LinkedIn: DEI Programs Boost Sales

LinkedIn commissioned Forrester Consulting to analyze whether firms with strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs have higher sales performance.  The result was a “resounding yes.”

“As the US population diversifies, so must your sales teams,” concluded Vanessa Fabrizio, Market Impact Consultant at Forrester.  “You need a diverse sales team to be customer-obsessed in 2021 and beyond.  Respondents understand the importance of diversity, as 60% stated that diversity within their sales team has contributed to their teams’ success.”

While DEI received much attention in 2020, sales leaders view it as an ongoing initiative, with 82% stating racial or ethnic diversity will be equally or more important in two years.  Additionally, 72% believe that DEI will be equally or more important across the business organization in two years.

Last September, Forrester Consulting surveyed 500 B2B sales leaders about their firms’ performance metrics and DEI practices (e.g., diversity in personnel, commitment to DEI training, and career advancement programs for underrepresented groups).  Those with strong DEI programs outperformed lagging programs across a series of metrics:

  • Sales Forecasts: Firms with strong programs expected 2021 revenue growth of 9% vs. 6% at lagging firms.
  • Conversion Rates: Organizations with strong DEI practices had a 54% lead-to-opportunity conversion rate vs. 26% at laggards.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Firms with strong programs saw a 24% increase in customer satisfaction scores vs. 17% at firms with weak programs.

“As buyers continue to demand a more personalized experience, successful companies will understand the increasing benefit of diversifying their teams to reflect the changing demographics of their target consumer,” said author and sales expert Jeff Davis.

Source: Forrester Consulting (LinkedIn commissioned research), “Diversity Drives Sales Success: The Link Between Successful Sales Teams and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

“In 2022, sales leaders will monitor and track the diversity of their organization like any other metric or KPI,” separately predicted Outreach Global Innovation Evangelist Mary Shea.  “With more weight and visibility on this business priority, sales leaders will embrace new and more creative channels to source talent, and they will create internal programs to nurture and foster their existing talent.”


Coincidentally, I am publishing this article on Martin Luther King Day at a time when voting rights are being restricted in many states. MLK stood for DEI, voting rights, freedom, economic opportunity, and economic justice. He was instrumental in pushing LBJ and Congress to pass the original Voting Rights Act which is now opposed by the Republican Party. It is time for Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act and at least pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Senator Raphael Warnock, who preached from MLK’s pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, stated

“I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this Congress is to get voting rights done. Voting rights are a preservative of all other rights. They lay the ground for all of the other debates. And so to my Democratic colleagues, I say: while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy.

Sadly, many of our Republican friends have already cast their vote with voter suppression. And so the judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask, when the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment or did we hide behind procedural rules?

“I believe that we Democrats can figure out how to get this done, even if that requires a change in the rules, which we established just last week that we can do when the issue is important enough.”

Senator Rappael Warnock (December 14, 2021)

Democracy is not a given. Freedom expands or contracts based upon our willingness to accept others and afford them the same rights (and responsibilities) as others. It must be renewed each generation through teaching, activism, and voting.

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021 (Part II)

Continuing from yesterday’s discussion of LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2021

LinkedIn State of Sales 2021 Trends

Sales managers are looking to diversify their hiring across two dimensions: geographic and cultural.  With work from home proving itself over the past year, managers are now confident that they can hire the best talent, regardless of location.

Likewise, sales professionals believe that their firms have succeeded in their efforts in opening up sales teams by gender, race, etc.  35% of sales professionals believe their sales organizations have “exceeded goals around diversity hiring initiatives,” while another 45% say their sales organization has “met” their diversity hiring goal.

On the buying side, 83% of purchasers said that all things being equal, they would give a preference to more diverse teams.

LinkedIn argues that Sales Intelligence is a crucial tool for building trust in the absence of face-to-face meetings.  LinkedIn broadly uses the term to include Conversational Intelligence tools such as Gong and Chorus, which help understand the prospect’s state of mind, and sales intelligence solutions such as Sales Navigator.

“With in-person meetings limited, sales technology provides a key pathway to gaining insight and understanding into potential customers. It’s no surprise, then, that our survey indicates that both usage of and investment in sales technology are increasing,” stated LinkedIn.

73% of respondents employ a sales intelligence solution weekly, and 23% use one daily.  54% said SalesTech helps reps build stronger relationships, and an equal percent said it helps them close more deals.  The top three categories for closing deals were CRM (70%), sales intelligence (69%), and sales enablement (69%).

Both usage and investment in SalesTech will increase in 2021, with CRM (49%), Sales Intelligence (43%), and Sales Planning (42%) seeing increased usage.  On the investment side, the top categories are CRM (41%), sales intelligence (40%), and sales engagement (40%).  Nearly seven in ten sales professionals anticipate greater SalesTech investment this year.

Data continues to be seen as critical, with 47% of sales organizations using it for account targeting, 44% for industry targeting, 43% for performance assessment, 41% for geographic targeting, and 39% for defining the buying committee.

While LinkedIn did not delve further into buying committee discovery, this is a nascent development area with multiple approaches, including conversational intelligence (meetings, emails) and machine learning.

Understanding the demand unit is critical for sales teams.  85% of reps reported that at least one opportunity was lost or delayed due to the departure of a client stakeholder.

Sales Navigator usage continues to be robust, with a 400% increase in self-bought Sales Navigator licenses over the past two years, “a surge that indicates sales professionals are investing in their own growth and have a willingness to use sales tech even if not prescribed by their company.”

59% of the Forbes Global 500 companies and 64% of the Forbes fastest-growing companies have Sales Navigator users.

Finally, message quality trumps quantity.  Simply sending high volumes of email or sharing many content pieces does not move the revenue needle.  The key is quality outreach that generates engagement and message acceptance.  “This is a strong indication that salespersons ought to be mindful of the value to the customer before sharing content or sending an InMail.”

InMails should be “short, personalized, and conversational.”  Messages with fewer than 400 characters are the most effective, with a sharp drop-off in response rates for long-in-the-tooth messages.

LinkedIn surveyed 400 sales and 400 US and Canadian purchasing professionals in January 2021.  Separate surveys were conducted for other geographies but have yet to be published. [Original Report]

BoardEx Diversity Network

Interlocks research platform BoardEx added Board Diversity variables that track membership in ethnicity association networks.  The system tracks “champions, allies, and advocates of specific ethnicities in leadership roles.  It comprises multiple networks of associations representing a specific ethnicity – referred to as ethnicity association networks.”  Seventeen thousand execs are tracked, along with execs that have received awards from association members.

BoardEx covers two million companies and 1.5 million executives, with data maintained by 350 editors.

“Our clients are seeking ways to help their own clients improve ethnic and other forms of diversity within their own organizations and report on their progress with this change,” says BoardEx CEO Cameron Ireland.  “The new network helps you connect with members of over 2,600 ethnicity associations that actively champion ethnic diversity.  It also surfaces people who have received awards recognizing their contribution to ethnic diversity in business from publicly available information.”

Along with collecting the Board Diversity data, BoardEx will be working with clients and partners to

  1. Champion the efforts of diversity associations to help raise awareness for groups who are historically underrepresented.
  2. Enhance the ability of companies to discover and connect with talented leaders of different ethnic, racial and functional backgrounds to build leadership teams, C-suites, and boards that reflect their customers and wider society.
  3. Empower professionals to analyze diversity trends within workplaces in order to create transparency and accountability around different diversity attributes.

The new selects are available to all clients.

BoardEx is owned by Euromoney which has assembled a set of complementary services in its People Intelligence business:  WealthEngine, BoardEx, and Wealth-X.  WealthEngine provides wealth and lifestyle insights on 300 million Americans and 122 million households. Wealth-X profiles the global wealthy.

Following the December acquisition of WealthEngine, Euromoney stated that “the Group now has full coverage across the wealth intelligence value chain, which is a growing information-services market.”

Fortune: The C-Suite Remains a Male Bastion

DiscoverOrg employs 150 editors to gather its multi-level executive database across 60,000 global organizations.
DiscoverOrg employs 150 editors to gather its multi-level executive database across 60,000 global organizations.

Fortune employed DiscoverOrg C-Level executive data to analyze the presence of women in the C-Suite. Of the 9,975 C-level executives evaluated, only 18% were female. At the corporate apex, only 6.9% of the CEOs and 6.7% of Board Chairs were women. That is fewer than one in fourteen execs.

Of the twelve titles assessed, only four have female population rates above twenty five percent:

  • 31.9% Chief Legal Officer
  • 36.4% Chief Compliance Officer
  • 48.0% Chief Marketing Officer
  • 62.2% Chief Human Resources Officer

Even more concerning is that the top two positions leading to the CEO position, COO (7.2%) and CFO (8.8%), remain male bastions.

“The biggest surprise to me was how little gender diversity there still is,” opined DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck. “You might expect less than 50% of C-level executives to be women, but I was surprised at how much less it was.”


I also found it interesting that this research was employed using DiscoverOrg data and not a public company dataset from Reuters, FactSet, S&P, Mergent, etc.  Any of these public information vendors could have also provided the data as well, but DiscoverOrg had an advantage in that it researches the full C-suite (and several levels below it) and reverifies data every ninety days.  While the other vendors are also likely to have highly accurate data for the C-Suite, they are dependent upon SEC filings to recognize executive changes.  Thus, they would be as accurate as DiscoverOrg for CEO, Chairman, COO, CFO, and Chief Legal Officer, but are less likely to be accurate for positions which report into the CEO, CFO , and COO.  Here, DiscoverOrg’s curated data collection methods have a data quality advantage.

What would be fascinating is if DiscoverOrg analyzed their data by function, level, and sector across the Fortune 1000.  They already have data sets for Finance, Marketing, Product Management (TEDD), and IT with several others ready to launched by the end of the year.  Assuming DiscoverOrg can provide historical cuts of their database, the IT function can be evaluated going back a half decade or more with Finance and Marketing for a few years.  At a minimum, such an analysis would make for some fascinating blogs, but it could also be an invaluable dataset for academic research.