Why The Typical Sales Techniques Dont Work With Women

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Its time to adopt new thinking and approaches to engage women as clients and prospects. Women are not an emerging or niche market, they are the market.

Over the next 30 years, baby boom women will inherit the greatest wealth the world has seen from their parents and spouses.

Women desperately need financial services, products and trusted advisors. You are looking for new clients and prospects. Seems like a match made in heaven. So whats not working?

The financial services industry has been ambivalent about (or witlessly ignoring) womens purchasing power and preferences.

Womens financial needs are similar to mens. But, our “cognitive” wiring is different and drastically dictates how we respond to and work with advisors.

We dont need different products, but we do need to be approached and managed differently. How youve been trained to sell does not accommodate womens ways of purchasing.

If you want to reach women, you need to take a hard look at your sales cycle and sales approach.

The research is pretty clear about how women make life decisions. Regardless of a womans net worth, level of experience or sophistication with financial planning, she has two basic cognitive drivers–competence and connection. These are the mental processes that motivate her to take action. Its what makes her different from her male counterparts.

Women have a strong, compelling need to feel competent. You need to understand the role competence plays in decision making for women. For example, the auto industry has already learned that women spend more time than their male counterparts on the new car buying process: 17 weeks for women vs. 14 weeks for men, according to American Woman Road & Travel (www.roadandtravel.com).

Women control the purse strings, but without much confidence in their financial literacy.

There is a serious learning curve for any financial or large-dollar purchase. Translation: She wont act if she doesnt have the right amount of knowledge, information or data that make her feel competent to make the buy decision.

When she says to you “send me some information” (before meeting with you) she really means send me information that will make me feel more competent; shes not giving you the brush-off. Anything you can do to help her build competence and skill will accelerate the sales process and build loyalty.

The bottom line is, the more she learns, the greater shes worth to you as a prospect or customer because she is more likely to take action and buy.

The other strong cognitive driver is the need for connection. A woman looks for ways to grow, achieve and problem-solve by making connections with others. She uses cooperation, not competition (mens preference), to create connectedness. She wants opportunities to gather and share information, relationship-build, and engage in developmental talk (dialogue where she can learn in a give-and-take manner, not an information dump).

You want her to make connections with you and your brand. To do that, you and your company need to move far beyond the standard women-only marketing lunches or seminars and the plethora of brochures that dominate the industry today.

To get, keep and grow productive relationships with women prospects and clients, you first need to decide if women prospects and customers are worth the effort.

Women are unlikely to tolerate inconsistencies between marketing pitches and your behavior. The reality is that prospecting and selling to women takes more time and effort than most advisors have so far been willing to give. Her need for connection makes your sales process longer. You can shorten the process by systematically factoring in her need for connection, engagement and relationships into your sales cycle, but you cant ignore it.

The more information that is shared (both ways), the more women feel connected. The more women feel connected, the more they trust the relationship. The more trust women feel, the faster action will happen.

The current market reality is full of disconnects for women. How you were trained to sell, and how you are measured and rewarded may be blocking your reach to more women.

The old “harm and rescue” model does not work well with women. Women-friendly sales entail a longer-term outlook, one that encourages partnering and collaboration with emphasis on helping her learn.

The selling reality stands in stark contrast to the pressure to close the sale, and to move fast to up-selling and cross-selling while controlling what information is shared.

To make your sales process more appealing to women, resist the pull to action thats probably been drilled into you–get the meeting, get the signature. Instead, consider these questions: Does your current sales process attend to womens strong need for competence and connection? If not, are you ready to change your sales process? Are your sales collateral materials designed to begin the developmental talk women are looking for–the learning dialogue? Or are they slick promotional pieces that really dont say anything? Is your Web site woman-friendly? Or is it filled with jargon only the most financially literate will understand? Do you believe women as prospects and clients are worth your time and effort? If not, take a hard look at the demographic data and see who will control the nations wealth in the next 20 years.

, Ph.D., is a sociologist and author of “When Baby Boom Women Retire.” Her e-mail address is nancy@drnancydailey.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 13, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.