Selling to HR leaders experiencing internal sexism

I'm a salesperson of a B2B SaaS product. The ultimate decisionmaker to purchase the product is the CFO (sometimes the CEO as well); however, the CFOs frequently assume it is an HR-related product.

When I am able to get a CFO on the phone, there is a high sales conversion — largely because it saves the company money but also because the product can resolve unintentional errors some HR managers make. In fact, the CFO often wants to have a follow-up call with the CEO and COO to because they find it impressive. Interestingly, they will often exclude the HR person from these conversations and mention that the HR person isn't important.

However, because of the nature of the product, when CFOs receive an inbound email but don't talk to us, they often assume it's for HR and directly connect us to an HR manager or CPO (this is true even when it's a warm intro when the CFO is trying to be helpful/responsive). Then I am trapped because the HR person will say they don't know if they'll be able to get the CFO's buy-in.

In particular, there are challenges because the CFOs are often men (with female administrative assistants), and the HR manager is often a woman. Sometimes, the HR leader is the only female-identifying person in the C-suite on the company website, although they might be excluded from a lot of executive meetings. However, I have also worked with organizations where the CEO/CFO is female, and they still communicate that HR is not useful/are idiots. So it's truly a situation where the HR person is experiencing sexism, regardless of which gender the sexism comes from.

This is simultaneously a sales challenge (how do I get to the decisionmaker without offending the "gatekeeper"?), but I'd also like to empower the HR person and make them look good in front of their boss. Basically I want to help them fight sexism.

I've also tried to ask the HR person more about their problems and pain points, and they will share things (some of which our product would resolve); however, I feel like the elephant in the room is that their executive team discriminates against them and they don't want to "stick their neck out" and risk looking foolish.

Finally, the whole thing seems to be exacerbated by the fact that I'm a female salesperson reaching out to primarily female HR managers and also female administrative assistants in order to schedule meetings with male decisionmakers/buyers.

It should also be stated that when the business does purchase the product, the HR person is often the main point of contact with the account manager, and they are usually very happy and asking how our product can do more for them.

I'm not trying to complain or deflect from any underlying fundamental issues with the product or how it is marketed, but I'm wondering about outside perspectives. If you are a woman working in Recruiting or HR, how do you overcome sexism when dealing with your executive team? Obviously a lot of people receive and detest cold sales emails, but you probably do choose to take some calls. How do you determine which sales calls to take and whether or not you want to purchase (or be the internal champion for) a product? What are your interactions with your CFO like in general?

Am I totally missing some other dynamic here? Any feedback welcome!

wqhipsh's profile thumbnail
Hi Sandie! Maybe you can align your objectives with the C-Suite executive objectives.I also work for a B2B Saas product that requires behavior change. This podcast is a great case study for behavior change. Katharine Hayhoen is a scientist, and speaks about her grass roots work for sustainability in Texas, and how she inspires behavior change. The take away, she aligns her goal with their existing goal. https://onbeing.org/programs/katharine-hayhoe-our-future-is-still-in-our-hands/#transcript