Sharon Roberts

I never cease to be amazed and amused when I see a man greet his good friend, slap him in the belly, and say, “Hey, my friend, from the looks of that spare tire I’d say you’ve picked up about 20 pounds.” His friend laughs, they trade a few more jabs and have a good old time about that extra poundage.

Now, in your wildest imaginations, can you imagine a woman walking up to her friend and commenting about her gaining weight? Absolutely not. Her friend could have gained 150 pounds and there would be no mention whatsoever of the obvious.

And, if she did say something about it, as my grandmother would say, there would be hallelujah to pay for it! She would hug her and exclaim, “Oh, it’s so good to see you!” And, she would mean it sincerely. Would she be concerned about her friend’s health and self-esteem? Absolutely.

I submit to you that women and men react very differently to identical situations. And, herein lies a most critical lesson and a major difference in selling to women.


Women are frequently insulted by questions that don’t bother men a bit. And, since women make or directly influence 85 percent of heating and air conditioning purchases, that just can’t be good for business.

Well-intentioned men who love and respect women repeatedly ask me, “What is a non-insulting way to phrase a question to ask a woman to include her spouse or significant other when scheduling a sales call?”

They are bewildered that women are insulted and angry when asked in a pleasant tone of voice such questions as, “Are their others who will be involved in the decision process?” or, “Will all the adult decision makers be present?”

These questions are off the charts on the order of magnitude of insulting and outrageous to women.

For you gentlemen, please allow me to explain why this is so.

How many of you worked hard and saved your money to buy a car when you were a teenager?

Many of you, I’m sure. For most of you, this was your first major adult purchase. And, for many, your Dad went along with you on this major buying excursion. Who did the salesperson talk to? I’ve been asking this question for about 15 years to groups all across North America and overwhelmingly the response is, “My Dad.” And, not a single man liked it one bit.

Now, imagine that is still happening to you today, lo these 10, 20, 30, 40 years later when you are with another adult when making an important purchase. The first time I was asked, “Will all the other adult decision makers be present?”

I thought it was a joke. I was floored when I saw that it was a sincere question. And, worse yet, that it is being taught in HVAC circles even in 2008! Shocking to be sure, and extremely bad for business.

There simply is no nice way to ask an insulting question. If you believe there is, you’re grossly underestimating your clients’ intelligence.


Here we are in early 2008, and I was in a workshop at an HVAC conference and heard yet another man insisting that you must have the couple together. Please splash some ice water in your face. It’s 2008.

Even if a couple should want to meet with you together, they may not be able to and they surely can’t guarantee it. For goodness sakes, get on your client’s agenda. It’s very good for business.

The second most insulting question is the old foot on the neck, “If after I’m finished and I can demonstrate to you that I can design a safe, efficient system that fits your budget … is their any reason why you wouldn’t make a yes decision tonight?” Men don’t like the foot on the neck approach and women hate it.

Yes, there is a very big reason that a woman will say no to anyone, man or woman, who comes up with this insulting approach. You can design the perfect system and she isn’t about to put a penny in your pocket because you insulted her. She heard you loud and clear state, “Don’t waste my precious time.”

Heating and air conditioning may be your everyday routine, but it surely isn’t hers. This is likely to be her first time to purchase a heating and air conditioning system. The last thing she needs or wants is a pushy salesperson. She’s already been down that path with the smarmy used-car salesman.

Most women are maxed out with family, work, and Lord knows what else. They don’t have the time or interest in dragging out this important process. She does want and need to engage with someone who shares her values, someone who values a relationship, and can provide the ideal solution for her home.

How she is treated in the sales process tells her how she can expect to be treated after the sale. If she gets a pushy salesperson now, it’s downright alarming to imagine how bad it could get when she needs service.

Please etch this into your heart and soul: Women value how they are treated, equally as much as they value your product or service. You’ll love the multiplier effect of all the referrals that you get from these loyal women clients. They love to refer you to all their friends and family.

Just never forget this business building fact: Women do not gossip, they advertise!™

Publication date:03/10/2008