Since my wife, Laura, and I founded Selling Power in 1981, it was our objective to create a positive platform for the professional sales community. So imagine my surprise when this tweet from a sales consultant appeared on my timeline:
The 18 characters “Totally disgusting!” sounded like an alarm. But what’s alarming is the complete inaccuracy of the tweet and the harm it caused to us. After working diligently for over thirty years to serve the professional sales market, I was – and am – alarmed that anyone would send such a thoughtless and malevolent message. But that’s the downside of social media.
That tweet was fired off prematurely. At the time, the conference speaker line-up and the agenda was still a work in progress. Of the final 26 speakers, our sponsors selected 14 and of the 10 remaining speakers that we selected, 5 are women.
In the years we’ve been publishing Selling Power, we’ve reached out to the sales community to cover every innovation and tried to keep ahead of the market. One of the areas we began covering back in the mid ’80s was women in sales. We profiled or interviewed many who’d made a significant contribution either to sales or to motivating others to succeed, including (and here I list only a few because to list them all would take up the rest of this post) Mary Kay Ash, Venita Van Caspel, Meg Whitman, Anne Mulcahy, Danica Patrick, Maria Sharapova, Mary Lou Retton, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Oprah Winfrey, and many others. We also profiled many women sales managers and reps who were doing well in the field. In fact, we wrote our first cover story on women in selling in 1983. Who else was doing that?
Our company, Selling Power Inc. employs more women than men. Over 2/3 of our staff are women. My wife is the editor of Selling Power magazine, one daughter is the editorial director and another daughter is VP of Sales and Marketing and she also runs our Sales 2.0 events serving over 2,000 sales leaders in four different locations in the US and the UK. I don’t have the slightest bias against women, and I would not want my daughters or wife to be discriminated against. The ratio of women to men running our Sales 2.0 events is 90% to 10%.
It’s easy to fly off the handle, tap out 140 characters, besmirch someone’s good name and efforts, all in order to get some attention or a reaction. After all the hard work we have done to support the entire sales expert community, it’s dissappointing. And does no good for the sales community. We’re about building, not tearing down. We’re about staying positive in the face of adversity, not dragging people into a muddy bog.
Within days of Jill’s first tweet, a number of women sales trainers, consultants and authors joined her crusade, not knowing that the conference agenda was incomplete, and not knowing that our hands are tied when our sponsors decide who in their company, or of their customers, would be best suited to represent them and provide useful insights to the audience.
Jill Konrath founded the group of 30 women sales experts some time ago with the goal to “share news.”
In the past we have offered a number of Sales Shebang members free passes to our events and shared their expertise with our Selling Power audience in print and online. Two Sales Shebang members have previously spoken at our events, and a third is joining us at the upcoming event.
I have had the privilege of contributing and working with some of the most amazing women in America like Oprah, Hillary Clinton or Mary Kay Ash and I deeply appreciate their contributions to our world.
Do we withhold our support of women for any reason?
Jill Konrath admitted in her email that she’d held a grudge against Selling Power magazine because seven years ago, we researched and featured the top earning sales keynote speakers and all of them were men. Jill wanted to see us feature more women sales speakers. Any magazine subscriber can go online and within minutes find that Selling Power has written about Jill Konrath and her work at least ten times in the past ten years. (Search “Jill Konrath” on www.sellingpower.com.)
What’s really behind all this brouhaha?
Jill Konrath is a respected thought leader in the field of selling. She has written books that have helped thousands of salespeople improve their professional skills. We also share her view that not enough women get promoted in corporate America and we agree that we are going through a period of equalization. As more women move up to sales management, American business will grow, sales will improve, and the power of women will rise. I applaud her vigilance and I’m glad we were able to correct the initial misperceptions that started this whole tweet-o-rama.
So here is the happy ending. A 140-character peace offering from Jill Konrath that was tweeted yesterday:
I think the US Government should take as an example how regular people can figure out how to reach across the aisle to resolve differences. We need more thoughtful, positive resolutions in this world where it’s easy to tear things down, but difficult to build something of value. That’s what we’ve always tried to do at Selling Power and that’s what we’ll continue doing in the future.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. I hope to see you at the Sales 2.0 Sales Performance Management Conference in San Francisco, Oct 16-17. It’s not too late to register today. As a way of thanking you for reading all the way to the end I am offering you this special discount code SPMCircle to get 50% off.
This was unexpected when I read the tweet. Glad you shared this story though. Negativity in situations like this are completely unnecessary. We can all throw our own conferences with whomever we want to speak. Why are we criticizing others?
Posted by: Ian Adams | 10/31/2013 at 12:33 AM
Happy ending. "Why can't we all just get along". I like Jill, I like Gerhard. I LOVE AMERICA. Social media is a good thing. Keep it transparent. Jill - may you be the speaker #6 at the next Sales 2.0 conference!!
Posted by: Chad Burmeister | 10/18/2013 at 09:26 PM
I have been on your panel and attended few Sales 2.0 conferences and I have promoted various Sales 2.0 content over social media. The reason I did that is because it useful and good ROI. However, like many others I always found it alarming that how invisible "we women" were in the mix.
I have known Jill Konrath for few years, and being part of various discussions about Sales 2.0 and lack of visibility, I can safely say, that Jill taking her reputation out to play, was not an on-the-spur moment gut reaction.
She chose the best way to get your attention to the fact that many of us who participated and attended past Sales 2.0 conferences, have talked about.
What have we talked about? When will the Sales 2.0 conference organizers learn that it is a business benefit to modernize the conference by having representation of 50% of the population in the panel and speakers list.
I commend you to the first grand step you took by selecting 5 out of 10 speakers, who are best and happen to be women.
You say “our sponsors selected 14”. I understand that, but have you considered the possibility that you can ask your sponsor to send women leaders. As most companies have leadership development programs (especially those companies who exist in the modern world of 2013), my guess is that your sponsors will be happy to send their best and who are women, if you specifically ask them. This is not hard.
Ask Robin Carey of Social Media Today. Her Social Shakeup conference in Atlanta that was held this past September, had enormous women participation. It was a very successful first conference and the visibility of women mattered and helped her to have that success. Ask FlowCon organizer Jez Humble and as he says, it is not hard (http://continuousdelivery.com/2013/09/how-we-got-40-female-speakers-at-flowcon/#more-1063). It is a matter of making a commitment. Again this is not charity or a cause. This is a business decision.
As you well know, sponsors and paid attendees have a spend budget and they will allocate that budget across conferences, based on how their brand and presence will be effected. You can choose to minimize the important question that Jill raised, by showing photo ops with Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey OR you can look at the future of Sales 2.0 conferences and determine for yourself if lack of women in the room can hurt future attendances and stilt growth-path. Sadly, this blog response, at least to me, came across as a missed opportunity on your part.
After the Twitter episode, I waited to see your response, and if this blog is what you consider as addressing the issue of modernizing that Jill brought up, I am spending my money elsewhere where I can find the network that gives me the qualitative and quantitative ROI for the spend.
Posted by: Rinidas | 10/16/2013 at 07:21 PM
This is a more nuanced issue than many of us have been willing to admit. As a woman who started in sales with Procter & Gamble in the 80's, (big hair and horrible bow ties) I've seen the landscape change, dramatically.
Yet, the fact that your sponsors put forth all make speakers, doesn't surprise me a bit. But I don't believe it's an intentional plot to keep women out.
In my work as a sales leadership consultant, I consistently see women not "going for it." They wait to be asked, as we've been taught since we were girls. My guess is many of those male speakers told their boss, repeatedly, "Anytime you need someone to represent us, choose me."
As humans, we want to point to one simple reason for everything, but situations arise out of a confluence of causes - social history, individual circumstances, past prejudice, and at times, we hold ourselves back, and we hold others back.
Social media, off the cuff comments, thoughtful discourse, they're all part of the dialogue that moves the needle forward.
Thanks for openly addressing this In a thoughtful way. And thanks to Jill for putting it out there,
I'm delighted to be keynoting at the Sales 2.0 conference.
Now let's go sell something!
Posted by: Lisa McLeod | 10/16/2013 at 09:40 AM
What bothers me most actually is another facet of society with social media and I believe part of your point. Why didn't she call you directly? Why did she have to trumpet from the mountains to all her followers her dissatisfaction without having a direct conversation. That to me is lazy and insensitive.
Truthfully, for a sales expert that she is I am disappointed that she wouldn't call a strategic ally directly and just ask some questions as that is the basic tenet of sales.
Posted by: Bill | 10/14/2013 at 08:46 AM
Great blog ... and this is a valuable learning lesson for us to keep in mind. It is unfortunate that our society nowadays uses social media to express their dissatisfaction without having all the facts and not even attempting to have a dialogue with each other. Let's slow down a bit and get back to basics. Voice-to-voice can do magic. Wishing the Selling Power team a successful event in San Francisco next week.
Posted by: Wolfgang Jilka | 10/14/2013 at 01:01 AM