We’ve been taught to never judge a book by its cover, but everyone faces judgements based on their appearance. From height and weight to facial symmetry, race, and gender, we are treated and treat others differently depending on what they look like. And, unfortunately, the workplace isn’t immune to this.
Your physical appearance not only impacts the perception others have on you, but on your confidence and the ways you interact with others both personally and professionally. Especially in fields that require a lot of interaction with clients and other people, physical qualities can have a serious impact on your career.
Some things you can’t change, but you can still take control of your career. These physical traits can impact your sales career, but won’t stop you from succeeding if you follow these tips:
1. Your height
If you were always too short to ride the big kid rides, you might have a tougher time succeeding in sales. That’s right; our society tends to prefer tall people, even in the professional world.
A recent study published in the Journal of Human Capital found that tall people earn more money than short people on average. The biggest difference in salary among men was between those who stand at 5’4’’ and those who are 5’6’’. Height only impacts salary to a certain point, and levels off around 6’0’’.
The researchers suggest that taller people may be more confident or appear to be more confident. In addition, they may have better social skills and emotional intelligence because they may have been treated better by their peers than shorter people.
What you can do: In sales, confidence and social skills are extremely important. Without these skills, you won’t be able to build relationships with clients and make the sale. Although height may give some a slight advantage, it’s not everything.
So forget about your height and focus on speaking with others confidently. Practice your social skills and try out different ice breakers so that you become the person everyone wants to talk to. Start small by interacting with coworkers and starting conversations at industry events.
2. Your weight
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of U.S. adults are considered medically overweight or obese, according to the latest data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. However, as a society, we tend to prefer people who are physically fit. This is also true in the professional world, where the consequences of this particular bias disproportionately impact women. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University found that women who are overweight are more likely to hold physically demanding jobs, less likely to have jobs that involve interaction with the public, and they often make less money than average-sized women.
The report found that a woman considered medically obese working a job that emphasizes interaction with others, like sales, earns close to 5 percent less than a woman of average weight in the same role.
What you can do: In sales, you are constantly interacting with others, and how they perceive your weight can impact your numbers. Weight-based discrimination is real, and your sales career can suffer. The bias felt can lead professionals who struggle with weight to hide in the background and hold themselves back.
You need to do the opposite. Confidence goes a long way to disguise the extra pounds. So take every opportunity to positively engage with coworkers and clients, and attend industry events. Do your best to get over any initial uncomfortableness, break the stereotypes others may have, and propel your career forward.
3. Your gender
It’s no secret that women still earn less money than men and are less likely to hold top leadership positions. Although women now outnumber men in the workforce, the glass ceiling is still alive and well, particularly in sales jobs.
In fact, my company’s 2015 medical sales salary report found that women in the field make just 79 percent of what men make on average. Women are also more likely to sell lower earning products, those that pay less commission, than they are to sell higher paying products. In addition, women account for just 10 percent of the highest paying job titles in the industry.
Men also outnumber women in medical sales. In fact, 69 percent of our survey respondents were men. In a male-dominated field like medical sales, women may have trouble finding their footing.
What you can do: Sales is becoming less of a “man’s profession” but in many sectors you will still run into a boy’s club. If that’s the case, don’t let the office culture scare you away (unless there really is a serious problem, then report it).
Women are generally better listeners, so use those skills to your advantage when it comes to closing the sale. In addition, don’t shy away from the more complex products and lean into those leadership roles, even if it means you’ll be the only woman in the board room,
Intentional and unintentional bias exists in the workplace, but you shouldn’t let it stunt your career growth. Focus on growing your skills, becoming an effective communicator, and learning from the top professionals around you to succeed in sales in spite of the unconscious bias of those around you. [tc-marks]