Colette Carlson is a professional speaker and an expert on human behavior, especially as it applies to business and to selling. She presented at the 2012 Remodeling Leadership Conference, “He Sells/She Sells: How to Sell to Women and Other Important People.”

Remodeling: When buying something, such as remodeling services, do men and women have different goals and different expectations?

Colette Carlson: Their goals actually are the same, in the end. They both want a quality project, on time and on budget. But the process of choosing a particular individual to deliver on these goals, to work with, is a bit different.

RM: How is it different?

CC: The man wants whoever is presenting the job to show him a solution. He wants to get to the bottom-line quickly. He’s going to say: This is what I want. Show me some facts and figures. And if those are aligned and he likes who you are, it’s a go. Women tend to take a lot longer before pulling the trigger. They’ll do more homework. That may mean talking to every customer of that contractor, or every neighbor who’s ever done a remodeling job.

RM: So if I’m selling a job to a woman, what is the conversational priority?

CC: Trust. Often [male salespeople] don’t take the time up-front to build rapport with women. I’m talking about the connection that makes her feel like you’re not just there to close the deal, that you’re interested in her, her wants and needs. What a man might consider a big waste of time — making small talk — has to be there for a woman. Women use language to connect. So if you’re selling to a woman and you fail to create that level of comfort and connection, you’re not going to get the business.

RM: So men are in more of a hurry to get things under way?

CC: When women use language to connect, they tell a story. And when you tell a story, you save the best for last, which drives men insane. When I teach women how to sell to men I say: Say it in a sentence. Get to the point first, and have the facts to back it up.

Listen Up

RM: Are listening skills more important when selling to women?

CC: Absolutely. Say a remodeler selling a job asks a woman a question and she responds by going off on a tangent with some wild story. Is he paying attention to what she’s saying? Or is he listening through the filter of: What’s the point? What do I need to fix here? How can I solve this? And if he becomes distracted because it’s taking her a while to get to the point, she can pick up on that nonverbal language: the glance, the dead-on stare.

RM: What happens at that point?

CC: She’s going to wonder how he’s going to listen to her on the job if he’s not listening to her in the sales process. Women know they’re the decision-makers. So when we feel we’re not being respected, through eye contact or listening, then you’re not going to get the job.

RM: In what other ways will women be different, as clients?

CC: Women, once they’ve worked with someone, are much more likely to consistently recommend them to other people. Their loyalty is off the charts. If they’ve worked with a remodeler who’s done what he says he was going to do, they’re the ones selling him to their friends and buying future jobs. Women personalize the relationship. And they’re very detail-oriented. They notice things. They notice when the contractor who says he will be there at 7:30 instead shows up at 8. They notice dirt tracked in the house. They don’t miss a beat when it comes to the small stuff. These details are less important to a man. Women are responsible for more of the details, so we notice more of the details.

RM: You say that it’s the small, subtle differences that often create challenges in communicating with the opposite sex. What are some examples? What should we be aware of?

CC: There are so many. Let’s say we are in the middle of the remodel and the contactor asks [his female client] a question. What kind of faucet did you want? Women have a tendency to process out loud, especially when stressed. Instead of answering the question succinctly, she starts telling a story. Now he’s standing there and the body language says: What? Or he interrupts her.

He needs to recognize that talking lowers her stress. She’s thinking out loud. Allow her to do that. Because men always want to solve a problem, they respond by indicating: here is what you should do. Sometimes there are subtle ways to make someone feel respected … to show concern. So instead of saying, “This is what you should do,” ask the person if they’d like your suggestion or a recommendation about what to do — so it’s not just her husband telling her what to do again.

RM: When it comes to selling to men vs. women, what’s the biggest blunder that in-home salespeople make?

CC: They don’t ask enough questions. They fail to identify the real need and to then tie it down to some kind of pain that they’re then able to relieve. They assume they know what the problem is, but they don’t get the customer to articulate it. The questions are the answer. If you do an effective job identifying needs and values, you don’t even have to close. You just have to ask for the business.

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