Women, the sales & the discounts!

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‘Women, the sales & the discounts’ – what is so novel about it, one may ask? It is as normal and self-explanatory as a phrase can get like say.. ..‘Bread, butter & jam’!  With the e-commerce boom feeding the frenzy, it is nothing less than ubiquitous.  Ladies & Gentlemen – While I am in complete cognisance of the fact that half of the world’s obsession with shopping is worth mulling over, this isn’t about it. This is an exploration of why in spite of thought renaissance across the world, women continue to be ‘discounted’ in what is perhaps the ‘fulcrum of all business functions’ – SALES!

It was a couple of months back that I was attending a corporate conference in the city. One of the most talked about event at the conference was a panel discussion on ‘Women Power in India’ – the panellists were all senior, successful women! I was enamoured by what a senior woman leader spoke – about the gross-underrepresentation of women in sales and the irony behind it… It was an impassioned part of the day where she spoke about the process of self-discovery of her innate selling skills – how she ‘sold’ her decision to move abroad for higher studies to her parents, how she ‘sold’ her key faculties in an interview standing her ground and how she slowly but intentionally built her career over the years in ‘sales’ by selling her ideas and their worth! A few more rounds of electric thoughts and a networking lunch later, I sat in my car lost in my thoughts. More specifically about how all successful women I know of have all sold – their ideas, their talents and their conviction!

The gender ratios at higher echelons of India Inc. are terribly skewed, more so in a function such as ‘sales’ which has been traditionally touted a male territory.  ‘Are you aggressive and target savvy? Can you play golf or socialise over the weekends? Welcome to sales’ – seems to be the unwritten, unquestioned norm. There isn’t gender discrimination – in fact the setting is gender agnostic. But for guaranteed success, you need to fit the bill. Well, if you are a woman, you still need to be/do all this and more if you want to make it big in SALES– one is told! I reflect on the commonalities in the sales professionals I have had the pleasure of interacting with – they all built long and strong relationships with their clients, had the power of intuition and the patience to dig deeper to customize solutions to meet client requirements. All of them were extremely adaptable and skilled in the art of people management! That is empathy, intuition, patience, adaptability and inclusivity bundled together – traits that have proven to be more feminine than masculine as per recent studies. A contradiction,  eh?

A couple of days later, I am on my way to work. I see the smart flower vendor across my street on her morning selling spree. I cross the most popular roadside eatery in my area and I see the owner (a woman, of course!) busy micromanaging and selling her ‘specials’ on the menu. And I am convinced of the case that women are indeed naturally good at sales!

Now, let me ask you a question – do you want to do your bit for the cause? Are you a woman professional who is currently part of the sales life-cycle in your organisation? Or have you had a sales stint earlier? We would want your valuable opinion on this survey we are doing on ‘Indian women in sales – myths, facts and challenges’. Please record your response here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CareerForWomenInSales

Anju Rakesh

Research Lead, Flexi Careers India

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Author: Anju Rakesh

Research Lead, Flexi Careers India