Over the years I have attended more than 400 sales interviews conducted by clients to evaluate how they performed and where they needed to improve.
As the author of the only Best Practices study of selling professional services (The I-Hate-Selling Book), I have interviewed some of the most successful women professionals to discover why they succeeded at selling – and how.
There are 3 Mistakes women make in selling…most often without realizing them…that costs sales, clients and opportunities that otherwise would have been won. These gaffes apply whether it is selling a product, service or an idea to a coworker, client or superior.
The good news is that there are many advantages women bring to selling that men do not. We will discuss both in this article.
Why Women Lose Sales
Let’s take a look at the Biggest Mistakes women make in the sales process – and how to cure them
Mistake #1: They talk themselves out of the sale before they get there.
Recently, I had a client share that she froze when she walked into a room with “all men with not a single dark hair among them.” She was to do a presentation for a new client possibility.
There are many times I have heard women say that their target customer or client (male or female) “won't buy from a woman”.
What’s the problem? It’s our beliefs that create our reality. If you have somehow talked yourself into believing that your prospect (male or female) won’t hire you, then you have eliminated the possibility that they might.
There are many women that do not have this belief – and often the very opposite – that succeed in the same situation other women talk themselves out of.
I remember a client named Janet telling me she had an appointment with a male executive who was known as a terror to salespeople, vendors and professionals. After the brief introductions, the prospect started opening his mail and sorting it right in front of her. What does one do? How do you sell in that situation?
Having read The I-Hate-Selling Book and experienced our live training, Janet felt comfortable in unfastening her briefcase and opening her mail! Surprised at this bold behavior, the client asked what she was doing. “It looks like it’s time to open our mail, so I was, too.” She was hired on the spot.
The solution is: Check your self-esteem walking into the appointment. You must make a conscious decision to see yourself as the client’s equal – even if they are older, wealthier or more successful. You ARE their equal – we are all equal in the eyes of our maker.
Mistake #2: Unwillingness to boast (not confident about one’s competence).
It’s a fact: most women dislike “showing off” and feel uncomfortable doing it.
Most men do far too much talking and can get carried away in the selling interview, telling the client how great they and their company are. This results in talking oneself out of a sale. But most women carry it to the opposite extreme.
What’s the problem? The client doesn't get to find out why you should be hired, what separates you from the competition, and what special expertise or credentials you bring to the table.
Claire had a PhD in Accounting and Estate Taxes. She was building her Business Valuation practice after a highly successful career working for Microsoft in their business acquisition unit and later Bank of America in their estate and trust department. She called me to find out why she lost a client opportunity.
“Did you tell them you had a PhD? Was credentialing important to the attorney in this proceeding? Would the judge or jury be impressed with your exceptional experience?” I asked.
“I didn’t feel comfortable talking about these things,” she replied. So the client never found out what they needed to know to hire her and what made her special to their situation, and she lost. Unusual? Not at all.
The solution is: It’s really a question of confidence.
Speak of your experience, the results you have helped create, and about the strong relationships with your clients. Give the buyer ENOUGH ammunition to hire you based upon their specific issues.
Also, remember that lack of asserting one’s strengths leads to fear of overcharging, thus underpricing the value of your services!
Mistake #3: Fear of closing (asking for the business or the next step in the sale).
It’s completely understandable that many women in business are tentative about selling.
Most every sales course in the world was invented by men – for men.
The I-Hate-Selling Book, a “contrarian approach to selling,” was based on over 200 interviews with some of the most successful women in the US and Canada, which is why we have received so many positive comments over the years.
This dislike of “selling” leads to hesitation for closure or commitment for the next step in the sale, or the final agreement (or “asking for the business”).
What’s the problem? The biggest risk you take in selling is not closing. If the client was ready to buy, but it didn’t dawn on them to ask you to do business with them, and you left without a commitment for the next step, chances are almost 100% they will go negative and you will lose many sales you would have won.
The solution is: Always decide with the client as to what the next step in the sales process is.
Chloe was a newly appointed principal at a large public relations firm. She discovered that her alma mater was in the market to commence a new PR campaign to create momentum for a new alumni fundraising effort. She met with the President of the university and the Dean of Alumni Relations. She felt the meeting went very well, especially since she was an alumna.
“Why haven’t they called to start,” she asked.
“Not their job,” said I. It’s the responsibility of the “seller” to ask for the business.
“What should I do?” she posed.
“Call them and find out when you are going to start,” I replied.
“But they are talking to other people,” Chloe said.
“Better call right away, before they pick someone else,” I responded.
So Chloe actually took my advice and called the Dean to find out when they were going to start. “We’re still in the decision-making process,” said the Dean.
“Why?” asked my student. “Isn’t time of the essence? You have been in this process for 5 months, and you want to start the project to begin building the new library as soon as possible.”
“You’re right, Chloe,” he replied. “It’s been a long time and we need to get moving. How much was your fee again?”
“$185,000,” Chloe remembered.
“Okay – let’s get started. When can you come in for our next meeting?” asked the Dean.
Here is a perfect example of a sale that would have been lost if the business had not “softly” been asked for. And she was sole-sourced for the project.
Next time we will take a look at the many ADVANTAGES women CPAs bring to selling professional services!
Written by Allan Boress, CPA, CFE
Boress is author of The I-Hate-Selling Course, the only training course that completely reinvented the selling process for professional service providers. Visit his website at www.ihatesellinginstitute.com and email him with any questions at Allan@ihateselling.com