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Women in Sales: The Importance of Competitive Sales Compensation

Discover how performance differs between male and female sales reps and how competitive fair pay can help attract and retain top sales talent. 

6 min read

The talent on your sales team has a direct impact on the performance of your company. More importantly, the way your sales team is compensated can affect your organization’s ability to hit revenue and growth goals.

Traditionally, sales has been a male-dominant profession, with approximately 79% of sales rep being male. Yet, with women making up half of the workforce in 2019, why aren’t there more women in sales?

International Women’s Day is an annual global holiday dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating women’s achievements in all parts of society. This year, the campaign, #BalanceforBetter, is “calling for a more gender-balanced world.”

To help celebrate and raise awareness, Xactly is diving into why there aren’t more women in sales—and how to ensure your sales team (male or female) is compensated fairly and competitively.

 

The Current Sales Landscape

According to LinkedIn, women represent 41% of the active workforce on the network (up from 37% a decade ago). In sales, women represent 39% of the career field (up from 36% a decade ago). LinkedIn also found that specific industries have an impact on the number of female sales reps.

LinkedIn reports that the highest frequency of female sales reps is in the professional services industry (52% of the field). The lowest frequency of female sales reps is in the oil and energy industry (24% of the field).

However, industries aren’t the only difference indicators between men and women in sales. Teams tend to have more male reps, and pay and performance differ between male and female sales reps.

Team Structure

Sales is historically and currently a male-dominant field. However, depending on the team leader, sales team structure can differ (Get tips on building a team in our sales team structure blog).

According to Xactly Insights data, male-led teams tend to have a higher rate of male sales reps (76% male, 24% female). Female-led teams, on the other hand, are a bit more balanced (52% male, 48% female). This is interesting considering women tend to outperform men in terms of quota attainment.

Pay and Performance

International women's day quota attainment

HubSpot found that women in sales have an 11% higher close rate than men in sales. Additionally, Xactly Insights data shows that women have a median quota attainment that is 8% higher than their male counterparts.

So, if women perform better, why is sales still a male-dominated field?

International women's day base pay

Although women perform higher and are paid out at a slightly higher median commission rate (2.13% for women vs. 1.30% for men), their total compensation is still lower than male reps. On average, women earn only 77% of the total compensation male sales reps earn ($120,732 vs. $156,012).

 

How can organizations help #BalanceforBetter in Sales?

In short, the best way for sales organizations to attract and retain top talent—either male or female—is with fair, competitive compensation. Compensation is key to motivate sales reps to achieve and exceed quota.

The first step to fair, competitive incentive compensation is benchmarking. Benchmarking allows companies to ensure their pay is competitive compared to the industry and competitors.

Xactly Benchmarking uses 14+ years of aggregate pay and performance data to provide users with the only data source for competitive compensation planning. Paired with Xactly Insights, sales leaders can ensure their teams are at peak performance and on track to meet quota.

Even better, Xactly Insights customers see 10% higher quota attainment than non-Insights users. That way, they ensure every rep is paid fairly and performance increases—a win-win for everyone.

Read more about Xactly’s work to empower women in the workplace in our Female Executives blog series. And learn more about Benchmarking our recent webinar, “Put the Darts Away: The Importance of Benchmarking Data in Sales Planning.”