The 180-Degree Mistake; Opposites don’t always attract
by Gerry Myers

Everyone suddenly wants to hop on the Marketing to Women bandwagon and paint it pink, shout out that they understand women and their needs, and then do the exact opposite of whatever they are doing with their current marketing.

This is true in many industries, including automotive. Some salespeople in their over-zealousness to not offend women often end up doing just that.

Equal but different

Treating women as men—assuming there is no difference in what they want when they walk into a dealership—doesn’t work. Treating men and women as totally different beings or changing your approach 180 degrees doesn’t work either, as many companies have found out by implementing costly programs and policies that have failed. So what does work?

If you are dealing with a couple:

  • Rule No. 1 – Treat both as an individual, male or female, when they come into the dealership.

  • Rule No. 2 – Give both a business card when you introduce yourself.

  • Rule No. 3 – Don’t make assumptions about what the couple’s relationship is.

  • Rule No. 4 – Realize both are your customers. Listen to both, even when they disagree.

  • Rule No. 5 – Find out, among other things, who’s going to be driving the vehicle the most. What are that person’s needs?

  • Rule No. 6 – Answer the questions as they ask them, especially if she asks a question.

  • Rule No. 7 – Listen, listen, listen. Ask questions, and then listen.

  • Rule No. 8 – Realize that most women have done their homework before they enter the dealership, but they frequently take longer to make the purchase than men do.

  • Rule No. 9 – Offer both a test drive.

  • Rule No. 10 – Focus on both people, not just one. Either one can make or break the deal.

  • Rule No. 11 – Once you make the sale, be there for them afterward. That is how you create customers for life.

  • Rule No. 12 – Ask for referrals.

If you are dealing with a woman alone:

  • Rule No. 1 – Treat her as an individual. All women aren’t the same.

  • Rule No. 2 – Don’t ignore her or hover over her.

  • Rule No. 3 – Realize she is probably a knowledgeable customer who is there to buy a vehicle.

  • Rule No. 4 – Don’t tell her to come back with her husband, father, etc. Treat her with respect as a customer capable of buying the vehicle herself. She probably is.

  • Rule No. 5 – Women frequently take longer to make the purchase. They want to check out other dealerships, talk to friends or just think about it. That’s okay. Accept it and follow up with her in a timely fashion.

  • Rule No. 6 – Answer her questions when she asks them.

  • Rule No. 7 – Listen, listen, listen. Ask questions, and then listen.

  • Rule No. 8 – Women are not created equal or the same. Don’t make assumptions about what she wants or needs or how much she knows about cars.

  • Rule No. 9 – Provide her with a professional sales approach. Don’t rush to judgment about whether color or horsepower is more important.

  • Rule No. 10 – Be there for her after the sale. That is how you create customers for life.

  • Rule No. 11 – Ask for referrals.

When to push, when to pull

Being too pushy won’t make sales with women. Sometimes there is a fine line between being too aggressive and making her feel like she is being ignored. Going from one extreme to the other, or 180 degrees, usually doesn’t produce the type of results you want.

Sometimes the best approach is to pull back and let her set the pace. Some women, like men, are quick decision makers; others are indecisive. The object for both parties (female customer and salesperson) is the same: to complete the sale so the customer can drive a new vehicle home.

Switching gears

The concept of the 180-degree mistake is that when the customer is a woman, many companies and salespeople will change from their standard practices to extremes or 180 degrees from what they usually do. For instance, I’ve seen salespeople talk only to the woman and ignore the husband trying to be female-friendly in their sales pitch. Moderation is the better approach. Drastic steps, such as making it pink, having a powder puff car care clinic or patronizing by talking down to women in order not too sound too technical when discussing the vehicle are unsuccessful techniques.

Adjustments need to be made in how you market and sell your products and dealer reputation to women. Don’t make 180-degree changes that take you from one losing premise to another. Look at each woman as an individual who needs and wants your product, has the money to buy it and will help you be profitable in the future.


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