Category Archives: Spiral Buying Path

Closing the Sale with Women

Women’s “Perfect Answer” Requires a Longer Sales Process

Here’s a critical difference between women and men when it comes to closing a sale: while men seek to make a good decision, women are looking for the Perfect Answer. As a result:

  • Expect a lot more questions from women
  • Expect a longer decision process

Closing the Sale with Women

Cowboys and Sharpshooters

Salespeople are trained to try to close the sale in the initial meeting. That may work with men because they have a faster decision process. Making decisions from the fly and “shooting from the hip” is one way men communicate their autonomy and decisiveness– the “cowboy factor.” But women are marksmen, not cowboys– and if you rush them or push them while they’re trying to zero in on what they want, all you’re going to do it irritate them.

Women want to consider, compare and talk it over with trusted advisors. It’s not enough for the product or service to meet her needs; it must be the best way to meet her needs.

Selling to women can be frustrating in this respect, but I’d advise you to refocus your attention on what you’re going to do to follow up instead of pushing too hard right away. Otherwise, she will start to distrust your motives (you’re supposed to be her agent, not her adversary!) and destroy all that great rapport you’ve been building up during the sales process.

 

Selling to Affluent Couples is Tricky Business

Selling to Affluent Couples is Tricky BusinessSelling to women one-on-one is fairly easy to master. If you understand women’s gender culture and respect her decision-making process, you’ll be miles ahead of most other salespeople.

But selling to couples is trickier. The adage “three’s a crowd,” comes into play because you’re managing three personalities and styles– the woman, the man and yourself. And when you’re selling complex, high-investment products or services, like financial planning or home remodeling, it can start to feel like you’re a counselor as much as you’re a salesperson!

Identify the answer to this question to get started:

Who is the Primary Buyer/User?

Selling to Affluent Couples is Tricky Business

When the couple is buying something for her— her car, her computer, her new kitchen, if the salesman talks to the husband, he gets one warning, often from the husband. If the salesman continues, they leave. There is no room for mistakes here.

When the couple is buying for him, you still need to talk to her. Whether it’s a man cave or a yacht, the wife needs to be sold also. There was once a young yacht salesman who figured out how to sell to couples. He said that he doesn’t target the husband; he already wants the boat. He sells to the wife because she’s the one who needs to be convinced. And he became one of the most successful salespeople in his company using this strategy.

Remember, women have enormous influence on the conventionally male big-ticket items, whether she intends to be the primary user or not.

Marketing to Women Requires Focus

There are a million great marketing tactics you could use to target women. But not all of them will work for your brand. And you can’t afford them all, anyway.

To help women identify your brand as The Perfect Answer, your marketing team must identify the one or two stages in the purchasing process that have the most opportunity for increasing your business. I call women’s purchasing process the Spiral Path (Unlike men, women spiral through each phase of the decision-making process, and may revisit previous steps when she learns new information).

Women’s Spiral Buying Path

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

Concentrate most of your marketing tactics on the most important stage, rather than spreading your marketing budget across the entire decision process. Nobody has enough money to do a good job across the entire process.

There are a million great marketing tactics you could use to target women. But not all of them will work for your brand. And you can’t afford them all, anyway. To help women identify your brand as The Perfect Answer, your marketing team must identify the one or two stages in the purchasing process that have the most opportunity for increasing your business. I call women’s purchasing process the Spiral Path (Unlike men, women spiral through each phase of the decision-making process, and may revisit previous steps when she learns new information): Concentrate most of your marketing tactics on the most important stage, rather than spreading your marketing budget across the entire decision process. Nobody has enough money to do a good job across the entire process. Use your chosen strategy as your screener—unless a tactic has a laser-like focus on the purchase path you decided would do your brand the most good, don’t bother with it. It will only defuse your message and defuse your marketing efforts. And it can be quite freeing to have the power to say “no” to a tactic. For instance, if your brand would benefit most from a focus on Activation, use tactics that will awaken the need for your product in women, such as consumer education workshops, sponsorships or article placement. Tactics such as special offers and loyalty programs probably won’t be effective at this stage of the decision-making process. Or, say your most important marketing goal is Retention and Recommendation—helping the customer stay committed to your brand and improving your customer relationship. You might engage in a referral benefits program or improvements to your customer support call center. In this case, you might ignore mass-market advertisement altogether. The bottom line: do your research; pick your marketing strategy and stick with it. If your brand has a consistently appealing message to women in the most important decision-making stage, women will take notice and reward you with their purchases.Use your chosen strategy as your screener—unless a tactic has a laser-like focus on the purchase path you decided would do your brand the most good, don’t bother with it. It will only defuse your message and defuse your marketing efforts. And it can be quite freeing to have the power to say “no” to a tactic.

For instance, if your brand would benefit most from a focus on Activation, use tactics that will awaken the need for your product in women, such as consumer education workshops, sponsorships or article placement. Tactics such as special offers and loyalty programs probably won’t be effective at this stage of the decision-making process.

Or, say your most important marketing goal is Retention and Recommendation—helping the customer stay committed to your brand and improving your customer relationship. You might engage in a referral program or improvements to your customer support call center. In this case, you might ignore mass-market advertisement altogether.

The bottom line: do your research; pick your marketing strategy and stick with it. If your brand has a consistently appealing message to women in the most important decision-making stage, women will take notice and reward you with their purchases.

Selling to Women: Answer Every Question Thoroughly

Selling to Women: Answer Every Question ThoroughlyDuring the sales process, women have a longer list of wants and are voracious information seekers. So no matter how trivial or irrelevant her question may seem to you, answer it.

Some salespeople think they are helping women customers by keeping conversations focused on what matters– trying to be efficient and maybe even considerate of her time. But if your response to her question is, “Well, that’s really not what’s important here,” you’ve lost the sale and offended the customer.

If she says it’s important– and if she’s talking about it, that’s what she’s saying– it’s important.

Selling to Women Requires You to Understand Your Competition

Selling to Women: Answer Every Question ThoroughlyOne area I’ve heard several women comment on it salesmen’s unwillingness or inability to answer questions on how the product compares to the competition.

When my friend Pam was shopping, she asked one salesman, “Why should I buy this car instead of that competitive make and model?” She took it as a given that anyone doing due diligence on such an expensive purchase would compare several options. In her mind, she was giving the salesperson an opportunity to showcase his product’s advantages. His answer?

“You just can’t compare the two.”
“Why not?” she pressed.
Again, he said, “You just can’t.”

This salesperson lost the sale because he didn’t know his competition as well as she did– and he tried to make her feel dumb for asking a perfectly reasonable question. Interesting sales strategy.

Contrast that experience with the next dealership where they were prepared to answer the same question with details on their product’s advantages compared to the competition– newer engine design, more headroom, slightly better gas mileage, and so on.

To women, research and data are key elements to finding the Perfect Answer. So, please, make sure to answer her questions thoroughly.

Selling to Women: ‘I’ll Think About It’ Doesn’t Mean NO

No means NO. But when a woman says “I’ll think about it” to a salesperson, financial advisor or service provider, she is not politely dismissing you and your products.

In male gender culture, “I’ll think about it” is usually the polite way of telling a nice or persistent salesperson that the sale is not going to happen and the relationship is not going to move forward. For male salespeople, financial planners and financial advisors, they often take this phrase as a signal to move on to the next prospect.

Selling to Women: 'I'll Think About It' Doesn't Mean NO

But to women– saying “I’ll think about it,” means (surprise!) that she’s going to think about what you’re offering. With her Spiral Path purchasing process, women have to do a lot of thinking before arriving at the Perfect Answer (Especially if she’s considering a complex purchase, like choosing a financial advisor).

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

So don’t be like the Canadian financial advisor who attended one of my Selling to Women programs who suddenly realized, “Oh no! I can’t believe how much business I’ve left on the table, because I never called back the women who told me they would think about it!”

Call those women back! Ask for their perspectives and prepare to answer the many questions they likely have after “thinking about it.”

Why Can’t Women Make Up Their Minds?

Marketing to Women in Search of the Perfect Answer

Using her vast marketing to women expertise, Marti answers the ageless question, “Why can’t women make up their minds?” It turns out women seek The Perfect Answer when researching and buying a product– and they keep their minds open to new ideas and offerings. With such attention to detail, women make the perfect consumer for brands trying to differentiate on the details.

As Marti described in her first book Marketing to Women, women’s purchase decision follows a spiral path:

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

The reason women appear indecisive is because they are open to learning about new options, and expect to be educated during the sales process. This gives brands a super opportunity to differentiate in ways that matter to women. So, embrace this opportunity!

Boomer Women Customers Buy Faster Than Younger Women

Often, the purchase process can take longer for women than for men. As described in my Spiral Path consumer behavior model, women cycle back through the stages of purchasing until they find The Perfect Answer.

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

Boomer Women Customers Buy Faster Than Younger WomenFor Boomer women, though, the process is shorter and simpler, for two main reasons:

  1. Like all women, Boomer women ask around and use word of mouth. But now they’ll be asking peers with a greater inventory of experience to draw on. So that will immediately get them farther and faster into the process than then they were younger and asking less experienced peers.
  2. Boomer women themselves have greater experience with their own decision process. They’ve been there, done that once or many times before, so they know what they like and have an existing framework into which they can quickly integrate new options and considerations. They have more experience with products and services, so they don’t need to loop back and revisit previous stages of the decision path as many times in order to make their decisions.

So, when marketing to women, remember that Boomer women may buy faster and result in quicker profits!

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

How Women BuyWomen make purchase decisions a bit differently than men, in that they take a more meandering approach (instinctively, don’t we all know this?). But most brands don’t research how women buy differently than men before setting about creating a new product, marketing campaign or sales initiative.

Gender culture affects a woman during every moment of her life. What you, the marketer, care about, though, are the moments when she is thinking about your product­, or your competitor’s product (heaven forbid). These are the consumer behavior moments you are trying to influence.

I simplify the consumer’s purchase process into five stages,

  1. Activation
  2. Nomination
  3. Investigation and Decision
  4. Retention
  5. Recommendation

And here’s how that process looks for both men and women:

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

How Women Buy: The Spiral Path

As the Spiral Path graphic illustrates, from start to finish, women and men seek, search and research differently. Women have a more complex and detailed decision-making process when making a purchase. They tend to advance toward a decision in a series of cycles, often looping back to an earlier stage of the process as they reconsider previous decision factors and integrate new information, seeking the Perfect Answer.

So for the woman consumer, the group that makes 85% of all consumer purchases in the United States, how are you supporting her buying path?

Get Her to Give Up Perfection and ‘Buy Now!’

 For Women, Marketing Incentives Can Be More than Just Discounts

Traditionally, the role of incentives has been to influence brand choice. By giving the customer a discount, or some added value, the company is giving her a reason to choose one brand over another. While that dynamic is still alive and well with women, there’s also another reason to provide incentives: to break through women’s Spiral Buying Path decision process. Women spiral through the stages of decision-making, re-evaluating previous research in light of new

discoveries and seeking the perfect answer. As you imagine, this process can be time-consuming.

Spiral Buying Path decision process

View Larger Spiral Buying Path

Marketing professionals can use well-aimed incentives to deflect the urge to pursue “the perfect answer,” and encourage her to make a good move now. And offering a discount isn’t always the most attractive option to women. Instead, offer services that are even more valuable to women, pique their interest or capture their imagination. This marketing approach leads to different offers, different timing and different language.

Marketing incentives to womenCurrent car dealership promotions are universally the same: a cacophony of cash offers focused on financing and discounts (“Get $1000 cash back!” sound familiar?). You can’t tell one from the other, which makes you think they must all be ineffective.

A car dealership seeking to capture a high share of the women’s market could run a marketing promotion offering special service to everyone who buys during the promotional time frame, like free car pickup and drop-off at the office or at home for regular maintenance and repairs. Or a car company could offer a chance to win one year of unlimited access to a driver/errand runner who could chauffer the kids, meet you at the airport, pick up prepared meals, handle any little driving errand that comes to mind. Actually, a really cool prize would be to offer women a one-year contract with a service that could handle all those errands. I’ve so often heard women wish they could delegate to someone. And, to all my women readers, didn’t you start nodding along as you pictured the implications of this offer?

So save your discounts and offer women something with more appeal, something that will really help her out. Add a time frame, and she just might decide that “the perfect answer” is to buy your brand right now!

5 Ways to Make Women Want (to Buy From) You

5 Ways to Make Women Want to Buy From You

We know that women and men buy things differently, and marketing to women requires a different approach from traditional marketing. To women, “good enough” or even “just right” aren’t the Perfect Answer. When she’s holding the purse strings and calling the shots (which is 80% of the time!), she’s going to seek the Perfect Answer. Marketing professionals should follow these five guidelines to gain the fullest advantage of the differences in women and men’s buying processes.

1. Don’t Forget About Marketing to Women

Marketers are used to the five stages of the purchase process:

1.     Activation

2.     Nomination

3.     Investigation & Decision

4.     Retention

5.     Recommendation

Women lead four of these five stages-Activation, Nomination, Retention and Recommendation. Women typically recognize the need to buy, make the decision to buy and determine which brands to consider. After the purchase, she is more likely to evaluate the product and give referrals.

From the marketing perspective, all of these four stages are behind the scenes. Men typically lead the third stage, Investigation & Decision-the one stage that salespeople actually see. Just because she doesn’t appear to be front-and-center, don’t forget about marketing to women.

Recently, Toyota has been marketing to women quite aggressively. Some of their latest commercials, featuring the literal message of, “We’re women friendly,” might be a bit heavy-handed, but they certainly recognize the potential in the market. Let’s follow the brand through the rest of the four tips, shall we?

2. Word-of-Mouth Marketing Works

It shouldn’t be surprising that word-of-mouth is frequently how women begin their purchasing process-and, of course, they participate in spreading word-of-mouth themselves. Too many brands seem to avoid putting effort into word-of-mouth marketing efforts. Don’t be one of them.

Toyota has an effort to increase word-of-mouth called the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network, which brings together women bloggers and even offers a camp event at their headquarters. The women who are part of the network seem quite proud of the privilege and eager to share their Toyota experiences.

3. Share Information

Women want plenty of information when they cycle through the buying process. The more information you make accessible to her, the more you prime her with what she needs to make a decision. Through media such as print, web, social and retail merchandising, you can appeal in multiple dimensions-a marketing strategy to which women respond well.

Brands can also provide a great deal of information through a well-trained sales force that understands and respects how much information women frequently already have when they reach the sales floor because of advance data-gathering.

One way Toyota shares information is through their Owner’s Manual videos, purportedly aimed at current owners, but available publicly to consumers who want to delve into the details of each model.

4. Overcome Her Decision Reluctance

Develop marketing tactics to overcome her decision reluctance as she seeks the Perfect Answer. Do the comparison shopping for her by finding out what her needs are and presenting three options with pros and cons of each. Emphasize the benefits of making a decision now, one that can be fine-tuned later by adding a warranty or options that can be purchased separately.

5. Train Your Sales Team

Prepare your salespeople for the reality that the initial selling process will take longer with women customers-and it’s well worth it to hang in there because of the greater payoff in repeat business and referrals.

This final point is where Toyota really shines. They have a training program for dealers that allows them to become Signature Certified. Part of this program is to learn better methods for selling to women.