There’s more to salesforce diversity than making your organization look progressive from the outside in.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – similar to salesforce diversity and inclusion (D&I) but also focusing on equal access to opportunities – can improve your sales team’s performance by helping reps build stronger connections with buyers, access fresh ideas and attract great talent.
Forrester reported at the end of 2021 that sales organizations with leading DEI practices have higher sales forecasts, conversion rates, sales attainment and customer satisfaction levels than those with immature DEI practices.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the benefits of salesforce diversity before showing you how to build a diverse sales team and create an inclusive working environment.
Salesforce diversity, by definition, describes the extent to which a sales team’s members represent different characteristics, orientations and backgrounds.
Areas in which your team can increase diversity include gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, education and socioeconomic background.
Many buyers expect brands to be diverse. A quantilope study found in 2021 that 66% of consumers felt D&I was important in brand messaging (up 6% from the previous year).
However, salesforce diversity has tangible business benefits beyond meeting buyer expectations.
Here are three ways that salesforce diversification enhances performance and increases revenue.
A salesforce that reflects its audience can relate more easily, creating stronger connections between brand and consumer.
These connections translate to trust, which helps people make buying decisions sooner. That allows you to close more sales and ultimately generate more revenue.
Forrester’s 2021 report indicated that 55% of U.S. consumers prefer to buy from brands that reflect their personality.
This aligns with another of its key findings:
Sales organizations with leading DEI practices reported a 24% increase in customer satisfaction scores in the 12 months to August 2021. That was 7% more than those with lagging DEI practices.
Donald C. Kelly, the founder of The Sales Evangelist, agrees that sales teams should reflect their audiences:
In a field where great talent is hard to find, diversification creates new recruitment opportunities for sales managers.
By publicizing your inclusive working environment, advertising roles in varied spaces and using considered language in job ads and descriptions, you’ll widen your search to increase your chances of finding the perfect candidate.
The more diverse your team becomes, the more appealing it’ll be to candidates from underrepresented groups, too.
Hang Black, author of Embrace Your Edge, says diversification is especially powerful in leadership:
Salesforce diversity allows managers to apply a range of perspectives to everyday business problems.
This improves innovation, as a team with varied perspectives is more likely to find new, more efficient and productive ways to work than one comprising people who approach challenges in similar ways.
It’s not enough to just have a team of diverse reps making suggestions. Diverse leadership ensures all ideas are taken seriously.
According to McKinsey research, businesses with the most gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than their less diverse peers. The increased likelihood rises to 36% for companies with ethnically diverse leadership.
As Pipedrive’s CTO Agur Jõgi puts it:
Forrester’s diversity report shows sales organizations that invest in D&I achieve better sales outcomes than those who neglect it.
Here are nine tips to help you diversify your sales team to increase innovation, customer trust and loyalty. As a result, you should experience improved conversion rates, sales attainment and customer satisfaction.
Start by determining your position now so you can identify areas for improvement and set helpful diversification goals for the future.
The current demographic makeup of your sales team and leadership is a good starting point, but dig deeper.
Carry out regular employee experience surveys, look at past survey results (if available) and investigate historic staff attrition rates to find oversights.
If you uncover instances where your organization could have been more inclusive, learn from them and set measurable objectives for improvement.
For example, if the notes from a past exit interview show that an LGBTQ+ former team member raised concerns about microaggressions that the business didn’t take seriously, work with HR to tighten your complaints process so it can’t happen again. Action like this should improve staff retention rates, too.
It’s only by measuring results that you’ll learn which parts of your diversification efforts are working. There are four main areas to consider.
How accommodating is your workplace or team for people from underrepresented minorities? The honest views of your employees (especially those more likely to experience bias or discrimination) are your best guide here. Conduct regular, anonymous employee surveys to track sentiment and identify issues early.
Who’s applying for roles in your organization, where are they finding the ads and how are you managing the applications? The data in an applicant tracking system (ATS) will show if your hiring is broad enough and whether your efforts to be more outwardly inclusive (e.g. through representation in public-facing marketing content) are working.
If the data in your recruitment CRM show you’re only attracting applicants from one demographic group, consider changing the tone of your job adverts to be more inclusive (more on this later) and start promoting vacancies in new ways. Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are great for targeting specific communities.
How is diversification benefitting your team? Monitor customer satisfaction levels, conversion rates and other key sales metrics to see how your changes impact performance.
Monitor the demographic makeup of your audience so you can measure how representative your sales team is.
If you notice your audience becomes more diverse, it could be a sign that your own diversification efforts are helping your team build stronger connections.
Pay attention to and use the right gender pronouns and encourage other sales leaders, execs and reps to do the same. This helps to ensure that all colleagues feel valued and acknowledged.
As with forming any new habit, this may take some education, practice and time to get right. Some straight and cisgender people (people who are not transgender) might avoid gender issues completely if they don’t feel equipped to have what they deem to be sensitive conversations, but this can create deeper divides and cause further discrimination.
Encourage honest conversations and signpost useful learning resources for all employees. You could hold open discussions around gender equality or diversity in general or create a knowledge hub where team members can learn independently.
Encourage team members to display their pronouns in email signatures and other communication channels (e.g. Slack or Zoom) to normalize the idea that people use different terms.
It’s vital that LGBTQ+ sales reps and others from minority groups feel supported in your organization. They must be able to freely discuss issues, both in and outside of the workplace.
As a leader, it’s important to actively listen to what all team members say, ask questions and act when necessary. You can go further by building support networks or employee resource groups.
Jack Minty, a senior policy advisor in the British Civil Service, explained in an interview with The Muse:
An open-minded, expressive working environment where sales reps see themselves reflected in leadership fosters more creativity, comfort, happiness and ultimately productivity.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (a nonprofit LGBTQ+ advocacy group) found that 46% of LGBTQ workers aren’t open about their gender identity or sexual orientation at work. This is because they’re worried about losing relationships with other employees, being stereotyped or making people feel uncomfortable.
Show that there’s room for individuality and differences by bringing your full self to work. Setting an example like this can reinforce the idea of equality for all employees and should take some weight off your reps’ shoulders so they can focus on being productive.
The red tape around changing names can add to the stress of a person when they come out as transgender or non-binary at work.
If a sales rep informs you that they’re changing their name (or they go by a different name in their personal life and would like to use it professionally, too), take charge of the admin process to minimize their stress.
Communicate with other departments, especially HR, to deal with all necessary paperwork quickly. You should also:
Order new business cards
Change the employee’s email address and signature and set up forwarding (or provide the means to do so)
Provide new login details
Update any employee data held on your CRM platform
You won’t fix implicit bias overnight but there are ways to overcome it when hiring.
Standardize your recruitment process by using the same role-specific interview questions for each applicant. This will ensure you hold every candidate to the same standards.
Use quantitative processes, like scorecards, to objectively compare applicants’ suitability for each role. Qualitative “gut” feelings can be helpful in the latter decision-making stages but putting objective methods first can get you past subconscious bias.
Technologies, like an ATS and diversity-hiring tools, can also help you overcome bad hiring habits by giving you a high-level view of your recruitment data and processes.
Salesforce diversification is a two-way endeavor. To build a more diverse sales team, people from underrepresented groups must want to join it.
Make it clear that your organization recognizes, accepts and supports people from all backgrounds, cultures and communities. Publicly advocating social change and committing to providing equal pay are also powerful actions.
Use recruitment marketing content to make sure all prospective employees – whether they’re female, queer, trans, non-binary, people of color or people with disabilities – see they’ll have the same opportunities to thrive as their straight, white male colleagues if they join your organization.
Employee and leadership success stories (e.g. profiles and interviews with staff from minority groups)
Imagery that accurately reflects the diversity of your workforce and audience
Updates on your DEI efforts (e.g. annual salesforce diversity reports and salesforce diversity scorecards)
The tone of your job advertisements matters here, too. As well as outlining your anti-discrimination policies, describe the role and its benefits in neutral language to encourage all candidates to apply.
For example, use:
“Parental leave” instead of “maternity and paternity leave”
“Salesperson” or “sales rep” instead of “salesman or woman”
People’s full names instead of gender-specific titles and surnames
Many businesses hire specialists to oversee their diversification activities.
According to a Weber Shandwick survey, 51% of Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) believe all companies in the U.S. will have a dedicated D&I professional by 2024. More than 80% feel optimistic about the future of D&I in corporate America, too, suggesting the role is effective.
While it’s on all employees to challenge inequity in the workplace, an internal DEI specialist, whether it’s a CDO, chief equality officer or salesforce diversity officer, will organize your diversification mission for maximum impact.
With a direct line to executives, they can liaise with decision-makers to ensure the business takes action when necessary and monitor progress without being distracted by other responsibilities.
Diversity is not a phase, nor is it solely a compliance initiative. More than 80% of the respondents of Forrester’s Diversity Report predicted in 2021 that the diversity of their sales team would be equally or more important by 2023.
For your organization to benefit from a buyer-centric selling approach, now and in the future, it must reflect the diversity of your audience. That reflection begins with the makeup of your sales team.
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