What women want and why you should care
Front PageFeb 18, 2013
Women are taking over the world. More 20- and 30-something-year-old women are graduating from professional schools, starting their own businesses and earning higher incomes than their male cohorts. The rise of “girl power” has also played out on the real estate stage; it was young professional women who largely fuelled the recent condo boom and heightened the demand for better quality appliances, finishes and security systems.
Given this socio-economic shift, it is not surprising that economists, marketers and business gurus warn corporations that failing to understand what women want will negatively impact the bottom line. This same warning extends to anyone in the real estate industry. Yet, 91 per cent of women still feel that traditionally male dominated industries just don’t get them. This means that most real estate agents and developers are failing to understand what women want.
One example of the disconnect between the real estate industry and women is its use of aggressive sales tactics developed by and for men. Women are turned off by pushy real estate agents urging them to buy or sell. They also feel alienated by hype-filled ads; an advertising approach frequently used by both sales agents and developers. Yet, such “deal-closing” approaches still persist. Could the reason for this disconnect be that women are just too complex?
As a woman and a professional, I initially cringed at Harvard’s 2001 claim that women are complicated. After all, it is unfair to make sweeping generalizations about either gender; I know many women who couldn’t care less about design and many men who are very in touch with their feelings.
But after reviewing several reports built on a decade of scientific research, I had to concede there is some truth to the stereotype. I’m glad I did because knowing this enhanced my customer service and customer base.
To sum up Harvard’s research: a woman’s brain is more complex than a man’s. A “complicated” brain (i.e. a woman’s), however, is no more or less intelligent than an “uncomplicated” brain (i.e. a man’s). This difference simply means that how a woman’s brain processes information affects what she considers to be valuable when she makes a decision. And this, ultimately, affects what she wants.
Generally, a woman’s brain is more complicated than a man’s because it contains more white matter than a man’s. This difference in composition is important because grey matter processes information while white matter integrates information and makes connections between information. Accordingly, as a woman makes a decision, she will make connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information, such as emotions and price, while a man, in most cases, will not.
A woman’s brain also draws stronger connections between pieces of information because, unlike a man’s brain, to process information she not only uses different sections of her brain, but also both the left and right side of her brain. By virtue of this thought process, a woman is more likely than a man to consider long-term and future goals, rather than her immediate needs.
Before making a purchasing decision, a woman requires a lot more detail about a variety of tangible and intangible factors. For example, if your female client is debating over whether or not to buy a condo, she will likely consider whether or not you and the developer share her values; if she can identify with the condo’s “brand”; what her friends think about the purchase; the “feel” of the condo; the price point; the length of time she’ll live in the condo; the features (upgrades, finishes, security system, parking); and if the condo fits with her current and, more importantly, future lifestyle.
To further illustrate the gender difference, compare the female client’s list with the typical list of a male client. His check-list will be much shorter: “Is it going to reduce my commute time to work?”
He will also be more willing to sacrifice on the details if the purchase fulfills what he needs. For example, your male client will do without the hardwood upgrade and will pay a little extra for a condo because it is closer to his current place of employment. Other factors such as the opinion of his friends, his long-term goals and brand identification will all take a back seat in the male client’s home-purchasing decision.
Since women are taking over the world, I suggest you take the time to truly understand what she wants. And this can be done simply by:
• Not making the mistake of thinking that all women like pink and a want a big shoe closet. Ask her about her values, belief and life philosophy;
• Considering whether or not you and your client share the same values, beliefs and life philosophy. Women site personality and brand image as important factors in their decision-making process;
• Learning about the “story”, values and brand behind the developer, home builder or neighbourhood and identifying if your client’s values align with theirs. For example, find out if environmental sustainability is important to her or if she struggles with work-life balance and needs her condo to also have a concierge service or spa;
• Determining with whom your client is or will be consulting and discuss with her their thoughts or opinions;
• Identifying your client’s short-term and long-term goals and making sure that all properties align with these goals;
• Listening to what your client wants. For example, ask her to identify what was specifically wrong or right with the property;
• Speaking with your client and not at your client when explaining the features of your brokerage or the property. For example, ask her whether or not she liked the design, functionality and feel of the property;
• Excluding from all advertising and promotional material hype and “catchy” slogans.
Instead, explain to your client what you can do to help her achieve her goals or how a piece of property meets her needs; and
• Treating your clients with honesty, respect and as individuals and promptly responding to any queries. Women buy the entire experience as well as the final product.
While going the extra mile to understand your female client may not guarantee a sale, it will, at the very least, increase your appeal to the public at large. This is because, by providing women with more details about a home or your services, you’re also providing men with more incentives to buy from or work with you. For example, men concerned about school ratings or design will gravitate towards you, rather than to another agent or developer who is not providing such information.
If you’re still having trouble “getting” women, then you may want to speak with your female clients or friends and see which of your current sales techniques and marketing efforts they like best. Ask for feedback on your website and customer service. Ask what they’d like to see in the future. This process not only gets you important information, but also shows your clients that you care. After all, you don’t need scientific research to tell you that both women and men love to be heard and to be appreciated.
Natalka Falcomer is an award-winning graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. She worked in real estate, landlord and tenant and employment law and is currently the host of Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice, a live legal call-in show on Rogers TV. She is pursuing her career in real estate with a focus on residential sales and income properties.