While the sales world of the past often excluded women from a family’s life insurance buying decisions, today’s market demands that you address the needs and the specific buying patterns and attitudes of women, who now oversee the finances in most households. Here are some strategies.

  • Women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth
  • Forty five percent of women manage the family’s finances versus 37 percent of men.
  • Over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion.
  • The number of wealthy women investors in the United States is growing at a faster rate than that of men. In a two-year period, the number of wealthy women in the United States grew 68 percent, while the number of men grew only 36 percent.

What does this mean to you? Women continue to gain power and wealth and therefore often control purse strings–all great reasons to include women in your marketing efforts. The key, experts say, is to understand the nuances of that market–in a phrase, understand what women want. And make no mistake, there are differences between men and women.

“We’ve known for a long time that men and women are different. Thank goodness for that,” says Cynthia Tidwell, president and CEO of Royal Neighbors, a nonprofit membership organization in Rock Island, Ill. that offers life insurance among other products. “If salespeople take the differences to heart and design their sales presentations accordingly, they have the opportunity to exceed their goals.”

First, Tidwell says it’s important to know why women seek life insurance. She believes it’s the cost of retirement and the prospect of outliving their money that worries women. “They live longer than men, so they’re concerned about costs outpacing their income and rising health care costs.” Others add that women are concerned about caring for their children.

“Many women want to make sure they leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren,” says Ronald J. Duswalt, a certified financial planner with Old Castle Financial Advisors, a career agency and affiliate with The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, whose client base is about two-thirds women.

And another advantage in targeting women: They’re open to advice in finances. “Women acknowledge they could potentially improve their financial situations with an advisor’s guidance,” Tidwell says.
She may be right. An Oppenheimer Funds survey on women and investing found that 62 percent of women said professional financial advice made them feel more confident about having enough money for the future. And 66 percent said working with an advisor made them feel more knowledgeable and comfortable.

The problem though, Tidwell says, is that many women distrust the financial services industry. To overcome that, she says salespeople need to understand some women have a stereotype in mind when they think of salespeople, so first impressions are critical.

Get More: For more ideas on selling to different client groups, read Joanne Black’s “To niche or not to niche.”

“Women will take about eight seconds to size up a salesperson. Salespeople who don’t listen, who talk down to them and rush to make a sale won’t get very far,” Tidwell says. “Women want to feel a connection with the [advisor]. They want to be heard, understood and respected. They want to know they matter.”
Duswalt strongly agrees. “It’s very important to listen. When I [work with] a woman, I spend one hour out of 90 minutes simply listening,” he says. “Women want to know you care about who they are and what’s important to them in addition to their finances. Show genuine empathy for their situation, whatever it may be.”

Sharon Roberts, president and founder of Selling to Women, an affiliate of Roberts & Roberts Associates, a consulting firm in Texas, says there’s a biological reason behind the differences between men’s and women’s communication styles. She says women have more oxytocin, a chemical that drives women to engage with others. “As her oxytocin levels rise and she’s talking things out, telling you her story, she feels better and better if it appears you’re listening,” she says. “Many men maintain a neutral–some would say blank–facial expression when women are telling their stories … and that’s translated as not listening.”

To avoid that, Roberts says to be an active listener, engaged and interested. “Ask questions and then do the toughest thing, be quiet and listen carefully as she responds,” she says. “Let her finish her thoughts and resist the urge to jump in and interject a solution for her problem. Repeat what she said to give her the opportunity to confirm or clarify. Take good notes.”

What’s more, listening just might grow your business through word of mouth.
“Women will gladly refer someone they think well of whereas men are more guarded about where they get their financial advice,” Duswalt says. “Women are the most loyal of clients and are a great source of referrals.”

Tidwell believes that, too. “Women are defined by relationships and are all about communication. They enjoy sharing information, too, and if they trust their advisor, they can play an important role in the person’s success because they will gladly provide referrals.”

And finally, to reach groups of women, try seminars. Duswalt says he’s partnered with his local bookstores where he conducts financial planning seminars. And he’s grown his opportunities by simply asking attendees if they belong to any professional or community groups that would be interested in hosting him as a speaker. “In time, I had a regular calendar of speaking opportunities that soon converted to new clients,” he says.