Episode 242: Ardenia Gould – Empowering Women in Sales: Navigating Challenges, Embracing Thought Leadership, and Redefining Work-Life Flexibility
Ardenia Gould joins us on this episode to discuss the challenges faced by women in sales and how to empower them. She emphasizes the importance of work-life flexibility and offers work-life hacks for sales leaders. Ardenia also explains why companies need to look beyond compensation to attract and retain women in sales. She highlights how women want to contribute meaningfully and impact the bottom line. Ardenia offers advice on how sales leaders can mentor and nurture women in sales. Take advantage of this valuable episode to learn how companies can tap into the vast pool of female sales talent and drive tremendous success.
Ardenia Gould is the founder of Ardenia LLC and the host of the Ask Ardenia podcast. She is a champion for work-life flexibility and serves as a mentor for CEO moms and executive women, as well as a thought leader on executive burnout. Her work is making a significant impact on women executives and women in business, as well as the companies that can benefit from the talents of working moms and women in business.
Ardenia Gould 00:03
Making sales symbols means to me thought leadership; having the opportunity to kind of package and present your thought leadership and your ideas that you’re working on that no one gets to see in a way that really resonates with a broader audience is amazing.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast featuring the Top Voices in Sales, Marketing, and Business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show!
Brynne Tillman 00:45
Welcome back to making sales social! I am so excited about today’s guest. Ardenia Gould is absolutely an incredible champion for work-life flexibility. She’s a mentor for CEO moms and executive moms and a thought leader on executive burnout. And we’re going to talk with her today about how important these work-life hacks are for sales and sales leaders. Ardenia, welcome to making sales social.
Ardenia Gould 01:17
Thank you so much. Brynne, thanks for having me.
Brynne Tillman 01:19
I am so excited. We’ve been working together for quite a few months now. And every time we talk, I am blown away by the impact that you are making on both women executives and women in business, but also the companies that can leverage the talent that they’re missing out on because they are not appropriately nurturing these working moms and women in business. So I said, Hey, let’s talk about this when it comes to sales and sales leadership, and you graciously said yes. So I’m thrilled. But before we jump into that, I ask all of our guests one question: What does making sales social mean to you?
Ardenia Gould 02:05
Awesome. Making social sales symbols means to me though leadership. I love the fact that you are a champion of positioning everyone you work with and particularly women, as thought leaders in their industry. I love that. And I love to see that. And so having the opportunity to kind of package and present your thought leadership and your ideas that you’re working on that no one gets to see in a way that really resonates with a broader audience is amazing. So that’s what that means to me.
Brynne Tillman 02:35
Oh, wonderful. Well, you have so much thought leadership, it’s such a pleasure to be able to pull it out of you and get it out to the world, so.
Ardenia Gould 02:45
I love it. I’m here for it.
Brynne Tillman 02:47
Yeah, So I’m thrilled. So let’s dive into, I think one of the biggest obstacles that companies are facing when it comes to really attracting women in sales, because it is still very dominantly male-oriented sales and sales leadership. You know, women are making some inroads, but not nearly like other industries. So if I could start by asking you, Why do companies need more women in sales?
Ardenia Gould 03:23
So here’s the interesting thing, Brynne. I really feel like companies need more women in sales because of just really the opportunity with a buyers market. As you may know, moms and women in general make up the majority of purchasing decisions in the household. And I want to say that 85% of purchasing decisions are driven by moms in particular, and women in general. So that’s first of all, you want to make sure you have people in your sales organization who are connecting with your customers. And then also women are just going to have a particular perspective or point of view life experience, that’s going to really make it richer and more diverse.
And you’ll pick up on things that you may not have noticed, without having women as part of your sales team. It may be a pitch or a strategy where a member of your sales team says “You know what, moms don’t look for things like that,” or “No mom would actually say that,” or “You know what team I think we’re missing an opportunity here because I know when I go shopping or I’m looking for a house or a car or whatever,” this is what I’m looking for. And so those are the types of insights that women and moms bring to a Salesforce and it is absolutely key and super powerful when you’re talking about connecting with an increasingly savvy and knowledgeable consumer base because customers are smart.
Brynne Tillman 04:40
I love that. And even in the B2B world, so many women are in procurement. So many females are in the buyer’s seat and who better to align with than another woman. I mean, I have witnessed, there’s a difference in the empathy in the emotional connection in the relationship building from a woman to a woman, but also even a woman to a man like there’s a different chemistry than a man selling to a man.
You know, it’s, we move a little bit away from bro culture and move into solutions because most women want to solve the problem. And so I’ve seen that. So I love that you said that I think that’s awesome. So talk a little bit about what companies are doing wrong when it comes to attracting women and even working moms as salespeople?
Ardenia Gould 05:46
That’s a great question. So I think what companies are doing wrong is using old outdated models of recruiting. And so while everyone in sales, understandably, is driven by, you know, in some sense competition, healthy pay great compensation. It’s more than that, for a lot of women in sales and moms and sales, they’re looking for flexibility, they’re looking for an opportunity to really contribute to the team in a meaningful way.
They are looking to impact the bottom line and be a value add to customers, they want to feel like they are respected members of the organization and the team, you’ll find that when women feel appreciated, when they feel like they are really a part of the answer and solutions, they will go to the ends of the earth for you. And so compensation is definitely important. That’s a key part. But that’s not the only part of the equation. And so companies that strictly lead with compensation, and don’t look at those other factors are really missing out on a ton of talent out there with women salesforce.
Brynne Tillman 06:48
I love that. So what can a sales leader do to attract outwardly more women to their organization?
Ardenia Gould 06:59
So one of the first things that that women are looking at is they’re, you know, kind of scouting different organizations looking for what you call a good organizational fit from a sales perspective is who your leadership is, the first thing you have to do as a company is model it. And so if you’re saying, “Hey, you know, we really want to invest in high level leaders and women who are going to participate in procurement and sales and B2B” then you need to make sure you have women represented at the higher levels of those organizations.
That’s the first thing they’re going to be looking at. And then the other thing is, What kind of involvement Do you have in the affinity groups? Are you a member of the Women’s Leadership Council? Are you a part of procurement organizations that, you know, market to women, there are all kinds of wonderful organizations and conferences and groups that support women in sales across the industry. And so companies that are really serious about investing in women and growing that network show up to these kinds of events, because that’s where you network with the best of the best across the industry. And that’s where you’ll find women leaders and sales. So really do that.
Brynne Tillman 08:02
Yeah, that is fabulous. I think that’s awesome. So what kind of mentoring can companies do to nurture the women that they have? You know, What can you know, you are a mentor for a lot of women. So what advice would you give a sales leader when mentoring let’s say a newer up-and-coming superstar in sales?
Ardenia Gould 08:26
That is a great question. I think there are lots of opportunities to mentor women. And I think the first thing is, you know, really giving, especially junior women and you’re creating that pipeline, for more senior positions, the opportunity to have meaty responsibilities, that is substantial responsibilities early in the game, the more that you engage the younger workforce, the more invested they become. It is absolutely amazing what you can do. When you give a Young Hungry saleswoman a good project, I mean, she’s something she can sink our teeth into something she really believes in, you will see amazing results.
And even though they may be new, and even though they may be relatively grain, there’s a ton of you know, things that they can experience and really understand in terms of learning the ropes with sales. I want to say another thing. This is a brief anecdote. My mother was one of the first executive leaders in her organization, and every person along the way who mentored her was a man, it was actually not very many women in her position at that time and she learned a ton.
So just because, you know, you’re a young woman, it’s a mentor, it would be great if there’s a woman who’s Senior in the organization who can lead but guess what, men can be fabulous mentors too. There’s this misconception that men do not make great mentors to women. I’ve had fabulous ones. And so if you find that you are in an organization that tends to be a little bit male, heavy and you’re making a new commitment to training younger women leaders, men can absolutely step up to the plate and mentor younger women as well.
Brynne Tillman 10:00
I love that it’s a great takeaway. I think that’s fabulous. So, you know, one of the things you talk a lot about is the myth about work-life balance, and that there really isn’t work life balance, but there is work life flexibility. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Ardenia Gould 10:17
Yes. So I talk a lot, Brynne, about this misconception about work life balance. Work-life balance basically means that you’re giving equal distribution of time, energy and resources to work and life, we know that life is not clean or neat like that. It’s not linear. And so it’s really not possible for women or men, or really anyone to equally balance anything in your life 50-50, it just doesn’t happen. It’s completely antithetical to the way things work. What is possible, though, is what I like to call work life flexibility.
And that is recognizing that you may need to lean into work or home a little bit more at any given time, and every season of your life calls for different things. So maybe this is an intense work season. And it’s got to be 60-40 right now, and you’ve got to kind of recalibrate, to make sure that you’re showing up in the workplace and with your team. And then other times it may be you know, what 60-40 the other direction my kid needs me, I’ve got an aging parent.
So I’m going to have to kind of reassess priorities and realign some things to make that happen. Allowing people the flexibility, especially high level working moms, who are juggling so many things makes the difference. Flexibility is the number one way that organizations are going to retain women in the workforce hands down. It’s going to be flexible all the time, because it gives her the opportunity and empowers her to make decisions that are best for both her family and her organization.
Brynne Tillman 11:37
I mean, that’s incredibly powerful. When I first heard that from you, it was like this light bulb moment. And as an entrepreneur, I think that I do my best to empower my team to be able, as long as their work is getting done to make their own schedule to make sure that they’re happy, and they’re not burning out. But larger companies, you know, often have the challenge of now they’re obligated to be in the office two or three days a week there. What can a sales leader do in middle management, let’s say sales leader do to offer that work life flexibility even if the company itself is very rigid?
Ardenia Gould 12:21
That’s a really good question. So there are a number of ways that companies can still integrate work life flexibility, even if there’s a general, what they call a, you know, return to work policy in place. And what that means is sitting down with your team and saying, “Hey, we want to make sure you have the flexibility,” what day can we meet as a team, it may be that it’s one day a week where everybody on the team is either in the office or it’s a kind of an all hands meeting and you’re bringing people in.
What you don’t want to do is have a hybrid situation where you’re bringing people to work to just sit on a zoom to look at everyone else, because that’s not necessarily the most efficient, efficient and effective use of time. So if you have a team, and it’s important to have that collaboration and synergy and person, plan a day where everyone who’s a vital member of that team can be there. And then also give your team members time away from the office to do their work.
Because here’s the thing, they’re in sales and in all likelihood, they’re going to need to be where the customers are, or they’re going to want to be connecting with customers. So you don’t want to basically handicap your top salespeople by saying, “Hey, sit here at the desk,” when maybe it needs to be lunch or maybe it needs to be, you know, a virtual meeting, or maybe it needs to be a one on one call in person. You want to give your top sales leaders that flexibility and empower them to meet their customers’ needs in the best way possible.
Brynne Tillman 13:39
Yeah, that’s amazing. You know, and the other thing is, and I’m sure I heard this from you in some form, and it just sits with me so much is when you are forced to come into the office, you’ve got your time. And then there’s even more social time, right? So your work is not necessarily more productive, because you showed up in the office.
Ardenia Gould 14:05
Brynne Tillman 14:06
You’re losing a lot of time. Because when you’re forced to come into the office, and you’re missing that commute time, when you get home, you’re not working at all you’re done. So let’s talk a little bit about that, because I’m just kind of pulling it from the things I’ve learned from you.
Ardenia Gould 14:22
Oh, thank you so much. So one of the recent studies that I’ve read, and I look at these studies all the time, is understanding the real cost and the calculus involved for return to work. And so you have, as you mentioned, commuter time and expenses with you know, gas and car repairs, you also have, you know, the added expense of lunch and things like that. But specifically when you get to the office and you’re talking about productivity, time in the office is typically spent being social, that’s important, but that’s not necessarily what you would call more productivity.
So if you’re trying to build in time for your team to be social, then you need to set aside time for your team to be social, that’s important. But during the work day when folks have calls that are being interrupted, they’re being pulled left and right, someone stops by for a quick question, a quick question turns into 35 or 45 minutes and you’ve looked up your team member has lost an hour or two. That’s the number one complaint, especially in open space concept offices, which most of us have, right.
So the idea is that, “Oh, it’s open, you can collaborate, you can work cross team and cross functionally.” And ideally, it sounds wonderful, except in practice, it doesn’t work that way, you wind up having tons of distractions, and then you look up at the end of the day, and half your work isn’t even done. So that’s the cautionary tale about working in an office. And that’s kind of the fallacy that in office work is necessarily more productive than working from home. Really, the stats and the research, don’t bear that out.
Brynne Tillman 15:50
Love this. Oh, I could talk with you all day. I’m very blessed that once a month, we do talk a lot.
Ardenia Gould 15:57
We do. I love to talk. They’re great.
Brynne Tillman 15:50
Oh, me too. And you know, I just learned so much from you. So it’s a little selfish on my end as well.
Ardenia Gould 16:04
Brynne Tillman 16:05
So I thank you so much. I’m gonna ask one last question, which is, what question did I not ask you that I should have?
Ardenia Gould 16:13
Oh, that’s a good one. What question did you not ask that you should have? You know what I think it’s the question that companies should be asking that they’re not asking. And that is, they’re asking, “Hey, what is it going to take for us to get people back in the office?” “Just what is it going to take?” “What do we need to do?” “What do we need to say?” “What do we need to do to convince people to get back in the office?” And I think that’s the wrong question, Brynne, I think the question needs to be, what do we need to do to support our team to do their best work? And how can we be flexible in a way that it’s a win win for the company and the employee?
If you shift the question just a little bit, I think you’ll have phenomenal results. You know, customers are savvy employees are savvy, we’ve had a whole really radical shift in the way we work like anybody who’s thinking that we’re just gonna return exactly to the way it was. Pre pandemic, I think is wishful thinking. And so I think if we’re all willing to compromise a little bit and if companies are willing to ask the question, you know, not what can I do to get them back? But what can I do to keep them and to get them to stay? And what kind of flexibility can I offer? So that I have this team member who wants to stay here? That I think is the vital question.
Brynne Tillman 17:22
I love that. So share a little bit, how you work with companies and how they can get in touch with you. If they’re listening and going, I need this in my company, I want to attract and retain them. And so how can they work with you? And then how can they get in touch with you?
Ardenia Gould 17:40
Thank you. Well, if you are interested in learning more about work life flexibility and retaining high level women and moms in your organization, and understanding what the future of work looks like, both in terms of flexibility, as well as women leaders, and how to best direct and promote and guide those women throughout the organization.
I’d love to work with you. You can find me on LinkedIn. My company handle is Ardenia and company and that’s A R D E N I A. C O. And then you can also find me at Ask gardenia on LinkedIn as well. And across multiple social platforms. I love to respond to DMS. I love to engage with team members and colleagues and audience members. So just shoot me a DM or a message and I’ll be happy to respond and we can set up a call. Wonderful.
Brynne Tillman 18:26
Well, thank you so much for sharing your insights with our audience.
Ardenia Gould 18:31
Thank you so much for having me.
Brynne Tillman 18:32
Oh my gosh, what a pleasure. And to every one of our listeners. Don’t forget when you’re out and about to make your sales social.
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