I’ve long had a sense that, to sell to a woman, it helped if I had a female colleague in the selling team. But I’d never analysed why. Deloitte has! The firm carried out some important research in B2B selling, which all suppliers of professional services should take note of. See HBR September 2013.
The key finding is that women buyers tend to see the occasions when presentations of proposals are given as opportunities to explore possibilities – while men tend to narrow down options and close in on a decision.
Insights from brain research show that the composition of men’s and women’s brains are different:
- Men have 6.5 times more grey matter (better for processing information)
- Women have 10 times more white matter (better for assimilating and integrating information)
- The cord connecting the left and right lobes is 10% thicker in women
Other important findings:
- Women are more sensitive to any gender bias – so anything that smacks of a patronising style (eg ‘don’t worry – we’ll take care of it’) doesn’t go down well.
- Men like their buyer-power status to be acknowledged. Women don’t.
- Women tend to consider the rights of others more.
- Women prefer a cooperative, consultative approach to decision-making.
- Women prefer to sit opposite so they can have face-to-face discussions. A man might prefer sitting alongside to confer about something.
Deloitte has introduced a training programme which includes helping their staff become more aware of gender issues when selling. They use actors trained to provide opportunities to practise building rapport (just as Sherwood does). If the female client comments on your tie, how should you respond?
I think this is useful research. It feels right.
With more women taking on more senior buyer roles, surely men need to get better at selling to women.
For more on the art of selling see https://tonyreiss.com/2013/09/12/pitch-perfect-a-new-book-to-help-lawyers-win-more-pitches/