Sales Women versus Sales Men – Empathy and Ego-Drive

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I recently bought the book entitled “Harvard Business Review on Sales and Selling”. I just read the selection called “What Makes a Good Salesman” by David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg. The authors advocate that great salesmen have both empathy and ego drive. The authors stated that the ego-driven salesmen see closing a deal as a conquest.

The article had me wondering how empathy and ego drive varies between women who sell versus men. I am active in many women small business advocacy groups. I am forever on a quest to find out how women business owners can increase their sales. On the face of it, I believe that we may lack the ego drive. Of course, I needed the scientific evidence to prove it.

The ego is our concept of self. So, if we are ego-driven, we see how our actions and accomplishments reflect on our concept of self. If we have high sales, then that is a direct reflection on our concept of self – i.e. we are winners.

Well, I did some digging and found a 2008 Newsweek article entitled “He’s Not as Smart as He Thinks”. The article reported the results of a study by British researcher Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London. The study focused on how women and men perceive intelligence versus real IQ scores. Men had greater egos and thought they were smarter than their IQs indicated. Women perceived men to be smarter than women. Furnham attributed it to the “male hubris and female humility effect”. Men are more confident about their IQ; while on average, women underestimated their IQ scores by about five points.

If the male’s ego or self concept were the same in the sales arena, the men would be more confident and more ego-driven and would sell more. Women on the other hand tend to be more empathetic – but need to be more ego-driven and confident. Furnham wrote, “I think that many of the self-help gurus argue incorrectly that improved self-esteem increases performance. Helping people to perform better increases their self esteem.” In sales, besides the need for both empathy and the ego-drive, Mayer and Greenberg also advocated the importance of training.

A Sport Journal article entitled “Gender Differential in the Goal Setting, Motivation, Perceived Ability, and Confidence Sources of Basketball Players” noted results of a study of male and female players. The researchers studied the differences in goal orientation, perceived motivational climate, perceived ability, and sources of sport confidence. Male participants in the study recorded higher scores than female participants did for the sport-related confidence variables perceived ego climate, perfection of skills, and physical performance. Men had higher confidence in their skills and performance perceived prior to competition.

Similarly, I believe that women business owners can increase their confidence for sales competition with sales training in order to couple the motivational force of an ego drive with our empathetic, nurturing tendencies. Women simply need to want and need to persuade others and make the sale in every personal way. I still hear many women business owners state that they’ll do the work for free because they love the work so much and they want to help customers so much. These women are motivated by service. To be successful in sales, they need to be motivated by persuading others to buy their products and services. Perhaps women business owners with low sales should reprogram themselves and set aside child hood or other experiences that socialize them to be humble servants; and to not be assertive and persuasive. They have to change the way they perceive themselves.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, and social media marketing strategic plans.

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