by Eliot Burdett, co-founder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, and author of “Sales Recruiting 2.0: How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast“
Diversity in the workplace has been an issue since the civil war. In February, 1869, a letter to the editor of the New York Times questioned why female government employees were not paid the same as male counterparts.
Fast forward to 2017 and a lack of diversity in the workplace remains an issue. A recent survey from Career Builder, which polled 3,200 full-time workers and 223 human-resource managers, found that only 35% of women feel confident that compensation is dispensed equitably between the genders. Moreover, just 39% of women believe there is equal opportunity in the workplace for women.
As the father of two daughters, I believe CEOs should champion this issue simply because it is the right thing to do. However, as a businessman, I recognize that to truly solve this problem on a macro-level, hiring diverse employees must directly translate into higher profits.
The good news is that the time has finally come. As U.S. demographics continue to change alongside a rapidly evolving global economy, the business argument for diversity has never been stronger, and that is especially true in the sales industry.
The Census Bureau found that Hispanics, Millennials and African American’s wield nearly $4 trillion in annual buying power combined. This gargantuan figure does not even include Asians, the LGBT community or Native Americans, to name a few. By recruiting and hiring diverse candidates, you will be able to better tap into these groups.
As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, we have seen an increasing number of clients recognize the business value in finding diverse sales reps. In working with them, we have identified the top 4 reasons a diverse sales team will boost revenue this quarter:
1. Connect Better with Customers.
One wrong word can kill a sale so it is critical to get it right when approaching leads from different walks of life. For example, Anheuser Busch struggled to penetrate the Hispanic market until they acquired InBev. Their new Brazilian management team led them to success in the market that had been eluding them. While it is true that a homogenous sales force can be effective, the addition of diverse sales reps and leaders who understand different lifestyles and cultures can only have a positive impact. In fact, the Harvard Business Review surveyed 1,800 professionals nationwide and found that a sales team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% likelier than another team member to understand that client.
2. Access to More A-players.
A recent study from Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project found that employers spend an average of 41 days trying to fill technical sales jobs versus 33 days for jobs in other professions. The same study cites a cloud-based software company would have had $2 million more in revenue if they met their hiring goals for sales reps. Simply put, finding salespeople who achieve quota year after year is problematic for most organizations. That is why it is critical to search beyond your usual network. When you start looking at candidates with different backgrounds you widen the talent pool an increase the probabilities of finding a sales superstar.
3. Overcome Groupthink.
When you put people with similar backgrounds in one room, they are likely to come up with similar solutions based on their shared experiences. Groupthink is the kryptonite of success. A diverse workforce helps to foster an environment where varying points of view can be freely shared among employees. This has been proven, per Harvard Business Review, to lead to “outside the box” thinking that stimulates innovation and market growth. Nothing is more critical to a sales team’s success than capitalizing on crucial market opportunities.
4. Will Attract the Very Best.
Employers of choice understand that equal pay for equal work and hiring people from different backgrounds fosters a healthy business environment. Great people, regardless of their background, are attracted to great working environments. When businesses maintain an inclusive culture, A-players are far more likely to want to join the organization. This is especially true with Millennials, a group that will make up most your sales force over the next 10 years. Per the Census Bureau, Millennials are now the largest and most diverse generation in U.S. history – made up of 42 percent minorities and more women working than any other generation. Most organizations now talk about being diverse, but Millennials demand it.
As U.S. demographics continue to shift and the global economy continues to evolve, sales leaders need to adapt their hiring processes to include more diversity. The studies clearly show that diversity leads to business growth and at the same time, business leaders have a chance to be on the right side of history.
Eliot Burdett is the cofounder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. Under his direction, the company leads the industry with a success rate 50% higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Western Union and others. He co-authored “Sales Recruiting 2.0: How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast“.