The world of selling is transforming before our eyes and there are many lessons for the taking. The latest focus is on the emergence of social media and the internet and its impact on customers’ purchase decisions. However, to date little light has been shone on lessons learnt by men and women about gender differences and selling.

I recently had the opportunity to present my latest project focusing on women in sales at an AMCHAM event which, to my delight, was sold out. Attended by men and women, although the weighting was in favour of the women, the 2.5 hour interactive workshop presented some of the latest research from around the world on women in sales as well as findings from my many interviews with Australian women in sales careers for my upcoming book, ‘Sell like a woman‘.

As part of the session we discussed the various lessons women and men have learned from each other in the world of selling and there were some interesting findings.

Many of the lessons have been learned through trial and error; however with many more women now participating in the paid workforce there is more evidence to work with.

The workshop highlighted the following from both men and women in sales:

What have women learnt about selling from men:

  • We need to realise that men often treat it as a game
  • We shouldn’t take things so personally
  • We need to make sure we dress sensibly for the obvious reasons, and for practical reasons given some of the environments we may need to go into. i.e. worksites, factories, etc.
  • We need more agility and have the capacity to move on quickly
  • More assertiveness; not aggressiveness, but a calm, positive confidence to hold our own in various situations and speak our mind clearly and firmly. NB: when women behave assertively they can often be labelled as ‘aggressive’ which is not the same, so we would like to be assessed correctly when being assertive
  • We cannot be hesitant to ask for a sale, and be more direct when doing so
  • We need to have greater self belief and stand up for ourselves
  • We need to not be intimidated and hold our own. See assertiveness
  • We need to have more confidence to ‘wing it’
  • We need to make sure we know how to do a proper hand shake; no “wet fish” handshakes

What have men learnt about selling from women:

  • We need to show more empathy
  • We need to give ourselves permission to drop the ‘game face’ and be more real
  • We need to recognise that softness is not weakness
  • We can catch more clients with honey not vinegar
  • We need to learn how to sell more with emotion and combine it with fact
  • We need to take a closer look beneath the surface because women seem to take on challenges that may look too hard initially, but are actually quite simple when they go beyond that first glance
  • We need to be able to listen more effectively which will build our authenticity and genuineness
  • We need to be a lot more enquiring – we need to ask more questions
  • We need to pay more attention to the finer details and look at customers as a whole
  • We need to be more researched
  • We need patience
  • We need to be better organised. Organisational skills = time management
  • We need to bring more creativity to our solutions
  • We need to have conversations, not monologues

As you can see there are some key lessons we can all learn from each other to really make the most of our selling capabilities in the 21st Century. We welcome your feedback as to the lessons you have learnt from men and women in sales. Contact us at

To see how the world of selling has changed, view our YouTube video, The Evolution of Selling.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of

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