Sales Through Relationships

01/31/2007

Last week Jim Ducharme, Senior Evangelist & Community Manager at Sales Spider and I were email volleying about the new Sales Spider site. Our conversation turned to women in sales.

I admit, It sounds so undivshish, but sales is my Achilles heel. While I love to promote clients, I'm uncomfortable, as the Southerners say.  "bragging on myself." I guess that's one of the reasons why I like social media so much. It brings the sell back to the corner grocery store relationship, which I'm much more comfortable with. Sales, especially sales management, has traditionally been a male dominated field. In this new world of doing business through social media,  I thought it would be interesting to ask Jim's opinion about women and "Sales."   

Nice_girls_do_get_the_sale Toby/Diva Marketing - Women have made significant strides in what was considered the “good old boy” world of business. However, there seems to be an area that is still male dominated, especially at the senior management level - Sales. At least that is my perception. Any insights .. or am I wrong?

Jim Ducharme - I would tend to agree that the “old boys network” has dominated sales and continues to do so in the “analog universe”. However, in the digital world gender is less of an issue.

You can’t pen women in and limit their reach and influence online as has been the case in the old world of business because that network no longer controls all media. Women may or may not choose to consider gender as relevant to success and advancement. The freedom of distribution and reach which the Web offers, waters down the influence of the old boys network. You decide what and who you wish to be online. It’s not something which someone else decides on…you make the decision. The power to choose for oneself is really the only power we can consider truly our own.

Having said this I would make the point that far more women are realizing the power which comes from the innate gender based skills they posses when faced with the realization that those skills are no longer as discounted as they once were by those who either did not understand them or feared them or both.

Toby/Diva Marketing - Is there a difference in how women approach selling versus men? Or again is that a stereotyping? If is there what is the good-bad and ugly of  how women sell?

Jim Ducharme - I’ve met all types of sales people and senior sales management of both genders. While you might be able to make the case that women are more naturally oriented to nurturing relationships rather then conquering; I can only answer this specific question based on experience with a variety of sales professionals and mine has been that this is almost entirely a question of the individuals and not gender.

Toby/Diva Marketing - Perhaps it’s more stereotyping, but it would seem to me in an age where relationship selling is the becoming more important, that “feminine skills” would be a strong foundation for women to build on. How can women leverage their talents to develop a successful sales strategy?

Jim Ducharme -  I think good sales is all about relationships. In fact, everything is about relationships isn’t it? Can you make a sale with out making contact? Without listening? Without Empathy? Most of us would not make a major purchase without basing some of the decision on the relationship we have with the salesperson however, one can also wonder if the very nature of direct, self serve sales via the Web are making this entire issue irrelevant. In the future will we all be our own salesperson?

Toby/Diva Marketing - For many people, s-a-l-e-s is scary thought. What advise would you give a small business owner, diva or divo, who is timid about selling.”

Jim Ducharme - Funny thing is that it really isn’t about selling…it’s about telling and it’s about listening – and not necessarily in that particular order. The most basic things you have to do to make a sale is find out (listen) to what people want and then tell them you have it. Obviously there’s a lot more to it then that but, if you are selling something you really believe in (and that’s what most home businesses should be doing online) then the above holds true.

Toby/Diva Marketing - We talk about social media in terms of “relationship build” but not direct sales. Do you think that social media can support a sales strategy?

Jim Ducharme -  Not to sound like a broken record but, sales is all about relationship building. Who buys anything from someone they don’t trust? Social media is perfect for allowing sales and marketing people to demonstrate to huge potential audience that they are talented at identifying client problems/needs, finding a solution and supporting that solution. Sales Spider Networks are a good example of this kind of thing.

Toby/Diva Marketing - Salespider.com is positioned as a free source of sales leads. How do you suggest a person who is new to sales tap into the resources that you are offering?

Jim Ducharme - Salesspider Sales Spider is far more than a leads generator although our lead spider is unique and does offer up over 25 billion in leads, RFPs and RFQs daily for our members to cherry pick from. We also provide classified advertising, job hunting, recruiting, webinars and messaging for our members.

Toby/Diva Marketing - How do you intend to build community into Sales Spider.com where people can feel comfortable “talking” in a competitive environment?

Jim Ducharme - We already have a thriving community at Sales Spider but, with the launch of networks in early February we expect to take that to a level far above anything being done elsewhere. While other social networking for business sites are seeing their numbers level out and stagnate. Our membership and traffic numbers are going right through the roof.

Sales Spider Networks will allow members to have a booth at the biggest 24/7 online trade show on the planet! The communal nature of Sales Spider Networks will lend themselves to women entrepreneurs who understand that the experience of selling and buying is just as important as the outcome.

While men primarily concern themselves with the outcome (victory!), women understand that how you get there is just as important.

I expect that women sales and marketing professionals and home based “iMom” businesses will leverage Sales Spider’s features exceptionally well and find both new opportunities and new markets to service and profit from. I’m excited about the new types of initiatives we will see as women bring their talent and inspiration together and share ideas and encouragement via Sales Spider where they will find a nexus for success.

I’ve been building online communities for well over a decade now and I can honestly say that I’m absolutely thrilled with what we are doing at Sales Spider! Everyday we see yet another example of the power of social networking for business and each day we are reminded that we are building something really fantastic where people can truly succeed. That kind of natural high really makes one love their work!

 Thanks to Elinor Stutz for the graph of her book jack -  Nice Girls DO Get The Sale .. gotta love that title!

Update: Thanks to Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust,  for this resouce - Jill Konrath's blog Selling To Big Companies. If you know of any other Divaish sales blogs or websites please drop a comment and let's compile a resouce list.

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Comments

Any comments on the "guerilla" marketing that paralyzed Boston this week? I KNOW it's something no self respecting Diva would do but should we all expect more of this type of activity?

Posted by: POLLI on Feb 2, 2007 6:36:31 PM

Trying to force gender on sales success is the waste of time that Jim explained when he said:
“I can only answer this specific question based on experience with a variety of sales professionals and mine has been that this is almost entirely a question of the individuals and not gender.”

Jim is confirming that sales people, male and female will achieve sales success by understanding their own unique individuality and placing themselves in sales positions that they naturally enjoy and love to do. If you have the passion for your product or service, you enjoy talking about it and you enjoy listening to others to help them improve, then you make the natural connection that can be defined as sales, but in truth is merely creating the mutually beneficial fit for both parties

Posted by: Bill Dueease on Feb 6, 2007 2:22:06 PM

Successful selling is indeed all about building and maintaining mutually beneficial professional relationships. Not to cast too broad of a sterotype here, but women naturally are relationship oriented. For us guys, it's a learned thing.

I've been selling large industrial equipment for almost 30 years. My best customers are the ones who like and trust me. And that feeling is mutual. The company I work for has been in business 68 years. Our success has been built on relationship selling.

In the engineering department we have one woman. You must understand that the engineers are the sales team for this company. They build and maintain the customer relationships.

When our customers talk about the woman engineer, they rave about how well she listens to their concerns and gets the problem and solution right. They appreciate her perky personality that lights up any room she is in.

The guys get comments like: "Yep, he did OK on this project. Took good care of the problem. Nope, can't think of anything special he did, just good service."

Ultimately closing the sale is about understanding the customers problem and presenting a solution that meets their budget. You never get to that point until you have developed a mutual trust. I think women do that intuitively while men have to be taught it.

Posted by: Don Crawford on Feb 10, 2007 11:11:16 AM

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