance in sales:
Core trait #1: General Mental Ability (GMA)
Core trait #2: Curiosity (Coachability, learning, inquisitiveness)
Core trait #3: Conscientiousness (Competitiveness, discipline, organization, consistency)
Core trait #4: Grit (tenacity, drive, relentlessness, work ethic, initiative, passion, achievement/goal orientation, perseverance, courage, patience, positivity, optimism)
While there are certainly other traits that could be included – like confidence, empathy, likeability, etc. – it’s nearly impossible to accurately and consistently measure more than a few traits for every candidate and while these are certainly good traits for sellers to have, there is not science to prove that any of these additional traits are statistically correlated with job performance like the above four core talent traits.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?
Alea: Know what is important to you, accept that these priorities may evolve over time, and surround yourself with others that respect and will empower you.
While it may sound simple, knowing what is important to you and why, and re-evaluating that on an ongoing basis given these will change as your professional and personal needs evolve, can help add clarity to decisions you will need to make around what is the right next step for you. I have found that this also helps to ensure you are picking roles based on what is most important to you and not just money. Regardless of the role you are in, there will always be other roles that could pay you more. If those other roles have all of your must haves, then consider changing roles. However, it’s likely that those other roles don’t meet key needs of yours and therefore, you can breathe easy and have confidence that you are in the right role for you, based on what you need and what you value.
I also cannot emphasize enough the power of working for and with people that will respect and empower you, especially your direct manager. For quite some time, I’ve chosen roles based on who my manager would be and this decision framework has proven to allow me to make some of the best decisions of my career. If your manager truly sees your potential and is focused on empowering you, you will be given opportunities to grow, learn, fail forward, and advance that you would never have imagined, quicker than you imagined. They will push you, celebrate you, invest in you, and support you. If this doesn’t remind you of your current manager, you should leave.
My last piece of advice would be to not wait until you feel 100% ready for your next role. If you have the right manager, they will support you for new roles not just based on what you have done, but what they know you can do. So have the same confidence and approach for yourself and go for it!

 

9. Patrice Greene

Patrice Greene President & Co-founder Inverta

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?
Patrice: It was not typical. I did not start out in sales. I am not traditionally trained by a large sales organization. I grew out of marketing and then found myself loving working with Marketers to help match make them with the right services/tools and solutions. I’ve been selling for over 12 years and for the past 5 years as a CEO I am always selling 😊

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales? 
Patrice: I look for a few key attributes – a consultative individual who leans into their target audience and truly learns and adapts to their needs and the solutions that will help service those needs. I also look for someone who has a track record of learning how to leverage their teammates to help support them in selling. Selling is not a 1-man show. To be truly effective at it you need to leverage the tools in your toolkit – that includes the people that surround you in your product, marketing, and enablement teams. However, the last attribute needs to be balanced with the “team approach” – which is they need to look at selling as them being the CEO of their own territory. I look for entrepreneurial individuals who self-manage.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?
Patrice: Make the ask. Whether it’s for the bigger role, the bigger salary, or the contract from your prospect/client. MAKE THE ASK. Truly own the fact that as a woman you innately possess many attributes that will help you succeed in sales (empathy, care, etc). Combine these with an assertive approach and you truly have unlimited potential.

 

10. Allye O’Brien

Allye O'Brien Director of Revenue Operations Chief

Rohit: Brief us about your sales journey so far. How long have you been in sales?

Allye: I have been in Sales since 2012 when I began as an SDR. Since then, I moved through AE, AM, and Pre-Sales Engineer roles, before entering management in 2017. I’ve since led teams in NYC, London, and Tel Aviv, and this year started a new chapter of my career as Director of Revenue Operations at Chief!

 

Rohit: What are the essential attributes you look for in an aspiring candidate to be successful in sales?

Allye: Creativity. Hands down that is the most important attribute you need to have going into Sales. It’s a grind of a career sometimes, and heading into the 1st of the month with a new approach, new winback strategy, new comms style when you’ve hit a rut, is what will keep this job fresh and exciting, instead of stale and frustrating.

 

Rohit: What is your piece of advice to the aspiring women sales reps to progress in their sales career?
Allye: Don’t give in to stereotypes. You’re not a stereotype, so don’t assume anyone else you’re working with is either. I’ve worked in “boys clubs”, I’ve been discriminated against for my appearance, but I always approach every call, Sales, interview, or role with fresh eyes.