Several years ago, the septic field at our house needed repair. Unfortunately, it needed more than just a little adjustment. In the end, it had to be totally redone.

You just don't forget costly home expenses like that. Instead of getting a boat that summer, we had a septic field put in for the same price.

Hopefully, one of the salesmen who came to the Skaer residence to give an estimate concerning that costly septic field learned a thing or two about how to deal with women as customers.

In this instance, the salesman totally disregarded my wife, which is a big no-no. In fact, when the man approached our house, my wife was in the front yard. The first question that came out of his mouth was, "Is your husband here? I came to talk to him about your septic field."

I will never know if that company could have ever done the job. From the start, my wife was totally turned off by the salesman. He never recovered from his initial mistake.

At the time, had I known about Selling to Women & Couples, I would have mailed off a copy of this book to the dubious salesman, enclosing a simple note: "Please read this in its entirety." Sharon Roberts, the author of this 90-plus-page publication, addresses the issue of how people can more effectively sell to women. As she well knows, well-meaning salesmen are driving sales away, often without even knowing why.

Does this sound like you?

Take It From Experience

Lately, Roberts has been passing along her helpful words of wisdom at various HVACR association meetings and functions. Recently, she was the keynote speaker at the 2004 Peak Performance Rally, put on by International Service Leadership (ISL) in Nashville, Tenn. Something tells me that the ears of attendees are still ringing from the earful Roberts gave to ISL members.

In short, Roberts does not mince words. As she explains in the introduction of the above-named book (and she echoes this same sentiment at the start of her training sessions):

"Right up front I should make it clear that this book has nothing to do with ‘political correctness.' This is apparent from the fact that women involved in sales tell me that the concepts discussed in the book have helped them as well. The real issue is about treating women as serious buyers and, in so doing, gaining access to a huge market that you may previously have had little access to, or perhaps, thought you had access to."

She adds:

"The truth is, many salesmen are genuinely confused as to how to approach today's women. Most do not understand how a woman makes decisions or appreciate the significance of her role in a joint buying decision. Salesmen regularly misinterpret the woman's listening style, including the verbal as well as the nonverbal signs. What they misinterpret or just plain don't know about selling to today's woman is literally costing them a fortune in lost sales."

If you don't believe that, consider yourself one of the "ill-informed."

It's A Big Deal, Guys

So what is the big deal? Roberts is glad you asked.

First of all, she points out that it's important to know that there are 97 million women in the United States, 57 million of which are in the workforce. As Roberts emphasizes, these women are making millions of independent buying decisions every day.

Writes Roberts: "But even when making joint buying decisions with a male companion, they are major influencers - having the power to veto a sale whether it appears they have control over the finances or not. For example, women purchase over 50 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. today and influence the sale of 85 percent. Whether you are selling products or services, you simply can't afford to ignore this huge, growing market."

Maybe by now you are ready to take Roberts' advice. Unfortunately, I cannot condense this touchy subject in this limited space. Rather, I encourage contractors to put this book on your "must read" list. And, while you are at it, give it to your salespeople - male and female. It's not a huge book; it really is concise and to the point.

You can't afford to disregard its content. Honest.

To order a copy of "Selling to Women & Couples," call 972-596-2956, or send an e-mail to

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 06/21/2004