After more than a decade interviewing women about their sales experiences, I’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly. And while there is no single, sure-fire way to make a sale, there are certain common factors that can derail one. Because women drive the majority of consumer spending with their buying power and influence, their perspectives on the customer experience are important for anyone in sales. In that spirit, here are three sales “killers” that any salesperson – male or female – should avoid at all costs. Are they the only ones? No. But they’re a good start.
Sales Killer #1: Making assumptions
No one wants to feel ignored, overlooked or underestimated based on their gender, but this still happens with women in the marketplace, who regularly feel stereotyped based on their age, looks and attire – or the simple fact that they’re female. If you’re a salesperson, it’s important to keep your mind open and your feet firmly planted in the 21st century: for starters, don’t assume a woman is not the decision maker; don’t assume she’s not a breadwinner; and don’t underestimate her buying power. I’ve heard countless stories of employed, single women in their late 20’s being asked if they have a father or husband who should be involved in a purchase. I’ve heard women of every age group tell me that when they’re looking at expensive or luxury products, some salespeople will ask or joke about whether their husbands have given them permission to “treat themselves.” Yes, it’s 2017, but casual sexism of all kinds is still commonplace – ask any woman. Be aware of it or prepare to get an eye roll instead of a sale.
Sales Killer #2: Doing all the talking
If you do all the talking in a sales conversation, you’re in danger of talking your customer right out the door. Don’t fall into the trap of talking nonstop to demonstrate your knowledge, assuming that your customers will interrupt you if they have questions. Create pauses throughout sales conversations to ask questions and allow your customers to speak. If you don’t do this, there’s a decent chance they will simply leave in frustration rather than try to interrupt your monologue. Asking questions is the first part of the process: part two is visibly demonstrating that you’re listening. Feel free to take notes, repeat your customers’ statements, nod your head, or otherwise show that you’re paying attention in a way that feels right for your style and personality. These activities demonstrate respect and build trust.
Sales Killer #3: Not being proactive
If there’s one issue I hear more than any other, it’s that salespeople don’t follow up when they say they will. What I hear women say is some variation of this: “I guess they didn’t need my money.” In our customer-experience training programs at Female Factor, follow-up is an important focus. With everyone being so busy, no one wants to have to chase down a salesperson to get information they’ve requested. Bad service is so common that sometimes you can win a sale simply by being the first — or only — person to email or call a customer back. Nothing says that you’re working to earn someone’s business like taking the initiative and following up when you say you will. Will people notice? You bet. It’s one of the most powerful ways to build credibility with a potential new customer.
While these sales killers are based on research with women, common sense tells us that men will appreciate these strategies, too. This means that by elevating the sales experience for women, you’re elevating it for all of your customers.
Article originally published on Forbes.com