Joanne Black, author of best-selling books like No More Cold Calling and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal, agreed to speak with me about the ever-present divide between men and women in the workplace, sharing insights she’s gathered over a sales career spanning more than 35 years.
Joanne and I discussed relatable incidents of discrimination, sexism in the workplace, and gender bias we’d witnessed or experienced at work. Most of these were due to a lack of understanding about the different communications styles of men and women.
Her no-nonsense approach and knowledge on the neurological differences between the genders - and what that means for the workplace - made this interview one of the best yet.
Everyone, meet Joanne Black!
Joanne, it’s great to meet you and hear your thoughts and insight on being a woman in the sales industry! Can you tell me a little about you and your experience in sales?
I founded No More Cold Calling in 1996, when I developed a sales system based on relationships and referrals. I’ve spent decades working with sales teams across various industries, getting hands-on experience and working with diverse groups of men and women.
In many ways, men and women are wired differently, especially when it comes to communication. Research backs this up. So, the question becomes, "How can we shift our communication at work—and at home—to make sure men and women understand each other?"
We can't change our differences, but we can learn more about them to communicate better. So how are men and women wired differently? Who’s better at sales, in your opinion and experience?
Men tend to be more aggressive and straightforward than women. Women tend to be a little gentler and to have better “soft skills”—building relationships, tapping into emotions, and taking the time to understand options. Ironically, that’s what makes us great at sales.
This isn’t just my opinion. It’s based on scientific brain research.
The corpus callosum—which connects the “thinking half” of our brains to the “feeling half”—is much more active in females than in males, even at rest. This accounts for women having a greater ability to thoroughly process what we think with how we feel.
The prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain used in decision-making and consequential thinking—is larger in women than in men. It also matures faster. Women review all options to understand the impact their decisions have on others and on their companies.
The hippocampus is also larger in women, when you adjust for the difference in male and female overall brain size. This helps us store new information in long-term memory and connect the past to the present.
Consider the brain research below that supports how men and women are truly different [Figure 1].
Keeping these brain differences in mind, how have you learned to communicate differently with men than with other women in the workplace?
Men like to keep their conversations focused on the task at hand and what should be accomplished. They don’t want unnecessary details or storylines. They want to hear the bottom line, and they want to solve the problem.
Women like to tell stories and share details. This can make the workplace dynamic a little more challenging with men—who really just want us to “net it out”—but it’s also part of what makes us great at sales.
So, storytelling is part of what makes women great at selling. That makes sense. What do you think has been the hardest part about being a woman in sales?
Family challenges. Sales is more than a full-time job, with no set hours and potentially lots of travel. It’s difficult for women to juggle that with raising a family. Many choose to leave the workforce altogether. This can be a barrier when women decide to re-enter the workforce—especially in the technology industry.
Along with those challenges, if a woman decides she wants to begin a career in sales, what else should she know? What do you wish you knew early on?
My advice to women aspiring to get into sales: Find mentors, make your opinions known and be the one who contributes fresh ideas. That will help you establish yourself and get ahead.
The great band of commissural fibers uniting the cerebral hemispheres of higher mammals including humans
The gray matter of the anterior part of the frontal lobe that is highly developed in humans and plays a role in the regulation of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning
A curved elongated ridge that extends over the floor of the descending horn of each lateral ventricle of the brain, that consists of gray matter covered on the ventricular surface with white matter, and that is involved in forming, storing, and processing memory
Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015
About Joanne Black
Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling and a sales executive with contrarian points of view.
An innovative sales advisor and captivating speaker, Joanne is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal.