Photo by Nelson Moy.

According to a recently released survey by Pew Research Center, women are the key household decision-makers. When it comes to deciding on major home purchases, managing household finances, and other decisions, women are very much involved and often are in charge.

The survey found that, for 43 percent of couples, it is the woman who makes more decisions at home. Thirty-one percent of the couples equally divide decision-making. In only 26 percent of couples do men make more of the decisions.

In most homes, the man, obviously, is not the “decider.” When you add the households where women make more decisions with those where women are equally involved, you find that in 74 percent of homes the woman is fully engaged in what that household will buy and from whom.

Looking at the specific area of major home purchases, respondents indicated that 46 percent of couples jointly make decisions about buying big-ticket items. But in families where just one person makes most of the decisions, it’s usually the woman and not the man who has the last word when purchasing a major item for the home - 30 percent compared to 19 percent. (The remaining respondents answered varies/depends or other/declined.)

Among the many dual-income families in this country, the fact that the man often earns more doesn’t mean that he decides more. Two-thirds of all husbands in dual-income families say they make more money than their wives. But among couples in which the man earns more than his partner, women still are more likely to make the decisions in more areas.

What does this mean to the HVAC contractor? It means you can’t ignore the woman of the house. You can’t talk down to her or direct your primary attention to the husband. You have to talk to the woman as an equal in the buying decision, and she may very well be the primary decision-maker.

Even if you are old-fashioned and uncomfortable dealing with women, you better get used to it or you are throwing away a lot of business. When you’re talking to the couple together, you need to address both the man and woman, and you need to answer both of their questions. When the woman says her husband is unavailable and you need to talk to her, you better believe it and you better give her your best sales presentation. Because the husband may not get involved at all, and she may be giving you your one and only shot at the sale.

An HVAC system is definitely a big-ticket purchase, and when you consider the survey numbers above for major purchases, three quarters of the time the woman will be an active decision-maker. And the numbers say that in 30 percent of households the woman will have the final say. If you are not going to take her seriously and deal with her as you would any male customer, you might as well not even show up to make the sales call. It’s highly likely you’re wasting her time as well as your own.

If you haven’t been treating women as “real” customers, the odds are stacked against you three to one in closing the sale. If you don’t want to sell to them yourself, find a salesperson who will. And that salesperson may not be a man; it could be a woman. She may end up becoming the best salesperson you ever had, because she’ll talk to female prospects and customers straight up, and since so many women are important decision-makers, you could see your sales blossom.

Before joining the editorial staff ofThe NEWSover 12 years ago, Greg Mazurkiewicz worked in public relations and advertising for more than 20 years. In this periodic series of articles, he will share some of his expertise in the field of marketing communications.

Publication date:11/03/2008