To sell your product or services to multi-influential women of color, you need to establish trust. That's not easy. I've seen studies indicating that trust in Caucasian women among women of color is as low as 22 percent. This column, the third in a four-part series, focuses on ways to build trust so you can be effective with this market.
Building trust begins at the level of nonverbal communication and body language. Nonverbal details matter. They matter to multi-influential women of color--and they should matter to you, because they can cost you a sale. There's something we like to call "multi-influential radar." This enables us to evaluate a person based on intangibles that help us assess in a very clear way our comfort level with a person we've just met.
What does the multi-influential woman of color notice about you? Pretty much everything: Your hair--are you trimmed up or frumpy? Your suit and dress--are they clean? Attractive? Well-put together? What about your makeup? Your nails must be manicured and clean, never dirty and unkempt. Your handshake is a critical first signal that you respect the multi-influential woman of color. Make sure you extend a courteous, warm handshake with a smile. Direct eye contact is generally a good way to establish trust with women of color. You don't want your gaze to dart around, looking everywhere but at your customer's face.
Body language is another layer of nonverbal communication. Are your hands in your pockets? Do you look disinterested? Do you make crude jokes because you're nervous? Multi-influential women pick up these signals quickly and may opt not to work with you as a result. Keeping these women waiting in your office reception area is another negative signal.
Make sure you smile, too. A warm smile, a gracious hello and a preliminary inquiry about family are all acceptable among this target audience.
The appearance of your office is another strong signal that can reinforce or undermine a woman of color's decision to do business with you. Is your office welcoming? Is it organized and straightened? Remember that women of color place a great deal of emphasis on cleanliness, order, harmony and beauty in their environments. The office is an extension of that environment.
Are there personal touches in your office that provide a warm and welcoming sense to a woman of color? Are family photos proudly displayed? What about seating? Do you have an area in your office where clients can sit comfortably adjacent to you rather than across a desk in a confrontational manner? A sofa and chair will do. Finally, do you have enough chairs to accommodate more than one or two individuals? Among many women of color, family and extended family (parents, elders, children) are invited to meetings, so you should be prepared to welcome them all.
The office environment is another consideration. Is the walkway clean and well-lit? Does the receptionist understand that she must greet and welcome your guest promptly and courteously with a smile and a handshake? Are magazines and other forms of entertainment available, such as music or television? And do those forms of entertainment incorporate the interests of a multicultural audience? Magazines are an excellent way to demonstrate that you value the customer and her personal interests.
A final point should be made about bathrooms. These are important to all women. They should be clean, presentable and fresh.
Develop Good Listening Skills
It's important to listen actively, because women of color may not tell you what they are thinking. They may think it's impolite or rude to say no. They would much rather say "perhaps," "let me think about this" or "I have to speak to my husband." This behavior is particularly true for unacculturated Latina and Asian women, who tend to be less direct and more modest than mainstream women.
You will want to use words or display actions that put your customers of color at ease. For example, offering a cup of coffee or another beverage to your customers gives you a chance to relax and learn more about the client's personal interests and family. Rarely should you jump right into business discussions. This is considered rude and impolite among many segments of multi-influential women. However, if you sense that your client is ready to talk business and that she is pressed for time, by all means begin the discussion of your company services and support.
Ultimately, what motivates a multi-influential woman to purchase your company services? Building a solid relationship. Being respectful of the customer as an intelligent individual. Gaining her trust. If done well, you'll have a solid reputation as someone who understands the importance of a comfortable sales experience and reaps the benefits with a solid book of business among multi-influential women of color.
Miriam Muley, CEO of The 85% Niche, helps companies market and sell to women of diverse ethnic backgrounds. She co-founded Multi-Influentials, a joint initiative with the vox collective, to help brands address the untapped business opportunity among all women of color. Muley is also the author of The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors--Latina, Black, and Asian.