I recently phoned a local Barnes & Noble bookstore and asked the man who answered to reserve a book for me titled, "What Women Really Want." There was a brief pause and he responded with a nervous laugh, "I'm guessing that's a really thick book." I laughed and he did too, sounding rather relieved I might add. I considered telling him I also had a dog-eared copy of "What Could He Be Thinking?" but I didn't, since many men would just as soon women skip the small talk.

Have you noticed that women have a story to tell you? I've been asking that question for 13 years to audiences throughout North America and some men's eyes literally roll back in their heads.

Talk about your pained expressions, that question will do it every time, at least where men are concerned. I do not intend to be cruel or carelessly inflict undue pain, but gentlemen, you really do need to hear her story, that is if you want to grow your sales.

Why? Because, you see, inside her story is everything you need to know, what she most wants to happen, as well as the nightmares she prays will not happen.

What I'm talking about is more than psychology or sociology. It's deeply rooted in neurology. Both women and men have powerful chemicals at work in their brains. One of these chemicals is oxytocin, and we now know women have much more of it than men.

Oxytocin is a powerful bonding chemical that drives women to connect, to engage with you. As her oxytocin is rising and she's talking things out, telling you her story, she is feeling better and better - that is, if it appears to her you are listening.

Women and men listen differently and it's a difference worth understanding if you are serious about growing sales. What you misunderstand can cost you plenty. Many men maintain a neutral, some would say blank, facial expression when women are telling their story, explaining what's important to them.

And, gentlemen, neutral looks to her come across to her as not listening, don't care, or shut up. Many men have told me that their neutral facial expression is their "listening face." It may be, but it looks like not listening and not listening is the worst form of condescension.

Sadly, many step right up and acknowledge they don't listen, or only half listen to pick out the important information, choosing to dismiss the so-called small talk as meaningless chatter.

Now there's a tactic that's guaranteed to cost you sales!


Choose to be an active listener, engaged and interested in what matters to her. That will make the pain go away, I promise. Put some expression in your face, look her in the eye, and let her know you are listening. How? Ask checking questions to confirm that you understand exactly what she meant. Repeat what she said to give her the opportunity to confirm or clarify your understanding.

For example, when she tells you she hears a tapping noise when the furnace is on and it's driving her nuts, that isn't silly, mindless chatter. Please don't dismiss her concern because you know this problem is easily resolved. Acknowledge her concern and the aggravation - then solve the problem.

On the other side of the table, when men are talking to women, women will often smile and nod and frequently say "uh-humm."

What does all this smiling and nodding mean? Some men have told me they believe a woman's smiles mean, "She wants me!" She may indeed want you, but there's a greater chance she's simply a polite listener. Go with the polite listener point of view, please.

Many men tell me they think smiling and nodding means, "I like what I'm hearing, tell me more." Others think it means she's clueless, and it's going right over her head. Women will often keep smiling and nodding while on the inside saying, "I can't believe this guy. He's talked for 10 minutes and hasn't asked me what I think or how I feel about that. What a jerk!" And, he's probably not a jerk. He sincerely believes she's given him every signal to provide more information.

So, how can you know what she means or what she wants?

Ask. Ask her questions and then do the toughest thing: Be quiet and listen carefully as she responds. And, do let her finish her thought or idea. Resist the urge to jump in and interject a solution for her problem. She values the gift of your attention so you can hear and understand her unique situation. It's not small talk. It's big talk if it matters to her - and that translates into big dollars!

Speaking of small talk, she'll be e-mailing and phoning up her colleagues - talking about how wonderful you are to do business with. And, that's advertising money can't buy!

Women actively search throughout their network of women and men colleagues, friends, and relatives for contractors who have a track record of engaging in capable, caring, and committed business relationships. Now you know why I always leave my audiences with this business-building fact: Women do not gossip, they advertise!â„¢

Sharon Roberts is a consultant who specializes in selling to women and couples. Please send your questions or comments to Sharon@r2assoc.com.

Publication date: 01/23/2006