Tech companies need to change the way they sell and market to boards

With more women on the board, any tech vendor selling to enterprises will need to adapt what they are selling and how they are marketing it.

The number of women on boards in blue-chip FTSE 100 companies and mid-sized FTSE 250 companies has risen to 40%, up by 3% in 2022, according to the FTSE women leaders review.

In the recent review, what also emerges is that women are still not making it to the two top roles of CEO and CFO in anything approaching the rate at which they are joining the board as a whole. Here, empirical evidence is missing or fails, leaving the brave to speculate that there are simply fewer women at the top, because they are not going into the roles that will get them there.

You will perhaps forgive me in advance if I risk patronising women by saying that they need to be sold and marketed to in different ways to men, but I believe they do. In many organisations, enterprise sales and marketing has not really changed all that much in the last 20 years, and was built on men and women selling almost exclusively to men. And any number of women will be happy to share their own anecdote about how they have been sold down to by men.

I am not going to dig the hole that I might already be in any deeper by trying to communicate how women buy differently from men, because my opinions are largely rational rather than empirical. Like Descartes, I think I can reason it all out from the comfort of my armchair rather than looking for hard evidence. Well, not entirely true; after so many years in this business, I must have something of value to share about what might be wrong about sales and marketing technique as more and more women join the board.

The first is an easy fix. If more women sit on boards, often in human resources roles, then the demand for workforce tools and technologies will rise and I think we can already see that, with the growth in frontline workforce management software sales. This was always sold on the basis that Gen Z and Millennials are no longer biddable to the old autocratic ways of worker management and that’s true, but the decision makers are now in senior roles and they are no longer in a silo called HR.

New tech roadmap

By extension, the board is already buying differently because of how it is prioritising how it treats its people, its communities and the wider planet. Whether it is men or women who are the decision maker, the tech roadmap now looks different for all these reasons. Tech companies will have to respond by understanding what a modern roadmap now looks like.

The second is harder because someone has to establish whether women browse and buy software and tech services differently from men. In the retail environment, there is plenty of literature on the subject and the advertising industry most conspicuously has responded by changing the way it build ads; for instance, more than 50% of drivers are women but the decision on what car to buy is now dominated by women.

In terms of selling techniques, tech companies will need to be more sensitive to the fact that they are pitching to more equally gendered boards. Fortunately, the people who will make these changes, particularly in the marketing department are increasingly women and so they can set the agenda.

The final hurdle I feel is the gap between sales and marketing, even now, after all these years. Sales people traditionally were largely men and felt they ruled the roost while marketing was largely women, and the former had a great laugh ignoring the latter. In more and more software companies today though, that divide simply does not exist and sales and marketing can finally go into battle side by side.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/feb/28/women-board-roles-uk-biggest-listed-firms

Photo : Lina Kivaka

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