The highlight of my mailbox a few weeks ago was a review copy of Selling In A Skirt: The Secrets Women Don’t Know They Know About Sales (And What Men Should Know, Too) by Judy Hoberman. When I opened the first pages, the highlight to bring me further into the text was a paragraph regarding a significant challenge that saleswomen face.
It’s a issue that is sometimes debated when discussing diversity and professional development – being provided outdated tools while setting objectives to be successful.
“The traditional sales approach focuses on overcoming objections to achieve a quick close, but modern cultural trends point to a new paradigm…. use “softer” collaborative and relational selling techniques. Although many women have tried to incorporate this strategy into their own customer communications, they are often told by trainers and managers to avoid “experimentation” and to stick with time-honored tactics, however ineffectual….”
More women are entering the sales ranks. But some of the glass ceiling issues that occur in corporate America exists for professional sales as well. Hoberman, a sales strategy consultant based near Houston, Texas, crafted a short book meant to challenge those notions through accessible suggestions. It speaks to managers looking to expand their communication style to saleswomen, as well as to saleswomen looking to leverage their skillset.
Selling In A Skirt has the same size and scope as Dive In, a concise human resources book for specific issues with disabled people. Its concise approach means inserting skirt tips – notes in each chapter meant to crystalize the point – and chapters grouped into three segments on culture, understanding the differences, and professional development beyond sales into management. The reminders are light but serious notes regarding how to train women to their strengths. One example notes how competition is approached, leading to better ways to train salespeople.
Skirt Tip: Research shows that men tend to be competitive, whereas women are collaborative. Sales leaders should develop training and motivational strategies that speak to both genders for the best results.
As you read Hoberman words, you’ll gain more insight as to how her tips lead to bottom line impact. Her goal for your organization is to create processes that enhance strengths for all.
“To compete in the modern economy, companies need a training program tailored to women’s strengths. That does not mean each company needs a separate training program for women, nor does it mean changing the entire program to focus on woman as sales professionals and as buyers. Companies must do it to ensure that the training program explains and embraces both styles of communication…this will empower sales professionals to work within their strengths rather than employ a cookie-cutter approach with every client.”
It’s the author’s approach that closes the deal for this book’s capacity to aid your sales team. She wants you to understand why “Male-centric sales techniques usually fall flat with female customers, who want the process to be more personal.” When suggesting open-ended questions, Hoberman notes a few examples: “What are your biggest concerns?” “What features are on your must-have list?” Then she reviews the nuances of listening needed to make open-ended questions an opportunity to connect with leads.
“To a woman, good listening includes making eye contact and reacting visually to whoever is speaking. To a man, listening can take place with a minimum of eye contact and almost no non-verbal feedback….restating what a prospect just said demonstrates that you are actively listening and summarizes your understanding of their situation, which in turn, will highlight the prospect’s motive for considering your products.”
Who Will Benefit From Selling In A Skirt?
- Managers who need to consider gender nuances in professionalism and how they differ versus anecdotal suggestions.
- Starter road warriors – new inducted sales people who need a reminder as they travel from client to client.
- Women looking to rise into sales-related managerial roles, particularly when confronted with a male-dominated culture.
Those who love deep research won’t find a ton of stats and footnotes, although a few chapters like “New Era” offer sources for notes regarding women’s financial clout in the marketplace. The stats do help to raise the points Hoberman notes on communication style as well as what is at stake economically for businesses to survive. The stats mentioned are used wisely, with no sense of overselling or blatant bias just to make a point. Hoberman’s insight and professional wisdom comes through on the pages, yet deftly avoids overdone claims of self-success that plaque overhyped guru books.
This book focuses on sales, but let’s face it. If you call yourself an entrepreneur, “sales” is the invisible syllable in that word. You will find Selling In a Skirt a terrific guide that makes sales feel more real to entrepreneurs as much as it does for experienced sales teams. It is not a deep psychology study on gender communication differences, nor was it meant to be. It is a serious, no-nonsense guide that reminds you of important hindrances for women in sales activity. It will compliment books like Selling to the C-Suite with ease. Keep this guide at your ready access, and with each read you will see how your sales will become meaningful activity.