Just as the landscape of medical sales – the companies, the products, and the customers – is constantly changing, so is the face of the ideal medical sales rep. No longer can companies justify, on an ethical or even financial level, hiring a salesforce based on bias or prejudice.
Today’s workplace is more diverse and inclusive than ever, and medical sales leaders can benefit from taking notice. No longer is workplace diversity merely a required training module on a sales manager’s computer. Instead, it’s a way of life.
Continue reading as we review the varieties of workplace diversity, explore why they matter and discuss how you can encourage diversity in your team.
What is Workplace Diversity?
Anyone who’s worked for a large corporation has probably not only heard the term ‘diversity,’ but they’ve had the time to form in their minds a specific meaning. However, looking at the list below, you’ll probably find a view of diversity you haven’t considered.
- Diversity of race – This is probably the most apparent form of diversity. All of us came from somewhere. And we in the U.S. had ancestors who immigrated from other countries.
- Diversity of gender – Today, this isn’t just a matter of male versus female. Many people identify as transgender or gender neutral.
- Diversity of religion – Although the US is predominantly Christian, today’s salespeople can be from any religion or none at all.
- Diversity of age – In the modern workforce, people are working from age 18 on up to their 70s and 80s.
- Regional diversity – We must remember that different parts of the US and even some states have different cultures.
- Diversity of physical or mental health – Physical handicaps of all kinds fit into this category, and neurologic diversity in people with depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other cognitive challenges.
The Importance of Workplace Diversity
As medical sales leaders and representatives, our definition of ‘workplace’ is already diverse, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, meeting rooms, and conference calls. Yet, how our teams interact is a constant – a phenomenon we often call culture.
Reflecting Our Customers
When any sales rep or leader looks over their account list, they’re not likely to only see last names like Jones or Smith. Instead, they’ll see names from cultures worldwide. That’s because the medical profession in the US has accepted medical experts from around the globe for years. Therefore, if our customers can benefit from diversity, why not our sales teams?
However, diversity is not a matter of matching, for example, pairing a heavily Asian territory with a rep of Asian descent, but demonstrating to your customers that you accept a diverse workforce. As salespeople, our goal is to break down barriers and create relationships. Showing that your company appreciates differences encourages customers to be open as well.
Making Success Attainable
In sales, motivation is everyone’s challenge. Leaders need to incentivize better and support their teams, and salespeople need to unlock their energy and resilience. The challenge for medical salespeople of minority backgrounds is that they often have fewer role models of success. They may have a manager or a team member telling them, “Look at me! I was able to make quota, so you can too!” However, if that person doesn’t have the same challenges, they may not find the message motivating.
Diversity in a sales team is essential to fostering real motivation because it can feed on itself. In other words, successful salespeople of diverse backgrounds can inspire others like them.
Hiring is Important
Although they may appear unbiased at the interview table, a sales manager’s new hires can, as a whole, tell a different story. One way managers skirt around hiring for diversity is by seeking out reps they’ve employed in the past. Another is to rate job candidates they like for subjective reasons higher on objective measures. Either way, looking around the room at the next sales meeting can reveal biases like hiring for age or physical appearance.
But Culture is Everything
True workplace diversity, however, starts with the sales team that’s already in place. Are reps of different genders or ethnicities treated differently? Does the company have flexible holiday schedules to accommodate the holidays of various religions? Is an employee not taken seriously because of an accent or a physical affliction like migraine headaches?
Workplace diversity is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. The favored employee performs at a higher level because of the attention they receive, so they strive to do better. In turn, as a result, they become favored even more. Conversely, the disadvantaged employee underperforms and then is punished for underperformance, discouraging them from trying, which of course, causes them to perform at an even lower level.
The following are steps leaders can take now to promote diversity within their medical sales teams:
- Start with your current team
It could be that you already have diversity on your current team and have yet to appreciate it fully. Can you be more understanding of each person’s needs? Do you listen to each teammate equally or judge their importance by their current standing in the sales rankings?
- End hiring profiling
While looking for a certain level of experience and professionalism in your next salesperson is okay, stop thinking there is one ideal candidate for the job. Therefore, stop trying to find a clone of last year’s highest performer. Instead, you want a cohesive team that helps each other achieve more, which means appreciating the skillsets of diverse people.
- Take Risks
Doing something new, like hiring a non-traditional salesperson, can feel risky. After all, you’re going against your normal tendencies. Everyone’s biases act as a safety net, so disobeying them is never easy. However, it can be the riskiest hires that payoff the most – especially when the candidate sees you giving them a chance to shine.
It’s Time to Make Workplace Diversity the Norm
Perhaps the day that diversity is so ordinary that it’s no longer an add-on to HR and hiring practices. Maybe we’ll seek to eliminate exclusion, prejudice, or narrow-mindedness in our medical sales teams. But for today, we’ll have to be content with reminding each other that being different is not only a good thing, it’s also quite normal – and good for business.