Selling your company to a prospective client is tough. Women understand women and men understand men. But it can get a little squirrely when we try to interact together — especially in business.
There are many books written about the differences between the sexes. I have found that men have a "respect button." Being a single woman, I have had to operate from a position of strength. I am the one who makes the decisions. I am the one paying all the bills.
It does me no good to throw my hands in the air and cry about it, praying for Mr. Whoever to save me. I will still have to be responsible a the end of the day. That can manifest itself as an “edge” in me if I’m not careful.
The other day I made some comments to a couple of men in a work environment. The comments weren’t bad, but I said them at a bad time and in an “elevated” manner. I saw the look on both of their faces immediately. I had stepped on the “respect” thing. I felt awful. I do highly respect both of them. It was my bull-in-a-china-shop moment and I had word vomit. I apologized to both of them. I wonder how many times we, as saleswomen, unintentionally step on the “respect” thing?
So — girls dealing with boys — don’t be disrespectful.
With female prospects it’s the fear factor. Women are sometimes afraid, vulnerable — even us “suck it up gotta be strong” ones. If I am walking down the street and a man crosses and follows what I determine to be too closely behind, I am afraid. Many women who live alone fear men coming into their homes. Meeting a salesman can be daunting to them.
So how do you put prospects at ease? Simple: During the initial contact take time and listen to them. Sometimes that may mean listening to some pretty boring frustrations that have nothing to do with your company. Women talk — way more than men. A good listener will win their trust.
Fear can be crippling and can sever a project in two. If you spook your client, she can turn on a dime. Salesmen: Be approachable. That goes for your crew, too. Make sure they keep their shirts on, refrain from smoking, don’t play loud music, and that they watch their language.
Boys dealing with girls: Don’t be scary.
Remember: We are all bozos on the bus.* Vive la différence!
—Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Fine Remodeling, in Franklin, Ind.