March marks Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society, including the invaluable perspective women bring to our workforce.
In sales and distribution organizations, women are playing an increasingly important role – and being recognized for the value that diversity, equity and inclusion bring to a culture and a team, but also the value they bring to the business and the overall success of the enterprise. Recently reported research shows that women are 11% more likely to win business than their male counterparts thanks to a propensity towards empathy, relationship building and active listening.
So how do we ensure that the future of female representation in sales and distribution continues to grow? Lincoln Financial Distributors (LFD) launched the Women in Sales Network (WISN) in 2020 to build community for women in distribution and sales, advocate for female representation across the financial services industry and be better able to serve the unique financial needs of women as investors and clients.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, Florrie Willis, National Sales Manager for Lincoln MoneyGuard® and WISN co-chair, shares her thoughts on her career, the importance of female wholesalers and what she hopes WISN can accomplish.
This past year, you took on co-chairing the WISN group, in addition to your role on the leadership team for LFD. Why is WISN so important to you?
I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to build my career at Lincoln Financial Group since starting in our development program over 20 years ago. When you look across the enterprise, Lincoln does a good job of recruiting, retaining and promoting female leaders. When it comes to our sales organization, we still have opportunities to increase female representation on both our wholesaling teams and in sales management. The Women in Sales Network (WISN) was founded to advocate for women at Lincoln, support career development and advance the unique needs of women in our business. I am personally invested in helping to shape the future of the organization and to be a mentor and champion for the women of LFD.
What is the goal of WISN?
The goal of WISN is two-fold. First, we want to educate and bring awareness to the career paths of external wholesaling and sales management for our current internal wholesalers, our pipeline of future talent and next generation leaders, and women across the enterprise who may want to consider these options for their career. Second, we want to support LFD’s current female wholesalers and members of the Relationship Management team, providing them with opportunities to network and engage with their peers and providing training and development to help them grow in both their careers and their personal lives. For me, it’s important to be able to bring your whole self to work and feel recognized and valued for the unique perspective you bring to our organization and our shared success.
How is WISN helping?
It was very important to me and my co-chair Brynn McLin that WISN be tailored to meet the specific needs of women in sales. We’ve formed a leadership council made up of one representative from each of our business lines across the sales and Relationship Management teams. The group meets every other month to identify opportunities, focus and align on our mission and plan quarterly events for the full group, including an annual in-person event that coincides with our National Sales Conference each January. Opportunities for training and development continue to be top of mind for our members as well as time for best practice sharing. We are looking at both internal and external speakers and events to be able to support our members and help better position them for success.
Why do you think representation for women is so important in distribution?
There are a few reasons I believe strongly in female representation in sales. To start, wholesaling and sales can be one of the most rewarding and lucrative careers and we want to ensure more women have access to it.
In addition to opportunities for personal growth, female representation also makes sense for the business. Women bring a different dynamic to financial planning conversations. We tend to be empathetic and listen differently, offering us an opportunity to relate to the end consumer in a distinct way. As more women make the financial decisions for their households, having a female wholesaler at the table can help facilitate the sale while also enhancing Lincoln’s reputation.
Finally, the future is female, and we want to make sure we represent the important buying power of women as partners and clients.
You’ve been in the industry for 20 years and were recently promoted to national sales manager for Lincoln’s MoneyGuard business. What changes have you seen in your career in terms of representation and what is your hope for the next generation?
I have seen a lot of change in my 20 years, and I know that we can do more. As a mother of four young girls, I want them to know that anything is possible. What’s amazing to me is that they view my recent promotion, and even Ellen Cooper recently becoming Lincoln’s CEO, as nothing out of the ordinary. I love that seeing women leaders is normal to them and I hope we can continue setting that example for others. I’m in an incredibly fulfilling career where I get to help everyday Americans and make an impact through financial planning to bring greater financial stability to their lives and their families. And I get to be present for my own family and my own life outside of work as well. I want to do my part to ensure that the women across LFD have the opportunities and support to do the same.
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