How are you selling your products to women?

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We all know the old movie stereotype of the car salesman as he approaches a female customer, wearing a bad suit and leering, “Hey, little lady, what colour car are you looking for?”

It was certainly rooted in at least some reality, albeit from the days of carburetors and four drum brakes. That’s all in the past, but even so, are you doing all you can to approach and sell to women? And even if you are tailoring your tactic, are you fine-tuning it to each shopper? There are a lot of dealership choices out there, and women will take their business elsewhere – and tell others about it - if they think they can’t trust you implicitly. Every customer is unique, but overall, there can be some areas where women may differ from men when they’re in the showroom. Realizing this may be the case, and working with them on it, is the key to success.

They’ve done their homework. Women are more likely to seek advice – both online research and especially asking friends and family - on what to buy, from the vehicle itself, to the financing, to the plans and products available for it. Start with the assumption that they know what you’re talking about; otherwise, you could potentially come across as talking down to them. Try framing it as a choice – “We have two protection plans for powertrain warranty, and I can show you what each one covers.” From there, look for clues that you can go straight to the plans, or need to explain bumper-to-bumper versus powertrain, for example.

They tend to be more practical. Overall, women tend to prioritize a vehicle’s practicality and reliability. They’re often the primary caregivers for children or aging parents, and they’re buying the vehicle as much for others as they are for themselves. An upsell may be far more likely to involve more interior space or convenience features than extra horsepower. The fact that others are depending on them to get to school or appointments may also make them more open to buying service contracts and prepaid maintenance. Emphasize the peace-of-mind, especially if they include roadside assistance or loaner vehicles. All that said, there are female gearheads too. As soon as that’s obvious, switch your tactics. Even if practicality is still a priority, you need to match their enthusiasm for how it performs.

They’re more likely to stick firmly to a budget. They know exactly what they can spend – and they’ve also read enough articles advising them not to tell you how much that is. It will probably become clear once you’ve reached that pre-set number, and from there, there’s little chance you’ll be able to stack extra products on top. Instead, you may consider seeing what you can swap out.  For example, going back to that peace-of-mind preference, you might run a second set of numbers where you take off an item that may be less important to your customer, such as paint protection, in favour of a more comprehensive service contract that costs a bit more but covers far more items.

They are often “the” customer. If a woman comes in alone to shop for a vehicle, treat her as a woman coming in alone. If she needs something that’s practical for children, or she’ll be back later with a partner for a second opinion, she’ll eventually let you know; but if you assume it from the start and that isn’t the case, you’ve lost her.

They want answers to questions they ask directed to them. If a couple consists of a man and a woman, male salespeople often tend to direct more of their attention to the man. That’s human nature, but they need to change that habit. One sure-fire way to alienate a female customer is to listen to her question, and then direct the answer to the man she’s with.

They’ve had poor customer experiences before. Unfortunately, just about every woman can tell you a horror story about a large purchase. Start with the assumption that every female customer is expecting you to live up to at least some aspect of the car-salesman stereotype. Let that guide you as you tailor your approach to their needs.

They want to hear from you after they purchase. Follow up promptly and in a way that fosters discussion. Rather than just, “Do you have any questions?”, you might start with, “If you’d like a refresher on the infotainment functions, please come in and we’ll do that,” or “Your first prepaid maintenance is coming up and it’s a minor checkup and oil change – want to schedule it now?” Women are often more likely than men to rely on friends and family for recommendations. Sell them on your store and your staff, and they’ll be telling others to come and see you.