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Men or Women: Who's Leading the Chase for New Customers?

March 31, 2005

Who leads the chase for new clients: salesmen or saleswomen? In the recent past, sales executives across industries and countries presumed that salesmen had the competitive edge when it came to seeking new accounts. But according to a study of 9,292 saleswomen and 20,029 salesmen across 10 nations submitted for presentation at the November 2005 meeting of the Society for Marketing Advances, that presumption needs to be revised. "There is no difference. Saleswomen today are no more reticent to initiate contact with prospective buyers than salesmen," said marketing professor, William A. Weeks, director of the Center for Professional Selling at Baylor University. "There is a statistical difference favoring men by a point-and-a-half on a 100-point scale, but that's all. In practical terms, there is no difference," Weeks said.

Gender is part of a multi-faceted study co-authored by research scientist, George W. Dudley at The Behavioral Sciences Research Press and Professors John F. Tanner, Jr. and Lawrence B. Chonko at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. The 2005 study is a continuation of Dudley and Tanner's multi- nation survey of 40,000 salespeople reported in 2004, and includes salespeople from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, U.K. and the U.S. The 2005 study also compares motivations for selling (sales motivation), cultural (country) differences, factors influencing sales success and overall discomfort contacting new customers. Additional findings:

-- Saleswomen (24.1%) say the opportunity to use their abilities keeps them selling, while their male counterparts (29%) say "show me the money!" Obtaining status and expressing creativity were least motivating for salesmen and saleswomen.

-- U.K. salespeople are the most reticent to make first contact with prospective buyers. Canadians are least.

-- Maintaining a positive outlook (attitude management) is the single most important influence on sales success (44.1 % for saleswomen, 44% for salesmen) -- regardless of country. Consistently seeking new customers (sales "prospecting") (37%) is second. Price (.4%) and advertising (4%) are least important.

-- Of the 6,193 Australians surveyed, 1,285 (20.7%) say they are in sales because it provides freedom from routine.

-- Price is more important to salespeople in Sweden than it is in the U.S.

-- Salespeople in New Zealand don't consider "prospecting" for new business (24.7%) as important as product knowledge (30.2%).

-- Regardless of country, salespeople saying "price," "product knowledge" or "advertising" is "most important to sales success" scored highest on the SPQ, a diagnostic test used to measure reticence to make first contact with prospective buyers.

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