My professional focus, on making every woman’s consumer experience as good as it can possibly be, gives me lots of opportunities to hear people’s opinion on the subject. I hear a lot from women on how some experience of theirs was miserable, and too infrequently how another was superlative.
I hear from those who think it is about time someone addressed the need for training of sales professionals in the consumer’s gender differences, and I hear from those who ask why it is necessary.
It’s not always men who wonder why it’s necessary, sometimes women are quite vocal in challenging the need. After all, didn’t so many of them fight for equality and against sexism decades ago?
I recall years ago listening to a college professor at my all-women’s college explain the value of stereotyping based on gender. He claimed that it promoted a common experience, behavior or trait of women which resulted in a better understanding of the gender. I got it and he planted the seed with me that every woman deserves to be better understood and treated the way she deserves to be treated. Of course men do to, but their needs and preferences are different than women. In this sense being a sexist is a good thing. If it helps you to sell more vehicles to women then we all win. The customer is happier, the sales professional is richer and I can add you to my success stories.
I’m hoping that you will use sexism to your advantage. But to succeed with women will mean you will need to first accept that we are different – and that means treating us the way we want to be treated – not the way you think we want to be treated. There’s a big difference. While I’m the leading expert on how to sell and build loyalty among women, as well as the founder of WomenCertified, reflecting the voice of female consumers, I believe it’s going to take more than me to convince a number of non-believers who challenge even the concept that women have different needs and preferences when purchasing.
We participated with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most respected business schools in the world, on a national survey of American consumers. The results of that survey, entitled “He Buys, She Shops: A Study of Gender Differences in the Retail Experience,” show just how different men and women are as consumers. Specifically, it explored gender differences in the areas of:
- Shopper interaction with store employees.
- Shopping habits and preferences.
- What compels a shopper to return to a retailer.
- What compels a shopper to recommend a retailer.
- Which experiences drive shoppers away and create negative word-of-mouth.
- How gender-specific shopper experiences vary by age and type of purchase.
The research draws a clear distinction between the motivations and attitudes of male and female shoppers. Women walk away from a retailer because of unavailable sales associates, so get to her quickly when she walks in and she won’t stomp out never to return. Also, more women say they are very satisfied when there is genuine interest shown by sales people in understanding their needs, so take the time to hear what she has to say before leading her to your best selling model.
Men walk away because of unavailable product. Male shopper loyalty depends primarily on the ability of a Sales Associate to get them in and out of the store quickly. That means getting him into the vehicle of his choice quickly, being quick with preparing documents and getting tim through with the process. Women are more inclined to expect the process to take some time.
In the end, women are more interested in the shopping ‘experience’ and more apt to be influenced, positively or negatively, by the interaction with the sales associate. Is it universally so? No. There are always individual differences. Is it stereotypically so? Yes.
As always, I appreciate hearing your opinions, your success stories and your challenges when it comes to gender selling.