Today's WSJ reports on a new program by accounting firm Deloitte and Touche to approach female corporate customers differently when selling professional services. Elements include sitting across from vs. next to female prospects, including subordinates in meetings so women clients can meet the people who will actually be doing the work, as well as building personal connections. Developed in conjunction with M2W pioneer Marti Barletta's company, The Trendsight Group, Deloitte interviewed senior female executives and Deloitte employees and determined that women's personal shopping habits did not differ drastically from their corporate shopping habits (like researching, browsing and gathering information before making a decision). Employees engaged in a 4 hour workshop to learn to sell better to women (program just launched so actual sales results have not yet been determined).
A sales relationship between a male Deloitte employee and a female prospect was used to illustrate the new approach in the article and it was clear that some nuances were winners (giving the prospect's opinion as much weight as more senior male executives who later came into the meeting) while others were off putting (an exclamation point the Deloitte employee used in an email to his prospect to mirror her own enthusiasm caused her to wonder if he was making fun of her) and still others were just curious (citing a "family obligation" vs. a "previous engagment" as a reason for rescheduling a meeting).
So, when there are differences, how do you best navigate them? First, just like women imitating men when they first entered the corporate world was a miss (remember the super-shoulder-padded Navy power suit?), men imitating women (sympathetic exclamation points, bringing up the family) takes things a step further than necessary. A man need not act like a woman, or an idea of a woman, to sell to one. Ultimately, this guy sounded genuine in his desire to do well and his approach will likely get smoother with time. Listening, being respectful, offering the best product or service at the best price and standing by it go the farthest - with any customer.