Do Women Have An Advantage In Security Sales?

This arose as a comment in the ISC West Bans Booth Babes discussion:

However, having spent 20 years of my life in sales, Men prefer to buy from Women when the women are just as knowledgeable or even a little less knowledgeable than men

I've heard variations of that over the years that, especially in such a male-dominated industry, it provides an opportunity for men to 'interact' with women.

To the contrary, as a point of fact, there are still far more men in security sales through a greater proportion of women in sales than in technical roles.

So what do you think?


Yes and no.

There have been a number of studies done that show "attractive" people tend to be more successful in sales (and other areas) than non-attractive people, where their other qualities are similar.  Some examples:

Should You Hire Attractive Salespeople?

Attractive People Are Simply More Successful

Attractive People Are More Successful. Really?

Sales involves several skills (organization, communication, socialization, etc.), and you need to possess at least average qualities/skills in those areas to make a living, and be above average to really exceed.

A highly attractive woman who posses no real sales skills will not (over time) likely outsell a sales-savvy man who is not visually appealing. But a highly attractive woman who possess only average skills may outsell an unattractive man who has above-average sales skills, as her attractiveness will lend some influence.

In the security industry, there are relatively few women in general, and only a subset of those women in the industry are in sales roles (vs. marketing, product management, etc.). The relative scarcity of women in security in outside sales gives them (IMO) an additional boost to their attractiveness factor simply because they are a rarity. Technically, a woman probably only needs to be of "average" attractiveness overall to standout as "very attractive" in the security industry, given that she will be compared to a bunch of mean who are often of a less-than-optimal physique, and not exactly fashion plates either.

On the flip side, an "attractive" man who has above average sales skills will likely outsell the "average" female with average skills over time.

In essence, good looks can help open doors, but you still need to do the actual job of sales to truly succeed and have a definite advantage.

In essence, good looks can help open doors, but you still need to do the actual job of sales to truly succeed and have a definite advantage.

Well, I experienced this first hand when I worked with another regional and her ability to do the job was limited, but her ability to use internal and external resources beyond acceptable was stellar.

Oh, the stories myself and other coworkers could tell.

Attractiveness doesn't hurt in politics either and there are studies about height too but at the end of the day, people buy from people, it's how well you can connect with someone else and understand their business' needs.

In my experience, women salespeople as a whole, tend to be better listeners and communicators, in general, than men and have an easier time drawing out valuable information from prospects that can be used to better position a product or service or even close the deal than men, regardless of whether their potential customer is male or female.  For the record, I am female, but I am not speaking to my own abilities, rather those of salespeople who have worked for me or called on me.  

Having been in the security industry for 20+ years on both the integrator and manufacturing sides, I have observed  unless or until you have established yourself as a known entity in this industry, women are challenged far more often to prove their capabilities than men, especially when they are first starting out.  I remember one situation when I was a GM for a regional SI and I showed up for a meeting at a construction site with a PM and Salesman and the GC actually said, "nice of you to bring your secretary with you to take notes." I didn't say a word but when the time came to talk through change orders and additional quotes, I took over the meeting for our team and the GC was completely shocked I knew what I was talking about.  

I think the industry is evolving from the 'good old boys' club it used to be and I am excited by the support of organizations such as SIA to improve and expand the diversity in our industry.   

 

I've heard this said, and I'm going to disagree.  There may be a segment of buyers that will buy from a woman because she's a woman, but it's small. 

 

I've had this conversation with two different men in this industry in the last six or eight months.  Both of them give off that vibe that says "if my 20 year old daughter gets a flat tire in his area, I'm not going to call him to see if he can help", if you know what I mean.  So there's that exceptionally unscientific metric - the dad-with-a-shotgun radar factor.

Serious question, if good looks help in sales (and that seems a reasonable claim) instead of hiring these women to just be booth babes, why not hire them to be RSMs? Certainly, many of them have college degrees, etc. Is it because working in this industry is not appealing enough or they can make more elsewhere or?

So you're wondering why they don't go from a relatively easy job with good pay, no travel, and no real performance measurables to one with an ever-rising sales quota?

Is what they are doing really a career? What do they do when they hit 30 or 35 or some point where they cannot as effectively purely compete on looks?

In many cases, get married and have kids. In other cases, if they are more career-oriented, they start their own agency. Taking their contacts of exhibitors and friends/contacts looking for work and matching them up for a fee.

 

Do you really think a plan for 35 comes in to the equation?  The current student loan manufactured crisis would certainly beg to differ...

The whole booth babe conversation assumes they are attractive, but I find most booth babes to usually be a little on the skanky (looking) side. Not attractive, not who I'd want to meet for lunch to discuss projects.  

Absolutely ... have experienced this many times over through the years, whether it be in security or building automation sales.  Now this is with main-line "biggies" in the industry, where the ladies in sales would dress a little on the skimpy side from time to time and the little black dress would make its way into meetings or sales presentations. These were often intelligent and qualified sales people, but the issue with the "dress for success" formula and the inherent stereotyping was just as much an issue with the customer as it was with anyone else.  Male customers are always too willing to tell you, whether jokingly or not, that they'd much rather SEE the former lady salesperson that used to call on them than you (a male salesperson

 

 

 

I would hope thats all changed in this day and age but, in my early career (30yrs ago), I was tasked with breaking into a new market area for my company and dressed in a pant suit, sensible shoes style thinking it was professional.  What I discovered after a few trips to that town was that the good 'ol boys weren't even giving me a chance to show them that I actually knew something about cameras.  So I took a trip down there wearing a little black dress, curled my long blond hair all pretty, high heels and black nylons.  I not only got an audience at EVERY stop but my sales in that area took off!  My take away from that experience was that "sex sells" and "men are pigs".  Again - I REALLY hope that's changed now and that all of you professional men are allowing any sales person, regardless of their gender, color etc., the opportunity to at least introduce themselves and see if they have a solution to any issues you may be having.  I am personally no longer the cute little 27yr old that started in this business and I'm not having trouble getting into doors so apparently that old attitude is no longer prevalent at least in my area and circle of business. 

"I am personally no longer the cute little 27yr old that started in this business and I'm not having trouble getting into doors so apparently that old attitude is no longer prevalent at least in my area and circle of business."

I think this is wishful thinking, personally (if I'm being honest).

You probably have no trouble getting into doors now because you have toiled hard and proven yourself to be the professional that you are... but this doesn't mean that you didn't use your own advantage (being a woman in a male-dominated industry) to open the 'first' couple of doors.

And don't think that I am slamming you in any way.... because simply being a cute 27 yr old woman in a male-dominated industry produces lots of other barriers to advancement - that you seem to have overcome.  :)

 

I have a distributor (and a male rep) who gives me a manufacturers rep every time I need info on a new product line, gives me great pricing, and has been very gracious in working with us on our Net 30.

 

I have a 2nd distributor who has an attractive female rep, is slightly higher priced and dropped the ball on the credit app several times.

 

While she is nice to look at, it is hard to believe any serious decision maker would make any serious decision based on that.

 

Is it possible better-looking people have more confidence, and thus are better at sales?

Do men make better chefs? while women make better cooks?

With this profession being overwhelmingly male, I’d say its a given that women in sales will have an easier time than men getting their “foot” in the door.  

Regardless, for both genders, the bigger challenge is not to put it in their mouth ;)

Because women are so rare in this industry, just by being a woman, a sales rep will stand out.  Being pleasantly different is an advantage, all else being equal of course.

The same effect is seen by Australian and British guys the US singles market: In a social setting, imagine two guys of similar disposition and appearance.  One has a Commonwealth accent, one does not.  Which one do you think gets more attention? 🤔

As a woman in Security Sales I have seen both sides of this. Without sounding braggadocious, I don't think I make the opposite sex recoil at the mere site of me. I  have taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the products and design and as much technical information that I can retain. I think in the residential sector a woman has a calming and understanding affect. You can say things like, "I understand your wife's concern about being safe and secure alone while you are away on business." This allows a man (and I apologize for painting all men and women with a broad brush here) to not have his ego damaged for not securing the home front with his brawn and artillery. It let's him feel he is doing this for his family should he not be around. It also let's the woman feel heard in her fears and concerns. 

One other generalization - I have no problem calling a vendor or distributor or colleague and saying, "I need help." I am not sure whether a male counterpart would have the same result, but I have found this to be the best way to gain knowledge. Most folks in the industry are delighted to talk shop and teach someone. 

Now, there have been male customers who have either stated on the phone, "Is a guy coming out or a girl?" Or who have looked at me like I was too far from the kitchen. I usually make a quick effort to win them over but if I feel it's a battle I won't win I quickly turn them over to a salesman. I'd rather not lose the sale to my pride. 

 

 

Definitely a healthy attitude.  My wife always tells me her variation on the Serenity Prayer:

"Find a way to make money from the things you cannot change".

It also let's the woman feel heard in her fears and concerns.

It sounds like you do well selling when a woman is one of the decision makers.

But do you agree with the OP’s cited:

Men prefer to buy from Women when the women are just as knowledgeable or even a little less knowledgeable than men.

Also you mention:

Now, there have been male customers who have either stated on the phone, "Is a guy coming out or a girl?"

Female customers don’t ask this too?

I wouldn't say men necessarily prefer to buy from a woman. I do think they are more likely to be skeptical of a woman's knowledge than a woman would be. Having said that females can be just as skeptical. 

Thanks for the response.

Which gender salesperson do you do better competing with?

If you ever talk to Jennifer, the head of SecrityTronix you will see how smart a woman is in this market!

I'm judgmental when I get a salesperson that's in their 20's.

It's taken me more than twice that to be this smart. Young salespeople may have great sales technique, but I'm looking for a sales partner that can add value to my projects. I don't care at all what sex they are.

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: I'm Judgmental When I Get A Salesperson That's In Their 20's

In the Netherlands we see more and more men then woman in selling. Depending on what you sell, woman are only selling cleaning or financial services. 

Also because the men learned more about the product or service they're selling.

 

Maybe its better if more woman put more interest in the technical sector. Every scholarship I see only woman to promote, but when its on a specific product or service then you got a talk with a product-manager---> a men.

 

If we could teach and accept woman in technical sector, maybe there is in 3 year a point of change when less men but more woman sell products in the security sector.

 

I read some reactions again and again: Nobody cares if you get a men of woman on the phone for a sales question. 

 

In the Netherlands we don't have that. every phonecall to a reseller: only men.

 

maybe its normal here, but where in the world is it the same?

I just hired four people in my org. Three females one male. All are qualified and the technical position was filled by a very qualified female. Gender really was not an issue for me on this. They are qualified likable people that can build good long term business relationships. That is all.

"They are qualified likable people that can build good long term business relationships. That is all."

I disagree - that is not all.

The first sentence may be true, but the last sentence only covers your own perspective on the 4 individual transactions (you hiring each of them).

The OP did not ask if "you take gender into consideration when hiring sale people". 

Your declarative statement of your own perspective does not eliminate the fact that others in future transactions with these new employees (new customers approached) will see everything as you do.

 

@#14

I agree, I should have qualified that is all was meant for my view on this. No doubt other will have a different opinion or experience.

ignore me...  I just like to argue about minutiae ;)

 

I do love a good argument. Insert Monty python skit here. 

Favorite story from the 90s. Back then we had pagers at our company, and the people that came out were women. For some reason, the hotter they were they dumber they were. Always messed up the order or something else, but were always happy to come out to our office.

Last one we had, solved all our issues over the phone, the only comment in the office from that was "in the world of pager chicks, she had to be ugly, because damn was she good at her job!"

Me personally I rather not purchase from women who must come to my site or need to play the chick card, I have a very jealous wife. All my direct sales reps tend to be direct calls with shipping deadlines on orders while I'm at home with my wife and kids.