I was pleasantly surprised to attend a sales and marketing conference and the keynote started his speech with the following:
“The most significant variable in every sales situation is the gender of the buyer, more importantly, how the sales person communicates to the buyer’s gender. It is now a validated and documented fact that men and women communicate differently, very differently. Everything from eye contact, to body language, to the usage of language and the processing of information is different in men and women.”
How refreshing, I thought, to have someone else, and a man to boot, mirror my research and training message!
This is the first of a series of articles on how you can succeed by empowering you to sell more effectively to women. What I love about the word women is that it incorporates men. I hope you take away from each article that when you meet the needs of women you will exceed those of men! And these are not my words alone; they resulted from a gender based customer satisfaction study conducted by the Wharton School of Business and WomenCertified.
So let’s start with the premise that she can be the tougher customer, if only because her thought processes, priorities and preferences are different from those of the men that so often face her in the dealer showroom. It can be challenging to adjust your perspective when communicating with women when it is sometimes quite different from what seems to work with men. From the moment she steps into your showroom, whether alone or with a male, you should give consideration to the subtleties that will affect her willingness to buy from you.
When a woman enters your dealership, be quick to acknowledge her. I speak to women all the time about car buying and hear a lot of stories, but the most frequent thing I hear is how they feel completely ignored in the showroom. Perhaps they are no more ignored in the showroom than any man, but women are sensitive to it because many find buying a car to be an intimidating experience. So even if you can’t give her all your attention immediately, let her know that she has been noticed and will get attention as soon as possible.
When approaching her, keep your eyes on her face. It is common professional practice to look someone over to assess their potential as a customer. However, women are conditioned to think that someone who looks them up and down is acting inappropriately and even offensively. It’s best to be quick and discrete about doing so from a distance, and up close to use your peripheral vision. Remember that she gets her first impression of you as soon as you get your first impression of her.
When you do get to her, look her in the eye and shake her hand. If she is accompanied by a man, shake his hand first only if he is closer to you than she is. Your handshake tells her a lot. It should be firm enough to show respect but never a bone crusher. She wants to be respected as a customer so avoid giving her a limp grip even if that is how she shakes your hand.
Women often have a man accompany them when they shop for a car, but it doesn’t mean that she is not the decision maker. The VW New Beetle is reportedly the vehicle bought the most by women, and the statistics on registrations shows that the ratio of men to women is about 44% to 56%. I questioned that balance because the gap didn’t seem wide enough given my impression of the people driving those cars. I did my own study of VW New Beetles I saw on the road and observed that fully 85% were being driven by women. That tells me that men are signing the paperwork but women are buying the cars. So don’t underestimate her influence. Whether she is an active participant in the buying process or not, she may be the one actually making the final decision and will probably be the one subsequently making the service appointments.
Just remember that if she is present, then it is safe to assume that she is an important player and deserves your respect and attention! We have found that even if you split your attention 50/50 between a man and a woman in the buying process, she is likely to feel she has been given less attention. So give her a little more attention. By all means learn her name and use it. She notices little details about the experience more than a man is likely to. And those little details make a difference, sometimes the difference between buying and thanks, but no thanks.