Published by : Frederic Lucas
The more diversified a sales team is, the more multidimensional and more vibrant in collective knowledge it is. That's why I always recommend sales teams diversify, be it by age, gender, ethnic origin or each rep's ideology. Unfortunately, I still notice that, in the field, too many sales forces remain quite homogeneous.
Sales recruitment isn't like recruiting accountants, developers, or even marketers. Their job is very different. They have to manage competition, rejection, hostility, lack of control, resistance and time like no one other in the company.
I'm often asked about the diversity of a sales team:
- Is a sales team high performing because it's diverse?
- Should sales leaders build diversified sales teams?
- Is diversity a strategic or operational choice?
- Should the team's diversity be the number one priority?
Let's answer those questions...
Why build a diversified sales team?
Legally, you can't recruit a person based on discriminatory criteria, such as:
- Civil status;
- Religion ;
- Social condition;
- Sexual orientation;
- Ethnic or national origin;
However, other than the legal and ethical aspect, diversity is above all synonymous with wealth. A diversified team allows for a balance of strengths and the sharing of knowledge.
For example, women in sales tend to be more organized and structured than men, and men can benefit from the organizational skills of their colleagues. Also, young salespeople are, in general, more in tune with recent sales technologies such as artificial intelligence, and can pass on this knowledge to their older colleagues who are often less well informed about these topics.
Granted, these are generalities, and these examples don't always represent reality.
However, one thing is sure: diversity brings different forces to a team that add up, as long as sharing knowledge is part of the company's sales culture.
Can diversity be a strategic choice?
Yes, there are some advantages to consciously choosing diversity, especially regarding salespeople's age.
Many sales leaders want to have as many representatives in their twenties as in their thirties, forties, fifties and even sixties. It's not only to balance the team, but it's also a strategic human and financial resources decision.
If an employer decides to hire only experienced representatives in their 50s, what will happen to their sales when they all retire within the same timeframe? The company will have to hire several new salespeople, invest in their training and skills development, and then wait until they are profitable and successful.
This transition between the retirement of salespeople at the end of their careers and the full performance of new employees could be fatal for the company.
However, be sure to stay within the limits of the law, which does not allow you to choose (or not) a person for their age.
Should you diversify your sales force at all costs?
No. Just as you shouldn't aim to have a uniform sales team, you shouldn't hire based on diversity either.
The first criterion to consider when recruiting salespeople is always performance. It isn't the only thing to take into account, but it's by far the most important.
My experience in the field shows that when companies set up an effective recruitment process based on scientific selection criteria, their sales teams naturally diversify. Because sales talent is everywhere: women or men, millennials or sales veterans, born here or immigrant, etc.
In other words, hire the best salespeople, and you will have an efficient, profitable and diversified sales force.
First and foremost, it's for moral and legal reasons that you must exclude discriminatory criteria, such as gender, culture or age, from your hiring process. Using scientific and objective selection criteria is one way to achieve this: the candidate's sales percentile should be the most important criterion.
Identifying the best salespeople during the job interview will lead to a diversified sales force because sales talent isn't dependent on age, gender or culture.
I invite business leaders to ask themselves the following questions:
- What are your real hiring criteria?
- Are they objective?
- Are they based on performance or your prejudices?