The most important element in the buying and selling process is not the product or the company it's being purchased from; it's the person doing the selling.

The most important element in the buying and selling process is not the product being purchased or the company it’s being purchased from; it’s the person doing the selling.

It’s interesting that whenever a salesperson loses a sale, he/she will use excuses like “Our price was too high”  “She needed to talk to her husband”  “She wanted to shop more stores” etc.

Anytime you think the customer is the problem, that very thought is the problem. Selling is a relationship business. Customers are more likely to buy if they feel comfortable with the salesperson!

I have been working with a start-up company helping their sales force become more productive. As I observe and coach these seasoned sales veterans, I’m struck by how totally clueless they were about how their actions and words affected their customers. Be your sales people male or female, this is nothing new. Trust me.

This verifies just how important the sales person really is. I’ve watched customers tune out, roll their eyes, walk out, and even lie in response to the words and actions of a salesperson, and when the door swings shut, the salesperson blames the lost sale on the customer.

Great sales people are forever alert, watching and observing how their customers are being affected by the selling process. They are sensory acute, listening with all their senses. They are monitoring both the message they are sending – verbal and nonverbal – and the feedback they are getting in return.

When they notice that what they are doing or saying isn’t working or connecting with the customer, they adjust. They are constantly finessing their approach and presentation to better suit the customer with whom they working.

A huge area where sales people are clueless is when they are selling to a member of the opposite sex. Though much has been written about this of late, I have not seen much progress.

Yes, women are responsible for 3/4 to 4/5 (or higher) of floor covering purchases, and the vast majority of sales personnel in floor covering businesses are men. Obviously (you would think) men need to be aware how their selling affects women.

By the same token, women need to be aware how their natural tendency of selling affects men. Clients – and money – are being lost every day because of clueless sales people.

How well do you understand the basic buying tendencies of customers not of your gender?  How well do you understand the opposite sex?  How well do you understand who is buying?

Management guru Tom Peters says, “Men and Women are very different; very different; very very different; women and men have a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing in common…MEN ARE…TOTALLY, HOPELESSLY CLUELESS ABOUT WOMEN.” 

I might add that I have also seen many women who are clueless about men. They may understand men better than men understand women, but the sales strategies they continue to use don’t exactly reflect that.

As John Gray reminds us in “Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus,” women value love, beauty, communication and relationships. A women’s sense of self comes through her feelings. Communication is of primary importance to a woman. Women want to feel understood.  So women like to talk about people, feelings and relationships.

According to Gray, men value power, competency, efficiency and achievement. A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to get results. A man’s deepest fear is not being good enough or viewed as being incompetent. Men find it difficult to differentiate between advice and help because of this fear of being incompetent. Men like to talk about business, money and sports.

Not only are men’s and women’s values different, their buying styles are also different. Here’s the problem:

Most sales people sell the way they like to buy, and they assume that everyone buys for the same reasons they buy.

We must always keep in mind one of the basic rules of selling:  Customers buy for their reasons, not ours. That’s why a great sales person is ever-observant; listening and watching how the customer responds in order to adjust his/her selling style to match the each unique customer’s buying style.

As has oft been written, “The secret of selling is to sell the way each customer likes to buy.” 

A woman buys based on how she feels; men are more concerned with the facts. Men decide quickly – women deliberate. Women do not decide lightly; with women you may have to meet with them many times. A woman goes through a deliberate decision process before she buys, but once she decides to buy she will do it quickly. Men may care about the product more than the sales person’s approach. Women may want a different ratio of friendliness to product knowledge.

In my seminars I separate the salespeople by gender and ask each group to tell those of the opposite gender how they want to be treated as a customer. It would do your company well to do the same with your sales people. At the very least, you will make them a little more aware and (hopefully) a little less clueless.

Consistently, here is what each group suggests to the other:

When Selling to Women

  1. Take her seriously. She has the means and the power to buy whatever she wants. Don’t risk losing the sale by implying that she needs to consult with her significant other before investing in a new floor.
  2. Thoroughly educate her about your products and services. Help her understand the value of what she is buying. She will trade her dollars for your product and service if the value she gets exceeds the dollars she pays.
  3. Be patient. Don’t push, go slow, and don’t use manipulative sales techniques.
  4. Listen. Use a lot of interaction and stay focused and act as if everything your customers say is fascinating.
  5. Use emotional and feeling words. Remind her how beautiful her new floor will be and how easy it will be to maintain.
  6. Finally, avoid giving advice unless asked. Remember, “Telling is not selling.”

When Selling to Men

  1. Know your product. Become a flooring expert. Be able to articulate the features and benefits of all the flooring products you sell.
  2. Act confidently. That will be easy as you master product knowledge and the substrates on which they go.
  3. Get to the bottom line. Move as fast as the customer wants.
  4. Be direct and specific. Don’t ask more questions than necessary – get to the point.
  5. Use humor and lighten up. Listen and talk about the things he likes to talk about.
  6. Decrease emotional intensity. Remind him of his competence and his ability to produce results.
  We must constantly remind ourselves that men and women don’t think the same way, don’t communicate the same way, and don’t buy for the same reasons. He’s on a mission to buy and wants a transaction to take place; she’s interested in creating a relationship. Every place women go they make connections.

However, don’t assume you know each customer’s motivation because of their gender. There will always be exceptions to any recommendation. Be aware of how your actions affect the customer. Adjust when you notice what you are doing isn’t working. Don’t lose sales and money because you or your team doesn’t understand who is buying.

In short, don’t be clueless.