Let me tell you about my friend. We’ll call her Julie, although that’s not her real name. Julie and I have breakfast together once a month. We’ve known each other for years. We talk about our families, our jobs. I stop by her office every week. Occasionally, we get together after work for a drink or for dinner. Julie knows a lot about me and I know a lot about her — some things maybe our closest childhood friends don’t even know. But Julie is not a typical friend. She is a client.
You might be asking, “Why get so invested in someone if she’s just a client?” Because this is an article about selling to women. Written by a woman. Some men have been complaining for years about how they don’t understand women. They’re probably right. This article should help. And if you’re a woman, read on. You’ll probably discover some ideas you hadn’t thought of and maybe realize some things about yourself you hadn’t before.
[See: Still in the Boys' Club]
Invest your time
This discussion starts as much of our prospecting does in this business — with networking. The first and easiest point to make is that it is important to understand, engage and network with women because they are typically the CFOs of their families. But it’s not just a box you can check off on your to-do list.
I have found networking with women to be dramatically different than networking with men. The main differentiator is time. Time spent networking with women is critical. Relationship building is especially important with women. For most women, it’s important that they see you several times before they’re interested in talking business. They need to know you, who you are and what you stand for before they’re ready to talk about what you do and what you could do for them from a business standpoint.
Some women are overwhelmed by the amount of financial information that’s out there. In many cases, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. Even more, it can be hard for many women to understand how the information relates to their own personal situation. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, so sometimes they just won’t have the conversation.
As simply as you can deliver the information, the better off you will be. But if you start this conversation long after you invest the time in developing a relationship of respect, you will be much better off. Women want information, and they want to be in control of the process and their financial futures now more than ever before.
My own networking strategy revolves around a young women’s networking group I started in the Dallas area. We meet one morning a month and usually have an accomplished business woman come in and share her success stories. We talk about work/life balance, family, etc. We have also found that having evening get-togethers is important, too, because we can just get to know each other better. This is where I met my friend and client Julie and many other women who, over time, became clients.
It’s an interesting dynamic at these meetings. Everyone knows that everyone else is there to generate business for themselves, and that’s one of the most important lessons in networking with women: be clear about your intentions. But we also know that we first need to talk about “normal” life issues and spend quality time together.