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Eliminating Bias: How Diversity Improves Sales Performance

Understand the importance of increasing diversity in sales organizations and the differences in pay and performance between male and female sales reps.

5 min read

It’s no surprise that companies that support a diverse workplace are stronger. Over the past several years, researchers have examined the impact of diversity in the workplace and found that diverse companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The same is true for sales team structure.

Unfortunately, stereotypes and biases often impede workplace diversity. This is especially true in sales, which is traditionally a male-dominant field. As more women are joining the industry, there is even further evidence that diversifying teams in all aspects has a large impact on performance. 

Today's Sales Landscape

In 2016, only 32% of sales reps met or exceeded sales quota, according to Xactly Insights data. For more than 14 years, Xactly has aggregated sales pay and performance data points like this, referred to as Xactly Insights. This data helps companies benchmark sales rep compensation to design competitive incentive plans. It also helps illustrate the role that diversity plays in creating a successful workplace.

 

Total Compensation by GenderQuota Attainment by Gender

The data within Xactly Insights has uncovered interesting trends in sales organizations, specifically the impact of gender-diverse sales team structure on the success of a sales team. Female sales reps earn a base pay 33 percent lower than male reps, yet women are paid at a higher commission rate. Women meet their sales quota eight percent more than men, with 86 percent of women and 76 percent of men achieving quota.

Gender Diversity on Teams

These findings are even more important considering that CSO Insights reported the average quota attainment in 2018 was just 54 percent. However, the sales field has traditionally and continues to be a male-dominated field. In fact, Xactly Insights data found that sales teams led by men tend to be male-dominant (76 percent to 24 percent female), while those led by women are more diverse (52 percent male to 48 percent female), better reflecting the general population.

Furthermore, Gartner Research found that 62 percent of companies with 45 percent or more women in their sales ranks drive higher-than-average levels of profitable revenue. Likewise, female sales reps have a longer tenure, remaining in their roles for a year or more longer than their male counterparts; thus, reducing attrition costs.

How to Identify and Eliminate Bias

When our CEO, Chris Cabrera, founded Xactly more than 14 years ago, he quickly learned that diversity is a key driver for growth because it creates “a challenging and rich environment” that fosters creativity and innovation. 

The first step to identifying and eliminating bias is understanding and accepting that regardless of our upbringing and background, we all have biases. However, it's important to actively take steps to eliminate bias in all parts of the workplace. Here are six easy steps to take: 

  1. Surround yourself with individuals who will help you identify biases
  2. Actively observe your behavior and the behavior of the people around you 
  3. Self reflect on your own actions 
  4. Change your hiring methodologies
  5. When hiring, look at the skills potential of employees rather than their laundry list of experience
  6. Help nurture a culture that is intentional about diversity and actively avoiding stereotypes by role, previous work experience

Get more information about diversifying your sales organization in our 2019 Gender Pay Study. You can also read more about Elizabeth Salomon's career and advice for young professionals in our Female Executives blog series.