Diversity presents amazing opportunities and we need to be aware of how it can influence selling in today’s markets. There are many aspects to diversity, and in this article we will look at four: gender, age, culture and language. As we review each of these categories, ask yourself how your organization’s sales force aligns with the market it serves.
Perhaps one of the most visible signs of diversity in sales is the increased number of female sales professionals. In the early 1980s, I was on a predominantly male sales team and virtually every sales person I’d run into was male. In our company, we’d go on men-only fishing trips; there was a separate event organized for the only woman on our team. It is embarrassing to think we regarded this as normal. How far we’ve come!
Today there are more generations in the workplace than ever before. How does that impact selling? There are 65-year old start up entrepreneurs and 22-year old CEOs of fast-growing companies. Baby boomers are often in decision-making roles and many sales professionals are in the early stage of their careers. Decision makers who assume younger reps haven’t the skills or experience necessary to be successful may mistakenly discount their ideas.
A young, high-energy sales professional can be very successful, while older, more skilled representatives often have a higher batting average. Selling is a combination of art, science, energy, and experience.
Global migration has created opportunities for businesses locally and internationally. There are also risks. Cultural diversity can result in friction when parties do not communicate well or understand the subtle differences in how others interact. There is much information available, including on the internet, about how to conduct business in different regions of the world.
Language, like culture, enables organizations and salespeople to expand their reach. The ability to communicate in multiple languages creates opportunities with:
- Existing clients who require services in different languages
- New clients in markets within your home country
- Clients in new international markets
Being fluent may not be enough; a company needs to have the infrastructure to support another language such as product packaging, and customer service.
How well does your sales organization reflect your client needs in each of the areas listed above? Are you being mindful of employment legislation in your market regarding diversity? Creating a rubric of how each current and potential employee fits across a diversity strategy is a good start. Aligning your sales force hiring and training practices with your clients’ realities, your organizational diversity policies, and your strategic goals will ensure a sales team that is reflective of the market today. It’s complicated, but it’s worth doing well.