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Gender Bender: Three Sell-to-Women Tips From the New Sales Trenches

You may be wondering what—if anything—is selling today. The "news at 6" gang would have us believe the financial sky continues to fall. But the NPD Group, a provider of consumer and retail market research information, tells a different story: Their Retail Response Indicator increased four points from March to to April.

The NPD Group says the recent increase in consumer confidence and decrease in job concern has positively affected retail buying behavior. Nevertheless, the overall reading still indicates consumers are spending only on what they need and are shopping around for the best deals and promotions.

Understandably, conflicting reports like these have left many sellers confused. To confirm what's really going on, I've been talking with some other industry experts. I'm referring to those who sell directly to women, the largest buying market. Here's what sellers working in the sales trenches have noticed.

1. Less is the new more. Women are indeed spending money, but not like they used to. Many buyers are thinking long and hard before purchasing. In most situations, impulse spending has become a thing of the past.

People selling everything from cosmetics to office supplies find women now limit purchases to a few must-have items. The new buying criterion has become only whether something is needed to get the job done. As a result, goods once considered vanity or whimsical purchases seldom make it to the cash register.

Your sales strategy: Today, more than ever, you must ask a lot of questions before talking products or services. It's the only way to fully understand the problems your buyer needs to solve.

2. Women now shop like CEOs. Sellers report that women are using a CEO approach when buying. More time is taken to compare sellers, their goods, and their prices. Women are also collecting quotes from multiple vendors, which they look over in detail.

Whether she's making a purchase for her business, home, family, or friends, she assesses the value of a product or service against its return on her investment. More than ever, a woman must sell herself on whether or not the purchase makes sense.

Your sales strategy: In this competitive market, you must be an expert in your field. Expect to explain, in person or in writing, exactly what you offer and how it will meet your buyers' needs.

3. "On sale" is a good thing. Savvy buyers are looking for deals in both the retail and service industries. A customer's typical buying justification often sounds like this: "It's the best price I've seen in a while. This would be a good time/place to spend money."

Your sales strategy: If you sell retail goods and set your own prices, find a reason to have a sale. Make sure to put a time limit on your offer. People often need a nudge to buy now. If your prices are set by others, stay current on all upcoming promotions. Contact new and existing buyers to let them know what's changed in pricing.

If selling a service, you can also join the "on sale" trend. But a promotion for 10 percent off all consulting fees can seem a little crazy. It could also put your professionalism in jeopardy. Instead, bundle some of your services. Offer them as a package for a limited time.

Final Thoughts

Yes, it's true: Buyers are spending less than in previous years. But you can still have your best year ever, simply by adapting your approach to meet your customers' new buying style.

Kelly McCormick is a regular columnist for SMM. She is also the author of the forthcoming book "OutSell Yourself." 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.