You’ve just made a fabulous presentation to a potential customer. And then comes the dreaded, “I’ll have to think about it.” You’ve lost the sale, right?
Not necessarily. If the potential customer is a woman, chances are she means exactly what she said. And that’s not a bad thing. “Thinking about it” entails doing more research, discussing it with family and friends and gaining their support for her decision. When they’ve bought in, she’s ready to buy.
Too many salesmen, however, might well misread the situation and fail to stay in touch with the potential customer, assuming she’s blowing him off. Ironically, that lack of communication will often have the opposite effect and make her feel unappreciated – which is likely to drive her away.
This is just one example of how gender misunderstandings get in the way of business success. In her book Why She Buys, author Bridget Brennan looks at the ways female consumers are often alienated by marketers and salespeople, and provides recommendations on the right ways to appeal to them in order to secure more sales.
Her book is based in part on the latest scientific research on brain differences between men and women, as well as the differences in how men and women are socialized, and what matters most to them.
Brennan acknowledges that talking about gender differences, especially in business, has been considered politically incorrect. However, she also maintains that without trying to understand and cater specifically to women – the largest consumer group out there – marketers are making a big mistake.
Studies show that in females, the limbic system – the emotional brain – tends to be larger than in men. One result of this, along with socialization, is that women measure their self worth by the quality of their relationships, and evaluate purchases by the impact they will have on family and/or friends.
Additionally, partly because of their brain structure, women proactively seek help and input from others, especially when they feel the heat is on to make a major decision like a kitchen or bath project or replacement product. Hence, the “I’ll think about it.”
HELPING WOMEN BUY
Here are Brennan’s recommendations on helping women buy more readily.
“The most important thing to remember when selling to women is this: No matter what your product or service, you’re really only selling one thing, and that’s help,” Brennan stresses.
Women buy to enhance their lives, or their family’s lives. How will a kitchen or bath improve their lives? Explore in detail why she is thinking of doing a kitchen or bath. Ask a lot of open-ended questions and give her a chance to answer.
Then frame solutions based on her answers.
For example: “Moving the wall and adding a peninsula means there is room for your extended family to eat together every night. Adding a window will allow you to watch the kids play outside. Building in a desk will give you a chance to check e-mails while you cook. The wine refrigerator and bar sink will make it more fun to entertain.
“The new hand shower will make it easier to bathe the dog. The new no-threshold shower will make it safer for your mother to shower when she visits, even if it’s only twice a year.”
Ask about everyone in her life who will be impacted by her decisions. A key thing to remember is that they are all your customers, even if you never meet them.
Forget the specs and talk about what products will do. The number of BTUs may not matter, but getting dinner on the table sooner does. The cubic feet of the refrigerator may not matter, but the size of the pizza boxes it holds is relevant. Or the number of gallons of milk it can store. Or whether kids or guests can help themselves to ice and water.
One way women seek to better their lives and the lives of those around them is by focusing on health and wellness.
So don’t talk initially about the technicalities of separate compressors or filters for ethylene gas. Rather, talk about preserving nutrients in food to safeguard health. Point out the stress reduction that comes by using a steam shower or whirlpool.
Brennan says women need help justifying their purchases, especially luxuries, and she applauds the LG Appliances campaign that gave women permission to upgrade their appliances. (It showed with humor women destroying their old but functioning ones so they could buy news ones.)
Communication styles can trip up a sale. Girls are taught from a young age to take turns when talking. Women don’t interrupt, but men do. Men assume if a woman has a question, she’ll interrupt his spiel about a cabinet finish or door style. But she won’t because that would be impolite.
Pause and give her a chance to talk, otherwise she’ll think you’re rude. And that can completely kill the sale. Women, Brennan says, “will try to determine if a sales representative is a ‘good person’ before doing business with him or her. This is especially true for big-ticket items. They also want to buy from someone who ‘deserves’ the business.”
Don’t brag; it turns women off. Rather, tell stories from other women about why they liked using your service or product. “One client really appreciated that we finished when we said we would, right before her baby was born.
“We specified this convection wall oven for a woman who also likes to do a lot of baking and she loves it. See how you can get three cookie sheets in here, no problem?”
Include details that are unique in your stories. “Imagine, this countertop is made of recycled toilets, or semi-precious stone.”
Use public relations and third-party testimonials wherever possible, as well.
Women also feel that companies that make the world a better place through contributing to causes – especially local ones – deserve their business more than those that don‘t.
When considering a major purchase, women have a tendency to imagine the worst, thinking, “What if something goes wrong.” Prominently display and talk about your warranties and guarantees. Women will readily pay more for service and the peace of mind that comes with warranties.
However, the discussion about money will be more difficult with women than men. “Women are taught from childhood that talking about money is impolite,” Brennan notes, adding that pricing discussions are uncomfortable for female buyers.
Yet at the same time, women pride themselves on making smart purchasing decisions. This doesn’t mean the lowest price, but rather the value they received. Good design or style often connotes value to women.
Brennan also recommends bringing up price rather than making a woman ask about it. She also says to be specific about why something is priced the way it is, and also demonstrate good, better and best options.
Women have a positive physiological reaction to being with friends. So help them celebrate a new kitchen or bath with a party in their home. Their friends will all compliment her (it’s part of their DNA, Brennan says) and affirm her good taste – and most importantly, you’ll likely get referrals.