3 Ways Sales Talent Development Puts More Women in Leadership

by Brianna Leung /

At GrowthPlay, we are all too familiar with the disappointing statistics on women in leadership at law firms. While firms are recruiting equal numbers of women and men, most firms entrust power to just a handful of women. The reasons for this state of affairs are complex and systemic, and no single program or strategy will create lasting change overnight. But one way current firm leadership can demonstrate its commitment to promoting more women is by investing in research-based sales talent development.


What do selling skills have to do with gender equality? Plenty! For all lawyers, succeeding at business development is one of the keys to securing promotion and power within a firm. But for women, building a thriving book of business is even more important, because they have less access to the kinds of mentorship and connections that help other attorneys advance their careers. That does not mean women lawyers must be rainmakers in order to succeed. Sales talent development is not about becoming someone else. Women possess unique perspectives and gifts that allow them to approach the work of sales and solving problems differently. Here are three ways we counsel women lawyers to reframe characteristics traditionally seen as feminine (and supposedly detrimental to being good at sales) as powerful tools for advocating for themselves and their clients:


  1. Make emotion your superpower. Women often think of emotion as a hindrance to success, and it can be, especially when we get mired in imposter syndrome, taking setbacks too personally and pessimism about the possibility of success. But emotion can be a powerful tool when it comes to developing fruitful client relationships. A high emotional IQ allows sellers to empathize with clients’ points of view and create solutions to a wider range of problems than just what shows up on the balance sheet. Emotion drives us to collaborate and approach interactions with humility rather than competitiveness and aggression. When sales becomes an act of service—and emotions drive authentic connection—developing business is the natural outcome.

Read our blog for tips on how to make sales an act of service


  1. Be strategic in demonstrating your competence. We all know that women have to tread carefully when it comes to self-advocacy. Women lawyers must find a way to trumpet their accomplishments, but they are judged much more harshly than men when self-promotion reads as self-interested. The trick is in treating your accomplishments as acts of service. “I am listed in on the 40 under 40 list” becomes “I’m elated to be included in 40 under 40.” The focus is always on how the latest accolade will help you better serve clients.


  1. Ask for what you want. But first you have to figure out what that is. Women lawyers who have a specific vision for how they will develop their practice over time are better positioned to identify the specific targets and actions that will get them there. What kind of work is most meaningful for you? Which stakeholders do you wish to impact? What reputation do you want to have? Only when you know the answers to these questions can you identify the opportunities you want to go after.


Sales talent development is not about getting women lawyers to become traditional rainmakers. GrowthPlay’s research on sales talent tells us there are many ways to develop business. Instead, when these women understand their strengths and how those strengths translate to forming stronger client relationships and providing excellent service, they will be better positioned to build business and seize opportunities to lead.