Level the Playing Field by Leveling Up
Imbalances are always felt.
Consider a distant figure wobbling on an unsecured tightrope. Or a restaurateur sampling food that has too much salt. Or a woman in sales trying to be a leader in an industry that’s been dominated by men since its inception.
These imbalances are perceived because something is out of equilibrium or proportion — and this state of affairs has lingered in sales, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women still only make up a third of the workforce.
Thankfully, a forward-thinking company like Angi might hold the solution, according to Sales Training Director Devyn Thielen.
While women might only hold a third of the jobs in the sales industry — similar to the fraction of women in tech — Harvard Business Review reports that women frequently outperform men at achieving their sales quotas, and that sales leadership positions for women would be both a performance boost and a benefit for equity.
At Angi, Thielen has seen her sales team thrive due to the promotion of women to those leadership positions from within. To learn more, Built In Colorado sat down with Thielen to hear how her team has created such a positive and equitable culture — and how other companies can follow their lead to create balance in the future.
Describe your role and responsibilities.
I’m a sales training director. As one of the four training directors for Angi Leads, it’s my responsibility to help ensure the successful onboarding of 60-plus new hires monthly. This includes learning our product, values, selling standards and our customer relationship management tool.
With all our classes, I strive to create a positive and inclusive work environment. We continually push the boundaries to promote positive representative engagement and create a productive learning environment in the virtual world. We endeavor for all our representatives in training to have the tools they need to be successful when they reach their new homes on the sales floor.
Sales has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. What has been your experience with homogenous sales teams in the past?
Like many representatives at Angi, I started my first role on the sales floor and had the opportunity to work with a female manager. My manager’s superior was also a woman. In fact, during my entire tenure with Angi, I have been surrounded by strong female leaders, many of whom continued their development further with Angi and had a helping hand in my career progression.
I’ve never had the mentality of asking, “How can I set myself apart as a woman?” Instead, I’ve always tried to find and do what it takes to stand out as a prospective leader. This includes playing to my strengths and never allowing doubt to creep in due to sales being coined as a “male-dominated” field. If I need reassurance, I look around at all the strong female leaders currently carving the path for a female-dominated sales force.
I have been surrounded by strong female leaders at Angi.”
How does your experience at Angi differ from other sales teams you’ve been a part of?
The culture! Our culture at Angi is unmatched. When our sales teams were still working in the office, we were greeted with high-energy, independent and driven individuals from the second we set foot on the sales floor. Some sales floors can give you the sense of being just another number, but the countless leaders at Angi worked hard to ensure that was not the case. The camaraderie between teams, sales incentives, and opportunity for guidance and career advancement made it easy to put down roots. When we transitioned to a work-from-home business, I was nervous that our culture would suffer, but to my delight, I feel that we’ve only improved. We have no barriers around location, so our reach is much greater. Our company culture and bonds are growing with the new programs Angi has put in place — including DEI initiatives — and we will continue to work toward an unbiased, diverse workforce.
Why is diversity so important in sales?
Selling is diverse. We talk to a wide variety of contractors, from small mom-and-pop shops to multi-million dollar companies. All of the companies we speak to span the nation, which makes each sale unique based on the needs of that contractor. Having a diverse sales team allows us to sell and appeal to anyone and everyone. No sale is the same, and I can proudly say that the strongest asset is our goal to continue diversifying the sales force.
Having a diverse sales team allows us to sell and appeal to anyone and everyone.”
What does Angi do to support women as they aim for leadership positions on the sales team?
At Angi, we have a leadership development program that women are encouraged to apply for. This program was developed by Erica Sherman and Jaqueline Marks, both female leaders who have held various positions across the company. The goal behind the LDP is to help coach, teach and support sales representatives looking to grow within the company.
Currently, Erica Sherman is heading up the training program as senior director of training, and Jaqueline, head of LDP, has a team of five, with four of them being women. They’re all business leaders who go above and beyond to craft our newest leaders. LDP doesn’t stop after you’re promoted into a new position — they run continual workshops to help mold new leaders with emotional intelligence, coaching skills, time management and many other invaluable skills that one needs as a leader.
What advice do you have for other sales leaders struggling with diversity, equity and inclusion or putting women in leadership positions?
First, no solutions are one-size-fits-all. You’ll have to determine where the barriers in your organization are. It could be an unwelcoming culture or a biased recruiting and promotion system.
One way to ensure change is by making commitments to improving diversity in your top funnel or setting up leadership development opportunities for underrepresented groups in your organization.
Commitments signal to the rest of the organization that this is a priority and may encourage people to stay the course and be part of the change. A commitment is only the first step — getting an action plan in place is the only way to make good on your promises.
Secondly, take a close look at your requirements for successful leadership. For example, if we expect sales leaders to spend several hours outside of work each day, we exclude those with caregiver or family responsibilities — many of which fall to women. So while your organization may not purposefully exclude women or any other groups, barriers exist. Identifying areas of inadvertent exclusion are critical.
There are many ways to improve diversity throughout a sales organization, but careful listening paired with those first two actions will likely surface ongoing problems that can be resolved.
Angi’s new ERGs
As Angi scales, new opportunities will arise. How do you ensure that all talent has a fair shot at promotions and career growth?
Angi promotes from within, and any applicant looking to move up must meet set requirements that all sales representatives and upper management are held to. These vary from sales metrics to tenure to completion of the LDP. This policy creates an even playing field and removes any potential bias from candidates being chosen rather than meeting the qualifications needed to apply. Angi has always strived to recognize talent and potential leaders in the company regardless of age, sex, gender and race. The company constantly reevaluates itself to uphold the best hiring and promoting practices.
Anything else we should know about women in sales leadership positions or DEI at Angi?
What inspired me to go into a leadership position was the strong women who have helped mold our company into what it is today. They showed me by example what it means to inspire others, what qualities make up a leader and that they can do anything if they dedicate themselves, regardless of the hurdles in front of them. Some of the role models I look up to are no longer here; however, their presence is felt by the community of leaders they have created. I firmly believe that if you have a goal to move up or become the best, reach out and speak out! There’s always someone listening and willing to lend a hand to help coach, motivate or point you in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to see women in leadership positions at Angi.