Building a Diverse Sales Team Starts From Within

When my father immigrated to the United Kingdom nearly 50 years ago, he was motivated to create a better life for himself and his family, and prove to his father back home that starting over in a new country was worth it.

My dad worked three to four jobs at a time to support himself and start building a new life. Although incredibly challenging, these hardships shaped the person he became, and paid off for my family. 

While his story is certainly close to my heart, it’s also one that I share with many other people around the world. Experiences like these often contribute to a strong work ethic, high motivation, and better job performance — one key reason that a diverse and inclusive sales culture has far-reaching benefits.

Creating that kind of culture isn’t always easy. To be successful, business leaders need intentional focus, defined success metrics, and the often-missing soft skills that help build a diverse sales team. For those willing to put in the hard work, the rewards are clear.

Diverse Sales Teams Outperform Their Competitors

As sales leaders, we care about our teams hitting their quotas. More diverse sales teams are shown to perform better on several key metrics. According to Forrester Consulting, sales teams with leading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices boast an average lead-to-opportunity conversion rate of 54% — twice the rate of teams lagging in DEI.

This higher performance continues throughout the customer journey. The same Forrester research found that organizations with leading DEI practices saw a 24% increase in customer satisfaction, compared to 17% for laggards in DEI.

Since joining ZoomInfo’s EMEA Sales Team, I’ve seen the results of our concerted effort to increase representation across the company, in both leadership and individual contributors. Embracing all cultures and traits undoubtedly contributed to our 91% growth of international sales in 2021.

4 Tips for Building a Diverse Sales Team

Imagine the talent pool you could access if you filled your team with members representing all:

  • Abilities
  • Ethnicities
  • Genders
  • Sexual orientations
  • Socioeconomic backgrounds

Embracing diversity can help you leverage a greater set of experiences, perspectives, and strengths — all represented together. Here’s how to get started:

1. Gauge Your Current DEI Stage

Harvard Business Review defines the Five Stages of DEI Maturity as: Aware, Compliant, Tactical, Integrated, and Sustainable, with Sustainable being the target state. In a survey of 10,000 knowledge workers across six countries, HBR found that almost one-third of companies are only at the “Compliant” stage. 

2. Audit Your Existing Practices

An important step in building a diverse sales team is to conduct an internal audit. Ask your team: Do our current recruiting practices contribute to an unconscious bias? For example, are your job descriptions written with a stereotypical sales rep in mind? 

To detect unconscious biases, it’s important to look at every step in your recruitment methodology, including:

  • Examining job descriptions and requirements
  • Ensuring recruitment tactics engage a diverse network of candidates
  • Offering blind reviews of applications where possible to remove bias
  • Welcoming new perspectives

Surveys are a great way to understand your employees’ experiences and perspectives. Plus, you can collect valuable data about your business’ progress in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

From these exercises, you might learn that your job descriptions are limited in vision, or that you are only targeting a very small pool of potential candidates. Once you conduct an internal analysis, your teams can then use this data to guide the next steps toward creating a sustainable DEI model.

3. Standardize Processes to Weed Out Bias

The next step is to standardize your internal processes to remove conscious and unconscious biases and build authentically diverse teams.

Consider asking all hiring managers to:

  • Conduct structured interviews
  • Ask the same questions in the same way and in the same order 
  • Establish an interview panel that includes a diverse set of colleagues
  • Leverage one scoring matrix across all teams

By eliminating variation as much as possible, you not only highlight which qualities, experiences, and perspectives are the most important, but also ensure that you can measure results objectively.

This also makes it easier to track changes over time and measure the effectiveness of your strategy. You can analyze hiring data from the last six months, one year, or five years to see if there are trends in either direction around gender, race, location, or other attributes.

4. Prioritize Culture “Adds,” not Culture “Fits”

One of the most effective ways to create a more diverse team is encouraging your employees to shift their hiring mindset. You want your team looking for culture “additions” instead of culture “fits.” 

Adding to your culture is what drives greater diversity and inclusion over time. If you hire people that “fit” within your existing culture, you’ll probably overlook talented candidates who can bring new perspectives to broaden and enhance your efforts. 

DEI is a very important issue, and one that your business can’t take lightly. That can make the work seem overwhelming at first — but when you break it down step-by-step, you’ll see how more inclusive, productive teams can actually be attainable.