Is Diversity the Hidden Secret to Transforming Sales Performance?

August 31, 2017 Jennifer Wyne

Every sales leader is continuously searching for top sales people. They are evaluating talent looking for a demonstrated track record in closing big deals, ability to manage relationships, enterprise credibility and more. While these traits and experience are important to individual hiring decisions, the profile of the overall team is often overlooked and team diversity is usually an after thought. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest that diversity in teams and organizations may be a key indicator of sales success.

When sales leadership gets together for the quarterly business review, the discussion always starts with performance against plan and year-to-date results. Sales leaders strive to understand more about their high performers and low performers with an eye toward driving balanced rep performance and improving sales execution. Rarely does the discussion get into team dynamics, much less the role that gender and diversity play in sales team performance. Little if any attention is given to how diversity is connected to overall organization performance and revenue.

The roles that gender and diversity play in performance exploded back to the top of the executive agenda several weeks ago with the now infamous manifesto from a Google engineer. At its core, the central thesis of the memo was the suggestion that diversity had a negative impact on performance. In fact, the reality is exactly the opposite – recent research has found that diversity is not just a “nice to have,” but it’s critical for sales and overall company performance.

Earlier this year, Altify published the Business Performance Benchmark report, where the data highlights the need for a diversity policy to future proof business performance, and it points directly to sales team impact. The benchmark data showed that organizations that value diversity close more deals and they do it dramatically faster.

A diverse workforce closes more deals

The benchmark data uncovered that when a company has a good track record on gender and racial diversity it experiences multiple performance benefits. Companies that focus on diversity see customer retention up as much as 50 percent and that sales win rates increase by 17 percent. In addition, organizations with a strong focus on diversity enjoy sales cycles that are on average, 22 days shorter. In short, diversity has a material impact on sales velocity.

The Benchmark study captured feedback from more than 800 respondents from 60 countries from 12 different industry sectors. More than sixty percent of the respondents were in management or held executive titles. The broad reach of this report provides a global view into diversity across industries and points to both the priority of companies as well as measurable impact.

However, the study also exposed a gender discrepancy in how men and women view the importance of diversity. While 79 percent of females surveyed reported believing that a diversity policy impacts business performance, only 66 percent of males believed the same. This suggests more room for performance improvement, especially in sales, where men are more likely to hold the most senior positions.

The ability to close deals a full month faster is material to most organizations and illustrates a massive and measureable benefit of diversity. These benefits have a major impact on the company’s bottom line. Diversity increases cohesive working, teamwork and a mix of cultures to create new ideas and increase sales.

Awareness of the importance of diversity is seeing an increase in importance from multiple sides. Leaders in large tech companies, including Marc Benioff at Salesforce and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, have been aggressive proponents of gender equality and diversity and believe it is good for their products and business.

In parallel, government is getting into the act as well. In 2015 Germany passed a law which had a gender quota, requiring at least 30 percent of non-executive employees at large companies to be female. In the UK, the equality act of 2010 subsumed all anti-discrimination laws into a single act to cover people in the workplace and wider society. Expect this trend to continue as governments push for further legislation and reporting on workforce hiring, compensation and promotion practices.

The implication is clear for organizations and sales teams. In the quest to recruit the best sales talent and outperform against plan, diversity is a key factor to include in the sales strategy, recruiting and execution mix. Savvy sales leaders look for every advantage when they develop their sales plans. It’s time to add diversity into the mix.

Today’s post is by guest author Patrick Morrissey, CMO of Altify, a platform that helps sales teams win the deals that matter and increase wallet share in existing customers.

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