Compared to men, women have extrasensory sensitivity. They are able to register more subtle levels of sight, sound and touch. Also, they have “emotional X-ray vision:” they can read non-verbal signals more precisely, including tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.
There’s another important attitudinal component that magnifies these sensitivities: women are a “sensitized population.” When selling to women, salespeople must understand this about women.
Most women have had enough experience with being slighted or treated inappropriately in certain sales situations that they’ve come to expect it. Not that they are tolerant of it, but forewarned is forearmed, and they’ve learned to at least be on guard against sexism. So, when women have a negative experience with a person or business, instead of chalking it up to overall lousy service, they often assume it’s because they are female.
For example, car salesmen have a reputation of being condescending when selling to women. I’m sure most of them are not, but almost every woman I’ve met has a story about an unpleasant car sales experience. And the stories get around, so car salesmen’s reputation precedes them. Both male and female car buyers are going to encounter rude treatment or poor service from time to time. But when men are treated rudely, they don’t walk out of the dealership feeling they were treated that way “because they’re men.” Instead they think, “That guy’s a jerk,” But women often attribute bad behavior to disrespect for women. And the really bad part is when they tell their friends, neighbors and coworkers about the dealership.
When you consider the dramatic differences in men’s and women’s gender culture– credibility displays, rapport-building games based on “one-up” instead of “same-same” and exchange of personal details, different listening behaviors and so-on– and combine that with many men’s underlying view that small courtesies are expressions of subservience instead of consideration for others, you can see that the situation is rife with opportunities for misunderstanding. And even innocuous, unintended oversights can easily be perceived by “sensitized populations” to be just one more example of deliberate discourtesy.
I’m not trying to create an atmosphere of walking on eggshells. Rather, I’m attempting to lay out in very concrete terms how and why an extra dose of sincere consideration and thoughtfulness goes such a long way with women. I think many salesmen are genuinely puzzled by women who get upset over a “little” thing like handing the keys for her test drive to her husband. A little extra reading on the topic and a little focused sellig-to-women training for your sales force can go a long way toward making sure you get your share of the women’s market.