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Women are WAY better than men at this high-value sales skill

Gong Labs Devin Reed March 17, 2021

This article is part of the Gong Labs series, where I publish findings from our data research team. We analyze sales conversations and deals using AI, then share the results to help you win more deals. Follow me to read upcoming research.

The conference room door shut. 

Samantha and our sales manager sat down and dialed into the call. 

My team and I lined up around the glass wall of the conference room to watch it go down. 

It was the last day of Q1 2016, and they were going into battle on a closing call. 

This was a MONSTER deal that would get her and the team to quota.

And their opponent was a harder-than-nails, my-way-or-the-highway, take-it-or-leave-it negotiator. 

My palms were sweaty, so I could only imagine how she felt. 

Just 12 minutes later, she hung up and walked out.

The team was glued to her, trying to read her expression. 

We waited.

“He’ll sign after lunch,” she said through a grin. 

WOOOO!!!

We went crazy. Yelling, congratulating her, and deciding where to have celebratory drinks. 

Once the commotion died down, I had to know… 

Sam, how did you close him?

“I didn’t close him. I listened to him.”

My face scrunched. 

I had been expecting a war story: heated debate, high tension, everything but a headlock to get this decision maker to fold and sign that day. 

Turns out that Samantha’s secret weapon isn’t so secret.

In fact, it’s a highly valuable skill that many women in sales have. 

Women have a sales superpower

We analyzed 103,790 B2B sales calls to see if women and men sales pros differ. My goal was to understand what all salespeople could learn from those differences.

One glaring stat popped out immediately:

Women listen 16% more than men.

Devin, can you say that again? I wasn’t listenin – ohhhhh…

Why this stat is so important 

It’s easy to look at listening as a “soft skill.”

Or to frame it as a social stereotype that women are better listeners — or that men simply aren’t good at it. 

But you’d be missing out on the much bigger picture. 

How much sellers listen has a strong correlation to their success. 

Our previous research shows that top performers – those above 120% of quota – have a talk-to-listen ratio of 43:57.

That means they listen more than they speak. 

It’s a BIG part of how they win more often.

And the top sales performers are…

Women. 

That’s right, women outperform men in two important areas:

Achieving quota (source: Xactly Insights)

  • Women achieve 8% higher quota attainment than men.
  • On average, 78% of men achieve quota and 86% of women achieve quota.

Leading teams to quota (source: Xactly report)

  • Women-led teams have higher win and quota attainment rates, at 94%, compared to teams led by men, at 91%.

How are they doing it?

They’re using one key differentiator: listening. Here’s how we know that’s true. 

We aren’t that different, actually

Our research into thousands of sales call recordings shows that men and women sell very similarly in plenty of ways:

Talk tracks: Men and women AEs tend to cover very similar topics (pricing, next steps, product, etc.).

Question: Men and women AEs tend to ask a similar number of questions, clocking in ~18 per call.

Patience: Both men and women have near equal patience scores, as measured by the time of silence between the end of the prospect’s monologue and the beginning of the AE’s next monologue.

Language: They also use collaborative language (weus, etc.) with similar frequency. 

Emoticons: (Yes I even looked into this). Men and women use emoticons with a similar frequency, including them in ~2% of their emails.

But listening stands out as a key thing men and women do differently.

“Women are underrepresented at every level in B2B sales and have been for many years. I’m hopeful that with data, we can show company leaders how they are losing potential revenue by not hiring, onboarding, or retaining differently for a more inclusive team.” – Lori Richardson, President, Women Sales Pros.

Why listening leads to more wins 

What do buyers want most? 

(Aside from discounts.)

TRUST. 

According to The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020 (US edition), buyers say that trust is the quality they value most in a salesperson.

And trust is built by — yup, you guessed it — listening.

When you make buyers feel heard and understood, they instinctively believe you can solve their problems. 

No wonder HBR says that women are primed for sales success:

“…high-performing women were more likely to emphasize connecting, shaping solutions, and collaborating, while high-performing men relied more on improving and driving outcomes.”

Lauren Bailey, Founder and President of Factor 8 and #GirlsClub agrees: “Women are natural sellers. Our numbers may be few, but our results are mighty. Gone are the days that selling means pushing. Selling is serving at its heart, and listening its lifeblood!”

Clearly listening is critical to success in sales. It’s also how you can remain relevant and win over today’s buyer.

How to unlock your listening superpower

Great sales pros dominate their competition, not their buyers.

Buyers want you to focus on them and their problems by being a good listener.

And the truth is, we can ALL become better listeners through what my friend, Tia Pappas, Co-Founder and Head of Sales of Habits At Work, calls empathetic listening

“Empathic listening is a structured listening and questioning technique that allows you to develop and enhance relationships with a stronger understanding of what is being conveyed, both intellectually and emotionally.”

This is a rare skill that only a few sales pros ever master. 

And now you can too. 

This will translate to more wins

If you want to learn how to become a great listener and win more deals, you need more than this post.

Here’s what to do next.

Download our latest free guide: 6 Steps to Ace Empathetic Listening in Sales.

It has six easy steps you can use on your next sales call (like the one later today). 

It’s a joint effort from our evidence-focused team at Gong and Habits At Work – the experts when it comes to empathetic listening for sales people. 

You’ll understand exactly when to listen and when to speak, so you can turn your listening skills into a superpower. 

The kind that has buyers asking you, Where do I sign?

Download 6 Steps to Ace Empathetic Listening in Sales for free here.

I know you just read about how to listen (bravo!) but you have to speak up in order to share the insights you just learned. 

So I want to know…

Is listening an underrated sales superpower?

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Devin Reed

Devin Reed is the Head of Content Strategy at Gong - the #1 Revenue Intelligence Platform for Sales.

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