The Sales Gender Wars – Selling to Men vs Selling to Women

"Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus"

An oft quoted book written in 1992 that tells us that men are rational and logical, while women are emotional.

How many of you are cringing right now? Exactly. But how much truth is there in these long-held stereotypes?

It's not usually a good idea to apply sweeping generalizations like these to every man and every woman. We all know of men who are deeply sensitive and highly emotionally intelligent. And we all know of women who have great spatial awareness and are super math whizzes. Plus, some of what’s out there about these differences in gender is utterly nonsensical, yet continues to be circulated. I found one source claiming that women are more environmentally aware. But wait! That same source suggested that as a salesperson you should appeal to the mother in the woman. Because even if she isn’t a mother, she has a mother. Um, what? You see how blindly searching the internet for ‘how to sell to women’ can lead you astray?

The Science in a Sales Conversation

But let’s say you are selling a product or service primarily purchased by men or women. Or that you are a successful salesperson, but would like to hone your skills even further, regardless of the gender of your prospects. Is there anything about the way men’s brains are structured that is different to women’s brains that could impact the decision making process?

Turns out we’ve now learned that men’s brains are indeed different from women’s brains. Men tend to have more gray matter, and women tend to have more white matter.  That extra white matter is related to the speed of processing (Psychology Today).

The frontal lobe and limbic cortex is generally larger in women and women’s brains have a thicker corpus callosum that enables processing to cross between the right and left side of the brain more effectively.  Which gives women an advantage in problem solving and reading emotions. But men tend to be better at spatial relations, map reading and math precisely because of that gray matter and their larger parietal cortext (Guided Selling). Let’s not forget socialization, because that’s important too, but it seems there may be something to those gender tendencies after all.

What it Means for Successful Selling

What all this knowledge about how our brains work has really done is show us that women tend to shop and make decisions in a more hedonistic manner; they prefer to engage with their emotions, enjoy the ‘hunt’ for the right items, and want to feel like they really matter to the seller. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more utilitarian in their behavior; they want a quick and effortless solution to their problem based on logic.

As a guiding principle then, you should build relationships with women and provide details about your product or service’s features and benefits to men. This great article provides visual examples of how different businesses have set up their marketing to appeal to the typical processing and decision making patterns of male and female brains as outlined above.

But hold on a minute. Isn’t selling really all about establishing rapport, building relationships and listening, regardless of gender? Yes! A thousand times, yes! These are the foundational skills of good salespeople. Where you can add more sophistication is in adapting your sales conversation ever so slightly to accommodate the male or female tendencies that you might observe in your prospective clients. Which you should already be doing if you are an accomplished communicator.

How Much Does Gender Matter in Sales?

The science would indicate that gender DOES matter in sales. But not as much as reading the cues of an individual. And that, my friend, is the difference between a mediocre salesperson and a truly great salesperson.