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The Battle for Sales: Women vs. Men

June 3, 2010

Are women or men better at sales? The short answer: “It depends.” And even that is controversial, as evident by the many articles, blogs and comments that play out this modern-day battle of the sexes.

PsychTests, a company that provides personality assessments and pre-employment tests, recently studied 2,000 people and found differences between saleswomen and salesmen, as well as differences between experienced and non-experienced salespeople. (You can find out about your own sales acumen by taking the online test.)

According to PsychTests’ analysis:

Saleswomen: Tend to posses higher levels of integrity and are more helpful, more attentive to detail and more organized than their male sales peers.

Salesmen: Tend to be more comfortable with public speaking, more success-oriented and more adaptable. Salesmen also outscored saleswomen on mental toughness and competitiveness.

Experienced Salespeople: Tend to posses good interpersonal skills, are comfortable being assertive, have a knack for public speaking and are willing to take initiative. They are also much more confident, more competitive and mentally tougher than their non-sales counterparts. This group — despite stereotypical thinking — also scores high on integrity.

So, which Sex is Better at Sales?

According to PsychTests survey:

  • More than 60 percent of women who took the personality assessment possessed the “farmer” profile — people whose strengths lie in developing and maintaining customer relationships.
  • While 51 percent of men were “farmers,” a higher percentage of men (30 percent) fit the “hunter” profile: aggressive, driven, cold-calling specialists.
  • Only 21 percent of women fell into the “hunter” classification.

“Based on the results, one could suggest that companies looking for an assertive, hungry and determined salesperson may lean towards a male candidate, while women would have a greater edge on dealing with existing clients,” according to PsychTests. “Research, however, doesn’t appear to draw a line in the sand — although Internet polls and blogs are not without their tug-of-war opinions.”

Ball State University Professor of Marketing Ramon Avila gives the edge to women. “In sales, you have to be really people oriented,” he said in a campus news release. “You have to listen and understand the client’s wants and needs. If you can empathize with what they are going through, you are going to do well in sales. Women are generally better at that than most men.”

What Really Matters in Sales

Who’s really best at sales? The bottom line, according to PsychTests, is that experienced salespeople have good social, listening and networking skills — whether women or men. Good salespeople are skilled in prospecting and have a knack for being persuasive.

“Most anecdotal reports and the few studies that are available show no significant difference in sales results based on gender,” said Gary Duncan, principal of Denver-based Leadership Connections, writing for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “This leads to some important lessons for everyone.”

The lessons, for effective sales, according to Duncan:

  • Trust and rapport are always important. “Not all buyers buy the same way, and the best sales professionals adapt to the fears, concerns and buying style of the prospect in front of them.”
  • Validate you intuition. “Questions are the answers because asking solid, well-planned questions contributes to credibility more than anything you could possibly say about your expertise.”
  • Recognize differences in how men and women perceive your offer. “Talk with each before and after your presentation to explore individual needs and viewpoints, so you have a better chance to gain comfort and endorsement from them.”

In short, bring your “A” game.

“While the men in their test population might take a more assertive approach and women take the kind, helpful route, the basic and probably only conclusion one could make is that men and women can, and would likely be, equally skilled salespeople,” according to PsychTests. “It’s all in the approach, it seems.”

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

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