When it comes to selling, women business owners may possess feminine qualities that are actually good for closing the sale. Yet experts and entrepreneurs agree there are pros and cons to being a woman in sales.
"[Women] are their own worst enemies," says Sylvia Allen, author of A Woman's Guide to Sales Success. "Women are empathetic, caring and sensitive. With those traits,women can tend to be too soft in a sales situation." Allen believes some women need to learn to "balance their emotions with the business at hand."
"Rather than analyzing situations to know how to maneuver, many women let their emotions get in the way of success," explains Elinor Stutz, author of Nice Girls Do Get the Sale: Relationship Building That Gets Results. "By and large, women are intuitive, empathic, [multifaceted] and possess a strong desire to be liked." Stutz claims that most salesmen would view these characteristics as weaknesses, but she disagrees and says they are essential for building relationships with prospects and clients alike.
Stephanie Robertson understands the importance of relationships. She is co-owner with David Carter, 48, and Susie Coon, 56, of Disc Inc., a Houston-based data conversion and recovery company. She has also dealt with clients who've tried to play on her emotions, even pleading with her to waive rush fees.
Says Robertson, 31, vice president of sales for the $2.2 million company, "I simply explain that we incur additional charges for employee overtime for a last-minute job and must pass these costs along to the client." Then she closes the sale.
Standing firm doesn't mean ignoring the other person's needs. "The entire concept of nurturing and caring and having empathy for the other person makes women excellent listeners," Allen explains. "And by listening, they bond with their buyer and can be more responsive to the specific wants and needs of that buyer."
Jil Wyland, president of Litigation Presentation Inc., a $2 million strategic consulting and graphic design firm for litigating attorneys, agrees with Allen's assessment.
"I tend to listen to all perspectives and use my intuition to synthesize a sales pitch that will satisfy the group as a whole, providing compromise where needed," she says.
She added, "Being a woman in the room is already a differentiating factor. From there, [I listen] to the needs and concerns of the attorneys in the room and use my intuition to read the dynamics of the group to tailor my sales pitch."
While being female can be an advantage in sales, Robertson warns that there will be people who only want to work with a man. "Be prepared for that--and for what your response will be when that happens."
Originally published in Entrepreneur's Women In Charge magazine 2008