In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take 500 words or so to look more closely at a commonly-held belief about gender differences in selling…
Over the years, I’ve been in a dozens of sales workshops when a discussion of gender breaks out, most often on the topic of listening. The prevailing view, in my experience, is that people think women are generally better listeners than men.
And the data may support this assertion. A 2014 Cambridge University Study examined existing data on thousands of brains over 23 years and found three things that may support this conclusion:
Finding: The left frontal pole in women, the brain’s emotional control center, was more dense than in men.
Sales Implication: Women may be generally more adept at managing the emotions that plague sellers and kill listening – excitement to show a solution, for instance.
Finding: Women also had larger frontal gyri, which is linked to accurately calculating risk.
Sales Implication: One of the most challenging decisions in consultative selling is answering the question, “Is it time yet?” Women may be generally more adept at knowing when to go for the demo or the close.
Finding: The volume of Heschl’s gyrus, associated with listening, was greater in women than in men.
Sales Implication: The bigger the lens, the more light it lets in. Need we say more?
Summary: The measurements may indicate women have a genetic predisposition toward more listening and a better sense of the optimal time to deliver information. Ooh, I can feel the comments coming, so we’d better go right to the…
Of course it all depends on the individual – we all know men that listen and women who don’t.
Clearly, listening in sales is affected by time, quota, and client pressures.
Certainly, I am not making value judgments about either gender, although in real life I tend to acknowledge females’ intellectual and emotional superiority.
So what should you do with the information? I have gender-specific advice!
- Press your advantage! Effective listening (including enough listening!) continues to be a rare commodity in selling, and thus a competitive advantage.
- Trust your gut! Your intuition is real, and the more experienced you are, the more trustworthy it is.
- Ignore the pressure! Your poorer-listening colleagues will want to jump to solutions. Continue to choose behaviors that deepen the listening and thus the relationships. (Don’t forget to close!)
- Up your game! You’re getting out-listened, and your innate desire for action is hurting you. Start by pausing, reflecting, and asking the next question.
- Have a plan! Call planning is an underrated strategy – structure helps you listen better.
- Seek help! Watch, ask, and learn from the best listeners in your personal and professional life.
Dan Smaida is the author of “Love and Selling” and CEO of Real Relationship Selling, a consultancy focused on helping sellers grow the relationships that win high-stakes sales.