Are You Stereotyping Your Customers?

By Holly Buchanan

One of the biggest reasons you lose a sale to a woman is because you don’t understand her.

You often don’t understand her because you’re making assumptions about her that aren’t true – aka – you’re stereotyping her.

Sales people and brands who “get women” are the ones who are going to win in the coming decade.  Why?  Women are earning, inheriting, and controlling more money than ever

Two rules to keep you from stereotyping your customers.

The following are true stories.  The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tony Fannin shared this story with me:

“My wife and I were at Home Depot looking at power tools. She’s the one with the handyman skills, not me. She was interested in a circular saw. An employee approached us to see if he could help. My wife began describing the renovation she wanted to accomplish and the features she thought the saw should have. Instead of answering her, the employee began to try to sell me. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t in the least interested. I kept telling the employee, “Don’t tell me, talk to her.”, but he kept drifting back to talking to me. My wife got frustrated enough that she went to Lowes, (who is purposefully targeting women) and was very satisfied with the way she was treated and bought the power saw there.”

Rule #1 – Don’t assume the man is the one you need to talk to, especially in industries like consumer electronics, cars, and home improvement.

On an airplane, I overhead a guy talking on his cell phone.  (Hey, we’ve all been there.)   He was talking to someone at his office.  He was looking at office space in NYC.  He thought he found the perfect space, but the final decision maker was a woman.  He was going to fly back up the next week with her.  He said into the phone, “I know she’s probably going to look around at other spaces to see if there’s anything better, so I’ll set up some other appointments, but I really hope she chooses this space – it’s perfect.”
This guy “got” that women have longer checklists and indeed want to “look around to see if there’s anything better.”  He didn’t buy into the stereotype that women simply can’t make up their mind.    Rather than complaining that she is “indecisive” or only showing her one space in an effort to get his way, he accommodated her decision making style.  This guy is going to go far in his company.

Rule #2 – Avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications by learning the differences in how men and women make buying decisions

Note:  It’s just as important not to stereotype your male customers.

Tony Fannin shared this story as well:

“My wife and I went looking for a unique dining room table. At a high-end store, a woman sales person came to help us. My wife knew the function she wanted, but I was the one with the background in design and style and made those decisions. The sales woman kept asking my wife about design and style and my wife was constantly redirecting the sales woman to talk to me about those things. It was just like the Home Depot story, the sales woman kept drifting back to my wife when it came to describing design and style instead of talking with me after we made it very clear that this was one of my areas of expertise. We ended up getting a table else where.”

Beware of stereotyping.  Don’t assume – ask.  As a wise man once said, “Give less advice, ask better questions.”

Holly Buchanan is the co-author of  The Soccer Mom Myth – Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys. You can read more at her blog Marketing to Women Online.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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