Women Working with Men: Skills and Strategies

7 February 2009

Introduction

  • Every product or service has a “sex” in the perception of purchasers (e.g. in the UK jewelry is seen as “female”, financial services as “male”)
  • To sell a product (or service) successfully to the opposite sex requires specific strategies (e.g. think of the clever ways in which perfume has been marketed to men – as after-shave etc.)
  • “Parenting” is generally perceived these days as female
  • In general, customers prefer to “buy” (or receive a service) from people who are seen to be relevant to a particular product: this should give female practitioners some advantages in “selling” parenting to men
  • HOWEVER customers also like to ”buy” (or receive a service) from individuals they perceive as being similar to themselves: here male workers could have the advantage when engaging men
  • The difference between “male” and “female” is regarded, in our society, as substantial: “bridging the gender gap in selling takes special thought, work and adaptation”
  • Usually, men and women wish to be treated differentially by sales people (or people delivering a service to them) – i.e. they do not want to be treated the same – i.e. as if gender-differences do not exist
  • Good salesmen try to minimize the differences between themselves and their customers. To do this they:
  1. Seek similarities with their customers, in both general and specific ways
  2. Try to think and communicate in a similar ways to their customers
  3. Try to sell to them as they would like to be sold to
  4. Seek to understand them thoroughly (they do not make assumptions)
  5. Constantly conduct an “attitude assessment” on themselves, bo make sure that they maintain an open-minded, curious, non-judgmental approach to people and knowledge
  6. In particular, are receptive to information that contradicts what they have always believed about people/their situations/their beliefs, desires and needs

Female salespeople: strengths

Research has found that female salespeople tend to:
• be persistent and detail oriented
• communicate well
• have taste and creativity
• aren’t pushy or self-absorbed
• generally put client needs first and foremost

Female salespeople: getting started

Re-programme yourself…
o STEP ONE: decide you want to increase your sales (e.g. of parenting services) to men
o STEP TWO: identify how other people experience you (Lightweight? Flirtatious? Subservient? Powerful?) then think about how that approach will work with your new, male, customers
o STEP THREE: re-format your role in your own mind, by getting clear why it is very important that you sell these services to men (i.e. how this benefits the men, their children, the men’s partners, the community, your agency)
o STEP FOUR: change your “internal dialogue”. Think “I can do it”. (N.B. thinking positively doesn’t necessarily work; but not thinking negatively always helps)

Female salespeople communicating with men

• Establish your role as a “business partner” early in the contact bu looking, sounding and acting the part
• Set a clear goal for the interaction in your own mind
• Recognise that men like to talk about things and facts, women about people and feelings
• Make sure you have “all the facts” (men will respect someone who gives them good information)
• Be prepared to “make a recommendation” (you can often be more directive with men than you can with women)
• Be direct and specific and take a confident tone
• In general, develop an aura of confidence: strong voice, persuasive words, solid eye contact, fluid and dynamic body language
• Be positive and enthusiastic (but not “gushing”)
• Believe in your “product” as being suitable for men
• Keep your eyes and ears open to what appeals to men, so that from time to time you can use business, money or sports terminology (e.g. read the headlines of the sports section every morning so you know what sports season it is, who the major teams are, what stories are making the headlines…in any sales situation, knowing which interests are important to your customer and including that information as a rapport builder increases the likelihood of a connection)
• Get to the main point early and quickly in the communication (avoid detailed explanations, disclaimers and qualifiers like “we probably should to this” or “it seems like a good idea”)
• Keep conversations related to the business in hand, or your male clients’ interests, leaving out your “own stuff”
• Get to the solution earlier than you would with a woman
• Where there is a conflict of interests, make the interaction a “win win” situation in recognition of the fact that men tend to be more competitive than women in most circumstances (possibly not parenting, however!)
• Use humour and lighten up (take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously)
• Decrease emotional intensity: lessen the emotions, and build from there (men will withdraw when faced with too much intensity): so “lessen your emotions until you can take take his emotional pulse – observe his gody language; listen to his tone of voice; note the speed of his speech; pay attention to his use of “feeling” words.
• Look for self-disclosure from him, rather than disclosing too much about yourself

Female salespeople: reducing personal stress

• If you are feeling stressed, you will find it hard to put your customer at ease
• Boost your own confidence by:
o Identifying past successes
o Getting clear the skills you already have (perhaps from working successfully with women) that you can also use with men
o Gathering the information you need (talk to as many people as possible about what you plan to do in terms of working with local dads, and listen to what they have to say)
o Finding a mentor who can model, teach and inspire you and help you find and define the line between too female and too male, too tough and too tender (an experienced female fathers’ worker, a knowledgeable supervisor, a friendly father or male fatherworker (look for such a person among your local network of fatherworkers)

CONFIDENCE-BOOSTING: EXERCISE 1

1. Rate your anticipated performance (e.g. in engaging with a father or fathers in a particular situation) on a scale of 1 to 10
2. Remember a similar experience where some success was achieved
3. Rate your performance level for that experience on a scale of 1 to 10
4. Now – rate again on a scale of 1 to 10 your anticipated performance in the challenge you are facing

CONFIDENCE-BOOSTING: EXERCISE 2

1. List possible obstacles to your success
2. Put a “C” beside the factors you have some control over
3. Put “NC” beside the factors over which you have no control
4. Focusing only on the factors you can control, make a list of actions you can take to influence the outcome as much as possible

Taken from: Gender Sell: how to sell to the opposite sex by Judith C. Tingley, Ph.D., & Lee E. Robert Simon and Schuster, April 1999). ISBN: 0684843854

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