Calling all women sales professionals! It’s time to join forces.
Recently I was having a conversation with a business owner and we were discussing the potential of me representing his firm. It should come as no surprise that having a confident ability to sell will open many doors and always throw opportunities your way.
Since I have never benefited from being closed minded, we began to discuss options and I was intrigued by the prospect enough to hear him out.
We were discussing a sales role in the financial sector. Although I have nearly two decades of experience selling financial services, I would have been new to the type of role we were discussing.
During the process, the business owner asked me a typical interview question, “What is it about you that would separate you to your clients from any other salesperson?”
Having interviewed and been interviewed countless times I reasoned that my answer was in line with what he was needing by responding something to the effect of: “My goal is to deliver value above what any other salesperson can contribute. Whether that means negotiating the best rates, adding additional benefits, and even adding something as simple as continuing our relationship way past the sale. I’ve noticed that most salespeople are in too much of a hurry for the close that they miss the long-term benefits for both the client and the company.”
Even though I was completely sincere in my response since I have firsthand noticed that the value you bring to your clients needs to be your separator, the business owner just “hmm-ed” at my response.
My initial reaction to his was that being interviewed by a salesperson is an experience at whole different level than being interviewed for sales by an HR person, (meaning, HR people may never have had direct face to face selling experience) so I thought he might be trying to get me to think differently.
Indeed, he was! I was taken aback by his response to me. It went something like, “Great. I’m glad you go the extra mile, but even though they are rarer, there are still plenty of salespeople who are willing to do those things.” He paused, “The real thing that’ll separate you in our industry, is that you’re a woman.”
Admittedly, I was stunned. There was a brief silence. Then he continued, “You see, our industry is still dominated by men.”
And he was absolutley correct.
· It’s no secret that banking and finance industries are male dominated.
He went on to explain that he had a woman in his office who outperformed the men on his team month after month and he credits a part of that success to her ability to be able to relate to clients faster, empathize towards their needs more efficiently, and communicate trust more deeply.
It's not that men can't tap into the same skill set; it’s just that those are qualities that come more naturally to women.
Even though none of what he was saying was news to me, it still surprised me in a couple of ways.
A) Why is this not more common knowledge?
According to an article found on inc.com that was written by Geoffrey James titled 5 Traits of Highly Successful Salespeople, the top 5 traits that an individual possesses for sales success are:
4) Problem Solving
While assertiveness is generally a characteristic given to males, the other four traits are heavily inherent in women.
We are naturally conscious of our feelings and motives, because it’s how we relate to others.
Our empathy is generally accepted as a trait that helps keep relationships intact.
We our born with problem solving abilities, just ask the mom who must get her three kids to three different schools on time and still clocked in for work.
Optimism is how we get through difficulties and challenging relationships.
It’s important to acknowledge that, of course, men have these traits also, and my point is simply to highlight how as women these traits do come naturally to us.
Most women might feel that they must learn unusual talents and habits in order to have success in sales. Or they feel that aggression (as opposed to assertiveness) is the cause for a salesperson collecting a check.
As you can see, that’s far from the truth. In fact, as a woman, you are more naturally inclined to succeed in sales before going through even one training course.
B) Why are more women not in sales?
It seems that the sales industry in general is heavily filled with male competitors. See, the beauty of this industry is that if more women get into sales, it doesn’t mean more men will have to get out.
There’s plenty of room…
Sales roles are becoming more available in an ever-increasing quantity, especially independent contractor positions. So, if there are more women involved in sales careers, it just means there will be more salespeople in total.
At the time of this writing in our country alone our population sits at 329,376,422 (according to worldpopulationrevidew.com) and only roughly 300,000 salespeople and account executives are currently at work (according to LinkedIn), there is plenty of room to double and even triple that number without causing any waves or dents. That’s not even considering global efforts!
As a bonus, it was refreshing hearing a man confirm what I had been suspecting my entire career. It is a sentiment that has been shared by many of my colleagues in the past as well as with many successful prominent leaders today. That means that we as women are in a time where we are supported by our peers more than ever before.
How women buy…
Here are a few more statistics from Business Insider regarding women’s purchasing power to consider:
· 91% of women say they think advertisers do not understand them.
· 85% of purchases and purchase influences are made by women.
Even this one:
· 50% of products typically marketed to men are purchased by women. (Razors anyone?)
We as women hold the keys to the check book in most of the households in the United States today.
From personal experience…
While I was actively working in the field, I primarily would visit clients in their homes to sell them life insurance policies and talk about retirement options. It was quite common even in the most male dominated households for the women to be the ones who pulled up the banking, budgeting, or financial information.
While sitting at their kitchen tables, sometimes I watched as the husband made most of the decisions on their plan, just to turn around and realize that the wife would be the one who ultimately knew all the details about their money. This awareness never dimmed for me and I knew that somehow, we could be doing a better job reaching some of these families.
Then there are areas we may be completely missing out on how much women’s influence is responsible for purchases. For example, according to a study by Millward Brown Digital Agency:
· 56% of sporting goods searches on mobile are female
· 45% of home improvement searchers on mobile are women
When you look at the influence women have in all markets, not just the ones traditionally credited to women, you cannot deny that our buying power is potent.
Where we shine…
We intrinsically understand what makes women buy.
Think about that in every possible sales scenario.
A) You meet a couple looking to buy a house.
a. What would cause you to buy that house? Can you start the conversation with her about that?
b. How would you feel after they express a concern to you? Can you address that concern coming from your own point of view?
B) You meet a woman looking to buy a car.
a. What are some of the first things she begins to talk about as you get to know each other? Is it her kids? Her work? Her church life? Her newfound single status? Can you use that info to help match her with an appropriate vehicle?
C) You see a woman perusing jewelry at your counter because she’s killing time waiting on someone at the mall.
a. Can you comfortably strike up a conversation with her – possibly not even having to do with the jewelry at first?
b. Can you make an emotional connection between a story she told you and a piece that you have in the store that would help commemorate that?
And many more.
Use your gifts…
As a woman in general, it’s a natural gift to connect personal stories we experience into our day to day life. When a woman is in the market to buy something, whether it’s a trinket or a major purchase, there can more than likely be a powerful emotional connection between her and the item. Even if it seems like it was purely a logical purchase on the outside.
Imagine using your gift to connect to theirs naturally in a setting that would help bridge the gap between her and an item that would then either benefit her and offer her life convenience or bring her much joy for a long time to come? Maybe it could do both?
Doesn’t it just make sense that if women are the keepers of the buying power in our country that having more women grow in sales roles could benefit the consumer and the company at a much higher level? Working together with male sales leaders, we can combine their strengths of persistence and assertiveness with our strengths of empathy and connection to form unstoppable teams.
Your challenge for this week:
As you meet with opportunities with potential clients make it a point to connect empathetically to their goals. After collecting information on the logical need for what they’re searching for, make sure to gather the emotional benefit as well. Then, as you make your points in your presentation and show how your product will solve their challenges, see to it that you also connect how it will positively impact their emotional state as well.