Try A Different Approach When Targeting Professional Women

By

Chances are youre still overlooking more than 50% of your target market, and the largest opportunity to grow your business. As an industry, we continue to miss the boat on marketing to professional women despite the fact that its a strong, affluent market.

Consider that 1.2 million women have incomes of $75,000 or more, hold about half of all accounting, law and medical degrees, and start businesses at twice the rate of men.

Whats more, professional women are increasingly assuming the lead role in financial decision-making or are highly influential in the joint purchase decision. Yet, women continue telling us they are not given the same level of courtesy given to their male counterparts. They feel ignored and are often considered add-on sales.

So, whats the problem? Old industry data, myths about working with women, and predominantly male sales forces have been barriers to successfully navigating the womens market. A better understanding of the target is needed, as well as a change in the way representatives think about the sales process–the traditional, male-centric sales approach is often ineffective.

Women need the same financial products as men. Selling to women is not different; its the approach thats different. You will find that some approaches will resonate better with certain professional segments (i.e., physicians, attorneys, executives) than others.

In general, women are more service-sensitive than men. They also want to be educated and do more research up front before making decisions. In fact, women pride themselves on researching subjects that are important to their sense of security and want to feel competent about their finances.

While women want information, they dont want to be talked down to. Professional women are a sophisticated, highly educated group. Remember, its not that women are less financially savvy than men or more risk adverse, women simply have had less financial experience over time.

Its also important to understand that words mean different things to different people. Sports references will have a different connotation for women than men. When a financial expert says they are going to develop a “game plan,” most men are thinking “financial plan.” A woman hears this same expression and envisions plays on the field. She will probably feel that the advisor is not relating to her needs.

Use these language differences to your benefit. For example, women interpret “disability” as a catastrophic illness–they understand what being disabled could mean to their role as a breadwinner/caregiver/provider. Conversely, men are more likely to think of a disability as a recoverable injury.

If you earn a womans trust, she will be a loyal, life-long client and will provide referrals exponentially. Part of earning a womans trust is building a relationship. Its important for her to get to know and trust a financial representative before the sale. Since “wheeler-dealer” pitches are a turnoff, the best course of action is to get involved in the professional womans community. Demonstrate a sincere interest in adding value to her business or career. Adding value to her life first will inevitably mean shell become your client next, as well as one of your best centers of influence.

Seminar selling can be a powerful tool to reach professional women. We know through our research that women enjoy opportunities that are fun as well as enriching, and group activities play up to our need for connection. As women, we are time-starved and dont take much time for entertainment or ourselves.

If a woman can get the information she needs while also bonding, networking and enjoying herself, she will be more likely to take action at or immediately following the event. But seminars that are too mundane or dont immediately address the “whats in it for me” factor are a waste of time.

Many representatives Ive worked with in my organization have successfully developed female centers of influence in various markets. Based on my experiences, heres how to get the most from your seminars:

1. Keep it educational. Seminars should be educational, not sales driven. Present information in a fun, way–use humor and keep the event relaxing.

2. Offer networking and entertainment. Invite small groups of women who would be interested in networking with one another and have similar interests. Add a social aspect to the workshop, such as a wine tasting or other activity that affluent, professional women would enjoy.

3. Partner with influential organizations. Consider offering financial education workshops at professional womens group meetings. Sponsor or participate in local charity events.

4. Think locally. What works for one region may not be as effective in others. Find out if women in your community would prefer luncheons to evening meetings, for example. Learn what local activities, hobbies or events your target participates in or aspires to.

5. Evaluate your practices. After conducting several financial seminars, step back to evaluate how youve done. What have you learned from your target market? Have you expanded your business and gained new prospects? What changes will you make in the future?

So, if youre convinced that the professional womens market is a significant growth opportunity for your practice, the best place to begin is to do your homework. If you are not a member of the target, learn to think like one. Choose a couple of segments within the professional womens market, do some research and get involved in local networking opportunities. Most importantly, have fun committing yourself to this exciting market.

is director, professional womens market development for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, Wis. She can be reached at suetompkins@northwesternmutual.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, May 19, 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.