Have you heard the joke, why is it that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he wants and a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn’t want? Subtle gender differences in behavior, especially in communication, also appear in the selling arena. We should be aware of these differences to adapt our sales communication and understand their impact on our selling.
What are the differences?
Dr. Deborah Tannen, a specialist in the field of sociolinguistics, says men’s conversation tends to focus on status while women’s tends to focus on connection. Men feel it’s okay to brag; women don’t. Tell a woman about your problem and she’ll respond with understanding and empathy. A man tends to respond by offering solutions. Researchers at the University of California studied male-female communication patterns. They found that men were responsible for 96% of the interruptions. Other research shows that women want to build relationships in business. They are more sensitive to their treatment and value it more. Men prefer to stick to facts and figures. Women share much more information with many more people than men do. In the workplace the male style has become the norm.
How did gender differences happen?
Behavioral differences develop from differences in early childhood experiences. Boys tend to play outside, in large groups that are hierarchically structured. Their games have a leader, winners and losers, and elaborate systems of rules. Boys tend to boast about their skills and argue about who is best at what. Girls usually play in small groups or pairs, and within the group intimacy is key. The preferred girls’ games, like jump rope and hopscotch, have an emphasis on everyone getting a turn rather than one individual winning or losing. Girls are expected not to boast about their skills. Those that do are generally not regarded well by their peers.
What can you do about gender differences and improve sales communication?
When a man is selling to a woman he should spend time building the relationship. He should avoid interrupting when she’s talking. He should listen completely before immediately offering a solution. It’s better for sales, too. Presenting the solution too early in the sales process loses many sales. Salespeople miss the opportunity to demonstrate the customer’s need for the solution if the solution is presented too soon.
When a woman is selling to a man, she should present the solution by telling it, rather than offering it as a question. “How about if you do this?” is perceived as lacking commitment to the solution. When she offers a solution she is not asking for discussion about the validity of the idea. She should avoid using disclaimers like “I’m no expert, but…” when presenting her ideas. Disclaimers diminish the value of ideas. Selling requires sharing the successful sales results that salespeople have achieved with other customers. Telling a customer about increasing revenue or lowering costs for other customers is not bragging. It’s part of the information customers need to make an informed buying decision.
Since women share more information with more people than men do, all salespeople should make sure they are asking their female customers for referrals. Female customers will be more likely to share the information with you. Take advantage of this opportunity to build your business.