Courtney A. Harris, MBA
Research shows that women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, comprise 41 percent of employees authorized to make buying decisions, and have $7 trillion in buying power. In the coming decade, women are expected to command two-thirds of consumer wealth. In her new book Why Women Buy: how to sell to the world’s largest market, renowned international speaker and best-selling author Dawn Jones shares insights from years of professional sales experience along with sound research from colleague Sherry Prindle, a master coach, international speaker, and corporate trainer, to provide sales professionals with a relevant and detailed guidebook for improving results with and meeting the needs of this powerful market.
THINK POINT #1: Recognize the Differences and Ask Great Questions
Jones explains key gender-specific differences that influence the varying buying behavior of men and women. She is clear that these are tendencies—not stereotypes, and she provides science and research to support her points. Jones points out that men create a linear point from the back to the front of their brains, and new ideas and concepts tend to run directly on that line. In contrast, a woman’s thought process is a zig-zag, travelling side-to-side from one hemisphere of the brain to the other. The left side of the brain tends to be logical, sequential and linear, and the right side of the brain tends to be relational, responsive, and random. Therefore, with their zig-zag thought pattern, women are more capable of jumping between logical processing of computations and facts and emotional processing and interpretation of imagery and context. This means women use both sides of their brains to solve problems, while men tend to only use the left side. Therefore, when selling to men, focus just on the facts, and when selling to women, switch between logic and emotion.
Jones also notes that posing great questions is especially important when selling to women. Women tend to ask more questions than men, and, not only do they expect their questions to be answered, they also expect questions to be asked of them in return. So, how do you ask great questions for successful selling? Jones suggests it starts with mastering the three basic types of questions: yes/no, open-ended, and either/or. Jones categorizes yes/no questions as red questions, suggesting you stop and reconsider before asking. She warns to only ask yes/no questions when the answer will be “yes.” “No” answers can seem argumentative or defensive and can strike you out of the conversation with a client. Open-ended questions are categorized as yellow questions to signal using caution. While open-ended questions can open communication with clients, they can also put clients on the spot, thus shutting down the conversation. People don’t like to be wrong, so be cautious not to pose an open-ended question that stumps your client or makes them feel foolish. In contrast, either/or questions are categorized as blue questions. Blue signifies the flowing ocean, and blue questions keep the conversation flowing. Jones believes either/or are the best types of questions to ask in order to keep your conversations not only moving but focused. Jones reminds readers to mix up questions, just as you mix primary colors to make new colors. She suggests blending questions together for more colorful, vibrant, and confident conversations with your clients.
THINK POINT #2: Operate with Confidence and Integrity
Jones also focuses on overcoming fear with integrity. First, to overcome any fear of sales or unproductive patterns of behavior, Jones offers three key elements on which to focus:
- Knowledge: Know how to successfully sell
- Leverage: Propel yourself beyond fear
- Vision: Motivate yourself to take action, even if you don’t feel like it (or want to)
The first element, knowledge, is all about learning how to sell successfully by copying someone who already sells successfully until it becomes second nature to you.
The second element, leverage, is when the pain of not changing outweighs the pain of changing and propels you to take action. To further explain the element of leverage, Jones draws on an effective technique from famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins. His technique, the Dickens Pattern, is inspired by Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Similarly, to apply the technique, think of any fear that is holding you back in your sales career and consider the pain it has caused you in the past, the pain it is causing you now, and the pain it could cause you in the future if you fail to overcome it. Create a scenario for yourself in which the pain of not overcoming your fear far exceeds the pain of what you fear. Once placed in this scenario, you will feel the desire and finally leap past your fear.
The third and final element of overcoming fear is vision. Vision enables you to look past current circumstances and focus on the destination by transforming roadblocks into building blocks. To develop your vision, determine what your purpose is and what you picture for yourself and your client. These same three elements can be used for your client as well. Is she afraid to commit to the listing? Provide her with knowledge, leverage her past the pain of her fear, and help her scope out her vision.
Jones says the key to operating with integrity is to be the same person publicly, privately, and secretly. If a woman believes that you are disingenuous, she is more likely to stop the sales process and leave without purchasing. When you offer a high level of integrity to a woman, she is more inclined to listen to and believe you. Don’t let the perception that you lack integrity hinder you in your sales process.
THINK POINT #3: Integrate Communication Styles and Sell to Different Personalities
Jones also addresses how to work with different communication styles and personalities. Jones explains four communication styles: verbal, visual, tactile (hands-on), and written word. Every person you encounter has a preferred method of communication. Though research from the University of Missouri found that 44% of people need to hear instructions, verbal communication is tricky and can be difficult because it requires repetition to be effective. In fact, you will have to repeat yourself between six to ten times in order for your client to take in the information. Don’t want to have to repeat yourself so much? An alternative is visual communication. Visual communication is the quickest way to teach someone a new. If you tell and show your client something, you will get your point across much faster. Tactile communication is the best way for people to remember a concept. Allow your client to experience your point. Put them in the scene and let them finish painting the picture for themselves. Lastly, Jones suggests using written word sparingly and intentionally. According to the Literacy Company, written word is the most difficult communication style, and most adults today only have a grade-school reading comprehension. Therefore, if you must communicate with your client through written word, make it clear, concise, and easy to read. The true key to utilizing the different communication styles is to integrate all four into your selling process. Be prepared to talk with your clients, show your clients compelling visuals, engage your customer in the experience, and provide your client something in writing such as an outline or quick fact sheet highlighting key selling points.
Once you’ve mastered integrating the four different communication styles, you can more easily sell to different personality types. Contrary to popular belief, Jones highlights, you do not need to be kind and gentle when selling to women, and it is a mistake to assume that women only want warm and fuzzy. Instead, she instructs, you should sell (conform) to the woman’s personality type. The most prominent personality types are the direct driver, the thinker/analyzer, the social extrovert, and the relational person. When dealing with a client that is a direct driver, be just as assertive and direct back to her. If your client is a thinker-analyzer, then you must be prepared to focus on the facts of the listing. Provide her with data and be well-equipped to answer technical and hypothetical questions. If, instead, she is a social extrovert, Jones suggests being more relaxed and fun. Be engaging and sincere but avoid talking too much about yourself or allowing the conversation to go down a rabbit hole. When it comes to a client that is relational, listen sincerely, pose genuine questions, and show patience and communicate deadlines without being pushy. Jones believes adapting and adjusting your selling style to better fit with your client’s personality is an important key to successfully selling to women.
You’ve just finished a showing with a prospective buyer and feel this is definitely the one for her. You’ve covered all key highlights, and you are confident the conversation will soon turn toward making an offer and closing. However, you sense that you and the buyer aren’t quite in sync and there’s a lack of rapport. She begins to bombard you with unexpected questions. You are unsure of how to answer effectively, and, you feel the potential sale slipping away. Or, maybe you have been following up with a potential client for the past few weeks, just to be met by voicemail each time. Is she just busy, or is she no longer interested? You don’t know how to get through to her and contemplate giving up entirely. Do these scenarios sound familiar? The thinkpoints above provide a useful starting point, but Jones's book is full of even more helpful, practical tips and step-by-step guides to overcome any difficulties you may be experiencing when selling to women (and even with selling in general). Why Women Buy: how to sell to the world’s largest market is a must-read as this dynamic market continues to grow.
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Jones, Dawn and Sherry Prindle (2017), Why Women Buy: how to sell to the world’s largest market, Made for Success Publishing: Issaquah, WA.
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About the Author
Courtney A. Harris, MBA
A native of Valdosta, Georgia, Courtney earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Duke University in 2016 and Master of Business Administration from Baylor University in 2018. Before beginning graduate school, Courtney worked with The Fossil Group, a North Carolina-based marketing and investing firm, as an intern, and later, junior executive, in their brand management division. Courtney currently works for Qualtrics in Provo, Utah.