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How Women Sell Differently than Men w/ Bridget Gleason [Episode 444]

Bridget Gleason is VP of Sales for Logz.io and my regular guest on Front Line Fridays. In this episode, we unveil some psychology about how selling differs across the gender divide.

Key Takeaways

  • Andy introduces the first Front Line Friday guest, Chris Orlob of Gong.io.
  • Chris connected with Andy by sending him an article about gender differences in selling. Gong.io brings science to the sales conversation. Chris starts to explain the data.
  • Chris tells how Gong.io analyzed 30,469 B2B SaaS anonymous account executive sales calls recorded from December 2016 and January 2017.
  • Correlations are barometers that can point you in the right direction for the qualitative side of answering a question.
  • The study measured the silences in each part of the conversations. Who “listened” more (or were silent longer), men or women?
  • The data in this study appears to be counter-intuitive, so what is it really saying? Watch for confirmation bias!
  • Who interrupts more, and are interruptions necessarily bad? The study does not address the effect that interruptions have on the sales conversation.
  • Are women compensating for their interruptions in other, positive ways?
  • Interruptions need to be understood in context.
  • Monologue lengths of men and women also differ, but whether a male or female account executive is speaking, is the customer paying attention for two minutes or longer?
  • The study notes that women move more deals forward than men, and close a greater percentage of deals than men. But women are still greatly under-represented in sales. Why?

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:34  

Hi, this is Andy Welcome to another edition of Frontline Friday with my regular and very special guest Bridget Gleason. So Bridget, how are you today?


Bridget Gleason  1:32  

I am fantastic. Yes, it’s a good day. It’s Friday. 


Andy Paul  2:41  

So we have a guest today.


Bridget Gleason  2:47  

Yeah, first, but not the last, not the last.


Andy Paul  2:50  

So joining us today, very special guest Chris Orlob, Senior Director of Product 


Chris Orlob  3:02  

Just as Bridget, I am doing fantastic. How are you doing, Andy?


Andy Paul  3:05  

I’m doing great. Great.


Andy Paul  4:30  

Yeah, why don’t you tell us first of all, what made you want to even research it? And then yeah, jump into methodology and so on.


Chris Orlob  4:39  

So there are probably going to be a million caveats to all of this that I make throughout this entire conversation. First one is, you know, I get asked all the time, why did you guys do this? What was the point of analyzing men against women? Why didn’t you guys try to break this down between top mid and low performers? And the answer to that question is we already did that so we wanted to move on to something else. And the idea behind dogs in general is we want to bring science to the sales conversation. And each gender has something we can learn from each other about how to sell more effectively because we’re wired differently at a very fundamental level. So here’s kind of the backstory behind how we do analysis. For this specific one, we analyzed 30,469 b2b sales calls using guns’ self learning conversation analytics engine. These were not SDR calls that are typically account executive calls on platforms like GoToMeeting, and WebEx and zoom. All the calls were recorded and mapped to their CRM outcomes so that we could analyze against those outcomes. They were then transcribed from speech to text analyzed with our AI engine to identify the patterns and insights that are leading to the highest win rates. Most people revenue, etc. This one we divided up between men and women. Pretty much just see what happened. We were just kind of curious and found, like you said a few counter intuitive insights that I’m sure we’ll get into.


Andy Paul  6:13  

Okay, and when did you conduct the research?


Chris Orlob  6:16  

This was done from late December until late January. So it was a little less than 30 days. And it was done with a very segmented anonymous portion of our customer base.


Andy Paul  6:48  

So, that’s a good sort of caveat thrown in there because arguably, you could say that SAAS companies don’t necessarily represent the real world and are all okay. Compared to, you know, somebody working for a manufacturer or being a small manufacturer located in the Midwest might have a different dynamic, but so it’s worth pointing that out. 


Chris Orlob  7:12  

No, not really, you know, we try to segment the analysis is finely tuned as we possibly can, you know, like I said, all that proximity of a 60 Day Sale cycle, the more in the same industry, there are some variables we just can’t control, like, what market are they selling into is very widely acknowledged that there are a ton of variables to this. 


Andy Paul  7:39  

We’re here to draw broad generalizations about this very specific topic. Yeah.


Bridget Gleason  7:44  

Yeah. If you haven’t listened to our show before, Chris, that’s basically what we do. 


Andy Paul  8:19  

So anyway, let’s jump into it. So the first fact that you have here is factor finding you have from your research. We’ll call it facts later but findings. And the research was that, yeah, contrary to what you might think that in the conversation you found that men talk less, listen more compared to the woman.


Bridget Gleason  10:00  

No, but I think that’s but actually, it’s a really interesting distinction, because there is a difference. And I just think about the sales calls and conversations that I listen to as a manager, and you can easily tell when somebody is not talking but they’re waiting to jump in. So they’re not really listening to somebody who’s listening. So that helps me understand what you’re saying here. 


Chris Orlob  10:31  

Yeah, one of the kind of before we get too far into the qualitative side of interpreting this data, I think one of my favorite examples of why this could be came from Tony Bennett, who’s the VP of Sales over at Terminus, and she said, this actually makes sense to me. Because when I see men not talking, you know, sometimes they’re like tossing around a nerf ball throughout the office or they’re putting many golfing around but even though women you know, On paper talk more than men do. When they’re not talking, they’re often intently focused on the customer.


Bridget Gleason  11:10  

And you have no way that when you’re looking at this data, you have no way to pick that up in what you’re picking up a gun? Obviously, that’s not something that you’re able to determine.


Chris Orlob 11:25  

I would say for the most part no. So we can analyze things that help us determine if listening was effective, but it’s still correlation, not causation. And an example of that is what follow up questions that somebody asked after the customer had responded, or did they accurately summarize the response that the customer gave? But really, in my opinion, the best way to answer the question is just use the analytics as a barometer to point you in the right direction for listening to the call recordings to decipher what the real story actually is. 


Andy Paul  12:36  

Yeah, let’s indulge the stereotype that male account execs are all juvenile and, you know, add and can’t focus and and the women are all you know, empathic and very intent on listening to what the customer says. 


Chris Orlob  12:56  

Again, yeah, I think what you said is actually really important though, because you pointed out at the beginning of the discussion that it’s their counterintuitive insight. So we can’t use our confirmation bias, but you just caught both Bridget and I, using our confirmation bias. You know, we believe that listening is an effective sales skill. So we’re interpreting this data through the lens of, well, even though women are talking more, they’re still listening more than men because they’re paying attention.


Bridget Gleason  13:27  

I think it’s important what you saw.


Andy Paul  13:29  

Alright, so the next thing you have, which I think ties to what we just talked about, is you found that men interrupt their prospects 4.2 times per hour, women 6.3 times per hour are almost almost 50% more than men. So what’s that tell us, Bridget?


Chris Orlob  14:03  

So your answer is probably going to be more interesting than mine because this is a stat where, frankly, I’m speechless. This is one where my only answer is correlation doesn’t equal causation. What I’m not getting at is do not interrupt your customers more often as a way to increase your win rates, which we’ll get to eventually.


Bridget Gleason  14:31  

Again, I will readily admit right here in front of both of you my confirmation bias. So some of what interrupting could be is keeping the conversation and keeping things on track so that when somebody goes down a rabbit hole that’s not worthwhile that you keep bringing in the back to center you keep bringing, it’s a way of controlling the conversation in the meeting.


Andy Paul  15:58  

So the context could be because we really don’t have it necessarily in this. It could be that, you know, that optimal men do 4.2 times our women to 6.3, it could be the optimal number of interruptions you shouldn’t be having in a sales conversation. Maybe it’s eight times per hour. We don’t know. So it’s possible. It’s possible that both men and women are underperforming in that regard, in terms of keeping the conversation going the way it should be.


Bridget Gleason  16:28  

Well, another, just to play devil’s advocate is what if women have a higher win rate, in spite of the fact that they’re interrupted.


Andy Paul  16:45  

Maybe interruptions are actually good.


Chris Orlob  17:07  

Yeah, exactly. So what I was saying is simply because we saw that women interrupt higher or more than men and also have a higher win rate than men. Well, we’re assuming that interruptions are one of the root cause variables of the higher win rate. But what if they have a higher win rate, despite the fact that they are interrupting people, what do you know, because our sales success is an emergency there, there are dozens if not hundreds of root causes of what actually leads to sales success. So maybe there’s a bunch of other things like Bridget said, to compensate for the fact that they are interrupting, maybe they aren’t good things, but maybe they’re about that.


Andy Paul  17:50  

Well, yeah, that was my point was we don’t know and we haven’t really studied it and because you think about it, again, you’re in a you’re in a conversation. Again, you’re not you’re in a conversation Somebody Think about your normal conversations with friends. If you’re relaxed, it’s people you really know. Do you hesitate to interrupt? Yeah, it’s part of the give and take, and you’re not being rude, right? But I think back to, you know, conversations you have with customers, if you’re really going at it if you’re really exploring something. But the interruptions are just part of the conversation.


Chris Orlob  18:43  

Exactly productive conversation.


Andy Paul  19:10  

Exactly. And I think that one of the things that we need to think about is in the broader sense that I think we can all agree that we’ve never, we’ve not come close as a profession. And as individuals to optimize our close rates. Now we can, they can always be better. And so here is so funny how we jumped in to sort of automatically assume that interruptions are bad, and they’re succeeding in spite of and I think since we’re so far from optimizing our close rates, I really it’s worth some more inspection to say, well, maybe we really do need to be interrupting more


Bridget Gleason  19:44  

Maybe those challenger sale guys are onto something. 


Andy Paul  19:50  

Well, I mean, I think that’s a different context. But it’s right. I mean, it’s not always challenging, but it’s your guide and i think i think Bridget was really onto something. Maybe we need to have more. So, but sort of along with that, I mean, you have talked about a stat that I didn’t think was real meaningful about men pausing longer before responding than women on average during the differentials was fairly slight. And these males find that meaningful.


Bridget Gleason  20:19  

It went into the theme with the rest of the research. So threw that in there.


Andy Paul  20:40  

Yeah, I agree. And then you said that women go on monologues and that’s in quote, longer and more often than men do. So you said men average 116 seconds when they go on a monologue women average 130 seconds. Bridget, what do you think of that, that just those durations seem like an awful long time for someone to be talking without interacting with the other party?


Bridget Gleason  21:18  

Yeah, they’re probably both too long.I have a strong confirmation bias. And we haven’t already figured that out. yet. That it’s actually hard for me to spin this one positively because I just never think of that as a good sign. I mean, I would look at that and think, ah, that’s an area to improve.


Andy Paul  22:17  

Yeah, that seems to make sense. I mean, there’s gonna be acknowledgements and so on, as you said throughout the entire thing. So were there certain, you know, word categories or word types that are prevalent during these monologues?


Bridget Gleason  22:32  

But none that we had surfaced or decided to dive into, but I kind of wish we had now that you had asked the question.


Andy Paul  22:40  

Because it’s an interesting question, huh? Well, I think this doesn’t really surprise me. I mean, I don’t think it’s other than as Bridget and I said, that seems long and inaccurate. I’m going to show the difference. means much.


Bridget Gleason  23:29  

Yeah, I think the only interpretation that I can possibly unpack which is nothing more than a qualitative hypothesis is another, you know, female sales later, friend of mine, she had an observation. She noticed that when males tend to go on these monologues, they’re often irrelevant.


Andy Paul  24:51  

When I talked to groups I talked to one just a couple weeks ago at a national sales meeting for a big electronics manufacturer and you had people in the audience raise their hands and pretty even mix between men and women, the audience, who looks at their phone when they’re making calls, right? Who looks at the personal phone, whether if they get a push notification or buzzes, they all do hundred percent. This is a whole separate conversation we’ve had, will have, again, at some point about not multitasking, but I haven’t seen any behaviors that aren’t so evenly distributed among men and women. 


Bridget Gleason  25:30  

Yeah, I think that’s true. It’s just, we have good behaviors so that’s the only difference. We all have the bad but we’ve got a lock on the good behaviors.


Andy Paul  25:42  

I’m sure that’s the case.


Chris Orlob  25:49  

Well, it’s only a matter of time. Yeah, we’re worried.


Andy Paul  25:54  

So all right. So let’s let’s start here in the last few minutes. We have a start. Do not have some of the results at least that that gong.io was able to track. So headline saying despite these broken roles, women close more deals. And so using our data set that men had a 49% likelihood of moving opportunities to the next stage, while women boasted a 54% rate, and women’s win rates were 11% higher than men on average.


Bridget Gleason  26:28  

I think that’s an important loop to close on the story for the audience. As we’ve talked about all these counterintuitive things that women are doing on sales calls. At first glance you would think are bad, at least on paper, yet they have the sales outcomes that are at least in this group, superior to men.


Andy Paul  26:48  

Yes. Which is always the topic of our conversation, which is why aren’t there more women that are available? Or why aren’t more companies hiring more women to be in sales, which is more complex?


Bridget Gleason  27:20  

They don’t want the job.


Chris Orlob  27:26  

Absolutely. Actually, I’m interested to hear your take on that. Like why what you said they don’t want the environment could you unpack what you mean by that?


Bridget Gleason  27:37  

You know, in a lot of cases it’s still very much kind of a male dominated oftentimes a locker room.


Andy Paul  30:42  

Well, hopefully, hopefully, that with more university level college level, degrees actually not just courses but degrees and sales becoming more available, is that hopefully that is one sort of function that encourages more women. Get into the profession. Because it really, really would help a lot of companies, if you can bring in a whole cohort of employees that, at least based on some studies that we’re seeing and something really interesting that has gone on. Oh, not that those people would say it’s an academic study, but, you know, gives you an indication that, yeah, you’re really missing a boat if you’re a hiring manager and sales and you’re not actively looking to encourage women to come into the profession.


Bridget Gleason  31:30  

Completely agree.


Chris Orlob  31:31  



Andy Paul  31:35  

So Chris, this was fantastic. We really appreciate you joining us. We’ll have you back on again sometime.


Bridget Gleason  32:14  

All right, everybody. Have a good one.