Daniella Goodwin

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Diversity isn’t just about doing the right thing (or being seen to do the right thing). It can make you money – especially when you build a diverse sales team.

“Workplace diversity” means hiring and retaining people with different characteristics and from different walks of life. You can look for diversity of gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, religion, disability, education, and socioeconomic background, among others.

The main business advantage of this is that a diverse team can approach problems from diverse perspectives, making it easier to solve problems and to relate to a wide range of clients and markets. For example, the Harvard Business Review found that just one team member who shares a client’s ethnicity makes their team 152% more likely to understand that client.

The same study revealed that a lack of diversity in leadership means diverse perspectives go unheard, making women 20% less likely, people of colour 24% less likely, and LGBT people 21% less likely to win support for their ideas than straight white men. That costs you money, because your company loses market opportunities when you don’t understand the unmet needs of diverse markets.

More diverse sales teams also boost employee engagement, which, as everyone in sales knows, is vital to getting reps to do their best work. Engaged reps bring in more profit, build stronger customer relationships, and stay with you longer, saving you money on hiring and training.

5 ways to boost diversity in your sales team

1. Check your biases

We’re all biased towards people like us when it comes to recruitment, but we don’t have to let that colour our judgement. Skip the psychometric personality tests and just look for people whose values and beliefs align with your company. That way, you’re more likely to find people with the power to change your culture rather than just “fit” it.

2. Kill your sales stereotypes

Not every good sales rep is an aggressive alpha male. Workplace expert Jeff Butler got a shock when he started hiring based on phone and email communication skills. He found himself with a sales team that was 90% women – generating 200% more revenue than his previous male-dominated team.

CEO Cristian Rennella had a similar revelation when he started adding over-55s to his young, dynamic sales team. By tapping into the older market, they brought him a 24.4% boost in revenue.
3. Be honest and open to help

People from under-represented groups know you’re going to make mistakes and appreciate that you’re trying. Tell your customers and clients that you’re working on diversity and inclusion, and partner with organisations outside your office who can help educate you.

4. Focus college recruitment efforts on women and minorities

College recruitment drives are booming in popularity because they get better results than compulsory diversity training, which tends to be ignored. The Harvard Business Review found that such recruitment drives could boost numbers of women in management by 10%, and with a focus on minorities, they could increase numbers of black men in management by 8% and black women in management by 9%.

5. Aim for balance

Understand your team and their strengths and weaknesses. What’s missing? Which perspectives are needed to make a well-rounded team? A well-rounded sales team isn’t a group of well-rounded individuals, but a diverse group that plays well together.