Several men have surprised me in the past few weeks, and it wasn't with flowers and chocolates. Actually, it was what they said that made me gasp for air—they were discussing their new "cautious" approach to buying goods and services.
These encounters led me to recognize a few key things about the buying behavior of men in our current economy:
1. This economy has changed men. Yes, the stock market has been rising and falling like a sailboat navigating through an ocean storm. But men have traditionally thrown caution to the wind when it comes to buying something they really wanted, regardless of the market.
Many a guy will also admit to upselling himself on a product or service with lots of options…unlike most women, who often pass on the extras when times appear to be tough, and instead opt to spend money when a product or service meets an immediate need. Well, that’s changed: Men, too, are evaluating where and how they spend money.
2. Men speak a new buying language. When men talk about their new buying habits, the conversation sounds eerily similar to how women speak. To prove the point, here are some excerpts from my recent discussions with men:
Man A: "I've become my grandmother. Instead of pitching the flyers, I’m now cutting out coupons."
Kelly's male-to-female translation: "It's time to stretch my dollar."
Man B: "When I’m in the electronics department, the big-screen TVs don’t seduce me like they used to. I just put my hand on my wallet and think about the dent it would make in my credit card. Then I turn around and leave."
Kelly's male-to-female translation: "Unless I really need it, I'm not buying."
Man C: "Right now, vendors have to really prove how their service will improve my business. If not, I won't even return their calls."
Kelly's male-to-female translation: "In this market I'm not a high-risk taker."
Man D: "I bought my phone from the guy who spent two hours educating me on how it works."
Kelly's male-to-female translation: "The sales guy made my life a whole lot easier. It was a great investment of my time and money."
3. Our sales conversations are blurring. When teaching professionals how to sell to women, I used to stress, "Make sure to emphasize the value of your products and services." Now I'm adding, "and in this economy, make sure to have a similar conversation with men."
4. You need to change your selling strategy with men. Guys are solution-oriented by nature. Even when being cautious, however, a man tends to zero in on buying solutions much faster than a woman. Your best selling strategy would be to ask him some very focused questions before recommending any products or services.
Keep in mind you walk a fine line when probing to find out what's needed. If you ask too many questions, he might assume you're not an expert. Limit your queries and, to be safe, start with an openended one. "What would you like to know?" is a good example.
When you answer his questions, you'll gain credibility with statements like, "Well if I were you, I'd use…" or "Here's what someone in your same situation bought…." You could also say, "We've dealt with this before. We did this and we did this and we got this result. And we can do this and this for you."
A woman isn't the only one sifting through the merchandise at the sales counter; nor is she sitting alone, pounding the keys of a calculator in the company's purchasing department. Today, before a man whips out his credit card or signs a purchase order, he too wants lots of assurance he's getting great value for the money.
So take the time to find out what he really wants, then use actual examples to prove you've got the right solution. And deliver as promised.
Kelly McCormick is a regular columnist for SMM and author of the forthcoming book "OutSell Yourself: How to Sell Without Selling." To obtain her sales e-tips, in addition to information on her sessions, keynote talks, and tele-classes, visit www.outsellyourself.com or call 800-889-9637.