REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Do women sell home improvement differently from men? Colette Carlson: Research shows that women excel at rapport-building because of their strong emotional intelligence and empathy. They can sense what someone else is feeling. That’s a great sales tool. But sometimes it can be taken to an extreme, that is, when it takes too long to get down to business. Or when, having established empathy, she encounters some resistance — maybe one party or the other isn’t satisfied with the quote or with what she has recommended — and she hesitates to dive down deeper and then ask for the business.

RC: What’s behind that hesitation?

CC: She feels like she has made a friend, and how do you ask a friend for money? That’s as opposed to coming across as a confident resource who knows what she’s talking about, saying: I have the experience here. I have an incredible offering. And if we work together, you’re going to benefit.

RC: What else should women salespeople be aware of?

CC: They’re selling against type, so there’s a credibility issue. People see the contracting business as a male business. So you can be great at building rapport, but you’re still going against expectations. If you’re a woman, it’s even more important that you know your product. If a male shows up, the homeowner will give him the benefit of the doubt. But when a woman shows up, the homeowner assumes she doesn’t know anything about home improvement — until she proves otherwise. So she needs to use language that increases the sense of her being the expert. Casually mention, for instance, “My seven years in the industry.” Say things that convey credibility.

RC: What inherent advantages does a female salesperson bring?

CC: Her listening skills and an ability to tie down the information in a people-centric way. She’s also going to be a refreshing difference — especially for the male buyer. Now the buyer knows he can take it slow, ask as many questions as he wants, and feel less judged in having things repeated or explained.

RC: There are still relatively few women selling home improvement. Why is that?

CC: We all have a tendency to fall into things we’re comfortable with, and a woman would feel like she has to know the industry and know installation and construction in order to sell the vision.

The other reason is the second shift. Most home improvement selling is done in the evening, and with demands of home and family, female salespeople have already put in a full day. We’d rather pour ourselves a drink and watch the nightly news. But that’s changing.

-Author and speaker Colette Carlson

is an authority on selling to women and on women who sell.