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You Sell Like a Girl

Collecting data before implementing change is crucial

Think back to your childhood on the school playground. When you put together a team to play baseball, who did you pick? There was the jock — he was always picked first. Then, the pretty girl, who wasn’t very good, but, well, we know why she was pick ed second. The class clown was chosen for entertainment. And finally, the last person to be picked was the person who everyone knew "throws like a girl."

Fox Sports Network features a show called Sports Science. This show’s intention is to dissect myths and questions concerning sports. In a popular episode, Jennie Finch, pitcher for the U.S. Olympic women’s softball team was pitted against a male baseball pitcher. The question in the episode was, "Which ball is harder to hit?" First up, the baseball pitcher. The male pitcher threw a 95 MPH fastball that packed a punch of 2,411 pounds of force. Then it was Jennie’s turn. While her speed was clocked at 70 MPH, her pitch made contact with and shattered the scientific equipment used to measure the force. Further studies supported this test, and it was found that it is harder to hit a fast pitch softball. Who knew that the phrase "you throw like a girl" could be a compliment?

Translate this lesson to a sales environment. Look at the myths of women in sales or finance. Now think about motorcycle enthusiasts. While the number of women riders is growing, what about the numbers of women working in sales roles in motorcycle dealerships? Think about the motorcycle customer’s experience and how it is different based on their sales transaction, which is sometimes dependent on the salesperson. Let’s do a little "Sales Science" to support our suspicions that women can excel in a market thought to be dominated by men.

A Little 4-1-1
Whether consuming or selling, women have a few things in common when it comes to purchases, one of which is attention-to-details. Look at the number of shoes in a women’s shoe store compared to that in a men’s shoe store. A man goes into the store and wants a black dress shoe. He may have a few special requirements, such as lace-up or loafers, brand name or price. Women, on the other hand, have much more to consider. For example, she might consider a stacked, stiletto, wedge or platform heel design; heel height could be between one to six inches; formal or career shoe? Shiny or matte? Patterned? Closed, opened, peep, stacked, pointy or round toe? The number of styles available is in direct response to the questions women ask, and these questions point to an attention-to-detail that is inherent in the female gender.

Gail Worth, dealer principal of Gail’s Harley-Davidson in Grandview, Mo., believes that success lies in the details. In her dealership, she points to several things that men may not see as a priority, such as the bathrooms; however, "Bathrooms are the first thing I think of," she says. "When I am at a business, I judge them based on their bathroom first. Because of that I am a fanatic about our bathrooms. They are very cool looking and always clean." Gail also focuses on clean and pressed uniforms that fit her staff well. The parts and accessories storage area is spotless and is a key point on the dealership tour. The service department features a white floor and a large window overlooking the technicians. Gail believes "It gives the customer peace of mind knowing her motorcycle is being cared for as if it were in a hospital."

Gail makes sure her dealership is warm and inviting and leads her staff by example; she believes that her attitude and approach will influence her staff’s behavior. Gail also uses marketing that considers all riders, including women, and tailors her message accordingly. Finally, she is present in all of her advertising (radio, television and print), making a point to show the person behind the name.

Details are equally important in the sales transaction. By listening and taking in all of the information the customer is conveying, you can better meet their needs. Did they mention what type of bike they are looking for? To narrow accessories, what kind of climate will they be riding in? To better schedule pick-up and service, what do they do for a living? To help determine the best insurance carrier, how many years of riding experience do they have? All of these details make you a better salesperson and in the process, result in a successful sales transaction.

Try a little tenderness
By all accounts, one of the main differences between men and women is the chemical composition of their brains and how it affects their emotional behavior. In his book "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man’s Mind Really Works," Michael Gurian discusses the biological differences between male and female brains. "The female brain secretes lots of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances the ability to feel emotions at a complex level, whereas we are driven by testosterone, which simplifies our emotions, particularly when they involve cocktail waitresses." Funny and true. Women typically invest more emotions into relationships, conversations and, yes, even purchases.

Think back to the shoes. Change the requirements to a woman’s shoes for her wedding. A gambling person would make money if they bet that the woman (1) Could — years later — tell you every detail of that shoe, down to where she bought it and how much she paid for it, and (2) Might even still have them in the original box in the back of her closet. Meanwhile, men typically rent wedding paraphernalia and probably would be challenged to remember the name of the rental place.

The key to using the emotional component is in building the relationship and maximizing the interaction with the customer. In motorcycle sales, the advantage that women have is the ability to instill confidence in customers of all types. Kim Kridel, co-owner of Mammoth Motorsports in Rohnert Park, Calif., uses her gender and her cycling expertise to build confidence in male customers. "I ride and race motorcycles, so most men aren’t intimidated to tell me something that they may not have wanted to admit to another male," says Kridel. An experienced rider, Kridel has also found that self-deprecating humor about her abilities reduces competition and allows men to feel confident in their skills.

Sheri Simmer, sales at Heart of Dixie Harley-Davidson in Pelham, Ala., appeals to women through knowledge and education. Simmer works diligently to ensure a proper fit for her female customers and works with all areas in the dealership to provide the best possible experience for her riders. She also spends a great deal of time mentoring new female riders and encouraging their progress. Simmer rides an ’07 Softail Deluxe, which also shows women that they can successfully ride whatever they want, given the right resources and support.

Nice girls finish first
Let’s revisit the shoe analogy one more time. When was the last time you heard a man compliment another man on his shoes? Doesn’t happen often, unless you count the $120 basketball shoes of which they are envious. Women, on the other hand, are cheerleaders for each other. They freely compliment one another, and if they were to see a pair of shoes they loved — even on a stranger — they would compliment and ask where they could find a pair for themselves. This tendency to be enthusiastic is generally a female trait, as most men do not want to seem "uncool."

Simmer believes "having fun and letting your enthusiasm show helps to sell bikes without using a high-pressure sales environment." This enthusiasm, combined with a genuine approach and savvy interviewing techniques, allows customers to feel confident, relaxed and comfortable in their purchase. Women have a natural ability to ask questions in a manner that puts the customer at ease.

According to an independent study by Switzer Consulting Co., "Women use their inquisitiveness to understand the big picture and then see how what they have to offer fits into the customer’s situation. They are less product focused than men. On the contrary, they are more solution focused. They also tend to position their offering from the customer’s perspective better than men." In a motorcycle sales transaction, this means that women in sales are well equipped to understand the needs of the customer, provide support and build confidence and a relationship at the same time.

Finally, all of these characteristics can be beneficial from a sales standpoint as well as from a leadership standpoint. For those women in leadership roles at their dealerships, inspiring confidence in their employees is as important as inspiring confidence in their customers. In the book "The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness," authors Thaler and Koval insist that being a female leader does not mean you have to minimize your feminine qualities; being nice doesn’t conflict with being a leader or making difficult choices. It’s a question of style: "In the end, being a cheerleader is far more effective than being a drill sergeant," the book advises.

Sales science: Theory proven?
At the playground, did the jock ever strike out? Did the person who "throws like a girl" ever surprise you and make a great play? Have you ever found the exact pair of shoes you were looking for in the first store you tried? Sometimes, unexpected things happen. Sometimes, people prove others wrong and convince others in the process.

Women in motorcycle sales all over the country have discovered that, although they may have to work a little harder than others, their efforts are worth it. Sales is a gratifying role and being able to fulfill customers’ dreams is a satisfying career. As part of this group, women can benefit from the support of each other and should share experiences with others — both positive and not-so-positive.

Combining natural abilities for asking probing questions, confidence-building and showing enthusiasm and excitement with product knowledge will result in a successful sales transaction.

When you hear "you sell like a girl," you should know it’s a compliment.

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