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Your Golden Sales Opportunity: Gender Awareness

Furniture World Magazine


Part 1: Adjust your sales presentation. Men and women shop differently.
Sales & Management Skills by Margarett DeGange, M.Ed.

´╗┐Men and women—AHHH, they make the world so interesting. We have learned that Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus, and we’ve been told that we can’t live with them (the opposite sex) but we can’t live without them either.

For the purposes of this Furniture World article, let’s go a step further by stating that we can’t run profitable retail operations, and truly serve all of our customers, unless we understand the different ways that men and women need to be satisfied and treated.

Your business will vault 10 steps ahead if you take gender differences seriously and adjust your approach to attempt to meet the requirements, needs and wants of male and female customers.

Most furniture retailers know for certain that men and women shop differently, but the majority can not succinctly describe this phenomenon. In order to be your best as a sales professional, it is important to know your customers’ basic motivations (especially for female shoppers) so that you can be certain that your sales procedures, the questions you ask, and the tone and substance of conversations with prospects are in line with how they think, process information, and make buying decisions.

Be Aware and Make Adjustments

There is one hugely important trait that all successful salespeople have in common. They are really good at being aware of the communication styles of others, and modify or adjust their behavior accordingly. You must be aware in order to make adjustments that will lead to greater sales and profits. That’s what this article is all about. We will use it to become aware of how the majority of men and women think, do business, and buy. Looking at generalities and assuming how people “are” may annoy some of us, but the reality is that many general patterns do actually pan out. These may or may not apply to you personally, but they apply to the bulk of those who enter into your business world. Although you may be familiar with some of these patterns, it’s time to tweak that knowledge towards business success.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how men and women buy, and how salespeople can sell more. Also included are practical tips, “What you can do”, to help you put this information into action.

Women-A HUGE Market

Females make up about 51 percent of the U.S. population. According to Mary Lou Quinlan, author of “Just Ask a Woman,” and “Marketing to Women,” women either purchase or influence the purchase of over 80% of all products and services and are responsible for 2/3 of all consumer spending worldwide.

Women buy for themselves for sure, but the buying doesn’t stop there. As the decision makers for about 90 percent of purchases directly related to the household, women buy for their families, and as business owners who want nice office spaces, women buy for their businesses, too. For almost 20 years now, women have been starting businesses at almost twice the rate of men. Women buy, and their buying power is BIG!

You see this played out in your furniture and interior decorating related businesses regularly, as you deal with women day-in and day-out, or as you deal with male shoppers who are greatly influenced by the women in their lives. You see it, but how exactly can you use this knowledge to increase sales? How can you make adjustments in your general marketing strategy and selling platforms, to target this market demographic more effectively?
brand your store with women in mind.

Targeting women shoppers through your branding is a great business move, and I don’t mean using just a portion of your marketing dollars to reach women. You should focus everything on her, since, she either makes or influences over 90% home-related purchases. It just makes sense to make certain your branding is all about her and the true image of who she is, not some stereotypical old-fashioned norm. Today’s woman is not just a housewife. She is a mother, a business person, a community leader, a fitness participant, and an intelligent, lifelong learner. Learn to understand the female shopper, and more importantly, plan and adjust your marketing strategies to reach her and to speak to her in terms of her lifestyle. Suggested readings at the end of this three-part series will give you additional information on how to do this.

Your sales processes and marketing strategies must do four things:

1.They must involve approaches that acknowledge the complexities of women’s lives in terms of the many personal, family, and business roles women have today.

2.They must come from a holistic approach that gets to the root of the emotional reasons women buy.

3.They must not focus on comparing your products and services to those of others—it must go deeper than that.

4.They must gain trust by making the connection between the heart of what women want, and your brand. This allows you to become a meaningful part of their lives.

Once your marketing is squared away and focused fully on the female shopper, you should train your sales staff in the concept of consultation selling directed at women. Your staff should also learn how to work with male customers. We’ll look at both, while focusing a bit more on woman shoppers.

It is a very good idea to make sure that your sales force includes a number of female salespeople who can skilfully help customers and who can also help the retail team be more in touch with what women shoppers want.
Targeting and catering to women in your marketing and in your sales processes does not, by

any means exclude men. What it actually does is up your appeal to women by meeting their needs and desires, while putting you in a position with men to exceed their expectations.

Gender Differences: How Men & Women Shop

When it comes to shopping, it can be useful to think of men and women shoppers in terms of hunters or gatherers. Men are generally the hunters. They know what they want and they go to the store to get it. They move quickly through the space, and usually do not like to ask a salesperson where to find something. Men do not look at things in a store as long as women do. Men are focused on getting what they came for and getting out in a hurry. If they must do a little deciding at the store, they make fast decisions (some men do a lot of quiet researching and calculating before they shop to get to this point).

Women gather. Women want to “feel” their way through the shopping experience. Women want to consider how a large purchase is part of their overall life “plan”. They do not like to be  rushed, and they abhor the hard sell which reeks of “hunting”, not “gathering”. Women are focused on seeing how what they are interested in purchasing will improve their lives and relationships. Women want to be heard, listened to, and taken seriously. A woman wants to ponder and openly interact with her thoughts and with all of the many possibilities until she comes to one she resonates with.

Part of the gathering mindset involves gathering others’ opinions. Women ask other women for their thoughts and opinions about products and services they are considering. Over half of women’s purchases are influenced by the friends and opinion leaders they trust, and if a woman is happy with a purchase, she shares that story with her friends.

Gender & Price

Men tend to shop or buy when they have a specific need or desire. Once they are sure of what they want, they may not be too concerned with price, as long as it seems generally fair. Women care more about price because they are the more experienced shoppers, but their concern is not about absolute price. Instead, it is about value for dollars spent. They know what things are “worth” based on comparisons from their many shopping and store experiences.

Men rarely buy something they were not planning on buying even if it is a “very good deal” since they don’t buy simply because of price. Women are more prone than men are to buy something they really don’t need or didn’t think they wanted because the price is “very good”. When items fall into the category of small purchases, say under 50 or 100 dollars, many women tend to impulse shop, especially if the items are of good quality. It makes women feel good to get a good deal. They do not usually impulse shop on large ticket items, but their small impulse purchases can certainly add up!

When purchasing large ticket items, both men and women want companies to stand behind the products and services they sell, and they don’t want to pay extra for this. This is actually one area they will research well if a warranty or guarantee is of great importance to them, and they will choose companies that support their purchase and recognize the importance of their investment. Women are especially interested in companies that stand behind what they sell without charging extra for it.

Tip #1: Do more than your competition. Do the “out of the box” thing. Offer warranties and guarantees that take the unknown, the anxiety, and even the fear out of making a large purchase that could potentially have problems. Offer it to them at no extra charge!

The Process  Women Use to Shop

Women are extremely sophisticated shoppers. They are not only interested in relationships and personal connection, they are also concerned about the quality and utility of products and services, and of the status associated with them.

Women shop in stages. It is a process of inclusion and discovery, particularly when it comes to high ticket items. Women verbalize, vocalize, look around, browse, think, ponder, ask friends, and visit showrooms and stores as they are deciding whether or not to buy and what to buy. Here is an important point: When it comes to high ticket items, women go out to shop to look for information, options, and to formulate or create a vision for their lives, not necessarily to buy immediately. That’s one of the reasons they come back to “browse” so many times, which can frustrate an unskilled salesperson. If you can get hold of this concept when a woman shopper first comes in to your store, you (and she too) will look forward to her next visit, which gets closer to the actual sale. In a recent FURNITURE WORLD article, Joe Capillo goes so far as to suggest that the salesperson’s goal on a first visit shouldn’t be to close a sale, but to get the customer to come back for a second visit, when there is a much higher statistical chace of closing the sale.

Part of this process of inclusion & discovery means women first have to imagine the possibilities, and then they must see where their own personal tastes meet with these possibilities. They then visualize the perfect scenario where the purchase will be applied or where it will fully “play out” in their lives. Then they have to plan for making the purchase, and finally they buy with confidence. They may then buy additional items to support the initial purchase and to create the best possible outcome in terms of quality of life. For example, if a woman were to buy a new dining set, she is likely to buy an area rug, a table runner and centerpiece or some candles with candleholders, and possibly even some new window treatments to make the space and the new “ambiance” complete. With all of this in mind, you can see that the typical sales process that starts with “What are you looking for today” does not match the actual process of inclusion and discovery that women employ when they shop. She does not know what she wants, she is formulating, and this can take time. The typically hard or semi-hard sales process of today actually sends women running.

The Process Men Use to Shop

Men also have a buying process. It is less consultive in nature and is usually internalized up to the point when they come to a decision about what they want. They may start out by doing some online research and they may ask the opinion of a friend or two before coming to a decision to buy. Before hitting the store, they either have a very clear general idea regarding what they want to buy, or they will already know the brand and product name specifically.

Once they decide, it’s on to the store or showroom to make the purchase, money in hand. They don’t really go out to “get ideas and shop around”. At the store or showroom, they go through a process of elimination based on the general item they know they are looking for. In essence they are hunting for the item they see in their mind’s eye. They may see an item and know “this is not it”, and they continue on until they see what they already know they want. There is a good chance their process of elimination will bring them to the checkout counter at the first store, or they will eliminate that store entirely and head to another store to make the purchase.

Once they leave a store, they may revisit it for the next item on their shopping list, but in general, they won’t plan to come back for a second shopping visit regarding a particular item.

Tip #2: Pay attention. Take every customer seriously. Don’t assume you know what they want, even if they say they want something specific like a sofa. Ask questions in such a way as to show interest. Don’t interrogate with questions that are tainted with the flavor of the hard sell, which really says all I care about here is Me, not You.

Women especially, come into the store to gather information and to discover what is available, and possibly to buy. If you approach them in a helpful and friendly manner, they may buy this time, or the next time when they return.

Let customers, both men and women feel like they are in control of the sales situation. Customers do not like to be pressured. They do not like to be robbed of their control, which for women absolutely includes their prerogative to ponder, and this pondering is an essential part of how she buys. She must be able to do this with freedom, so give it to her. On the other hand, women do not like to be abandoned. If they feel that they need help, and you are not available, they can get annoyed. It’s a delicate balance. If she does want to browse, be sure and be close by with a helpful attitude and a good knowledge base when she needs assistance. Stay connected!


In situations where couples are shopping together, a wise salesperson will make it a point to be aware, and sense who the dominant figure is. There is usually a lead shopper, often the woman, in stores that relate to furnishings and home interiors. Although both the male and the female shopping processes may be at work, often one gender is leading the decision to buy.
Tip #3: Once you know who the “leader” is, find a way to allow that person to express what he or she wants and needs, while skillfully bringing the other partner into the experience in a rich and meaningful way through friendly, casual dialog and through questions that help get to the needs and desires of both shoppers.


In the January/February issue of FURNITURE WORLD, this three-part series will continue to break down the purchasing process for men and women in more detail.

Margarett (Margo) DeGange, M.Ed. is a Business and Design Coach in the Home Fashions Industry. She creates and delivers custom training programs for managed businesses and their sales consultants to help them communicate better with customers and increase sales and profits. Margarett is a Writer and Professional Speaker, and the President of The DeGangi Group and The DeGangi School of Interior Decoration, with both on sight and on-line courses in Interior Decorating, Marketing, and Redesign. For almost 20 years she has helped individuals and managed business owners in the interior fashions and decorating industries to earn more while fully enjoying the process.

Two of Margo’s popular products for furniture store owners and their sales professionals are The Decorating School Crash Course Power-Ed Pack (9 design lessons on video/audio with 12 hours of content), and the matching Decorating School Crash Course Learner Files to measure learning, provide added interactivity, and motivate sales consultants to own their opportunities for growth.

Visit Margo DeGange’s website at www.DecoratingForProfits.com for more information. Send email and questions to her at Margarett@furninfo.com.