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August 2007

Why Can't A Woman Sell More Like a Man?

I recently watched the classic film My Fair Lady with my 12 year-old daughter. For days later I would hear her singing the words of Rex Harrinson, who was exasperated by Audrey Hepburn's character, whom he'd coached from being a poor London flower girl to become a lovely well-spoken lady: "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

This newsletter won't attempt to go there – but a paraphrase of those song lyrics popped into my head when I thought about the extensive research we've been doing over the last five years to identify the success profile of women professionals (e.g. lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc.) who excel at business development. Many of these women, in fact, don't want to build client relationships and develop new business opportunities in the same way they watch the guys doing it…with drinks, dinner and golf.

However, putting gender differences (or similarities) aside, we do need to pay attention to what some research is showing about professional women's beliefs about the selling process, which does impact their business development practices and behaviors.

We recently did an interactive workshop and used the following exercise: Imagine that you have the great fortune to jump out of bed everyday to work with certain types of clients that have specific types of problems that enable you to practice a certain type of law that you love! Now – answer these two questions:

• First, what is it about this law practice that you absolutely love doing?

• What aspect of your law practice are you really great at doing?

I then asked the women lawyers to share their answers to these two questions with their colleagues. After several interactions took place I asked the participants to talk about the exercise. Overwhelmingly they replied that talking about what they love about their work was easy and fun – but telling someone else what they are great at doing – was hard and uncomfortable.

So we identified a belief that was probably holding at least some of these women back from being as successful as they could be. The belief was this: I shouldn't say out loud, to a group of women colleagues, let alone clients, what I'm really great at doing – Hmmm…I thought – what's wrong with this picture?

The results of this exercise were similar in nature to another female audience I worked with at a large public accounting firm. The firm had committed itself to coach and develop its women partners to become more effective at business development. Prior to its annual U.S. Women Partners Network meeting, senior partners at the firm were asked to identify what they believed were the “ideal sales practices/behaviors” they believed were critically important for all partners to engage in. They used the Sales Performance Assessment™ (SPA) tool, developed by the Management Research Group, which we use for our business development coaching and training programs. Each woman attending the program also completed the SPA self-assessment survey.

At the meeting we presented the “ideal profile” and a composite profile of over 80 participants. In addition, each participant received her own self-assessment scores.

The SPA survey results indicated that top sales performers in that firm were expected to perform well at both Strategic and Tactical Sales Practices, as well as to have a High Market Awareness. While the women's group, as a whole, performed well at being Strategic and having a strong Customer Focus, they needed to, as a group, develop their Optimism, Aggressiveness and Self-promotion practices. If you find it difficult to “sell” yourself how do you expect others to “buy” your product or services?

The issue isn't whether men or women are better at selling. More importantly, both gender groups should follow this straight-forward formula to build expertise and credibility in their chosen field and, then, develop strategies that increase their visibility in their target markets:

Business Development Success = Expertise x Credibility x Visibility

At the end of the day, women and men who are successful at growing their business must demonstrate confidence in themselves, that engenders trust with their clients and customers.

Tips & Tools For Cultivating Loyalist Relationships

• Create your 'calling card': Identify and continue to develop those area(s) of expertise you want to develop in the practice niche you want to work in or the industry you want to focus on.

• Cultivate trusted advisor relationships: Know the strengths, fears and needs of your highest potential clients and customers and continue to reach out to help them!

• Build your tipping point network: Get out from behind your desk and get into the game. Write articles, make speeches, attend events, go to your child's school PTA…and maybe, even, play golf!

“Lynda is an outstanding business development coach whose practical insights can help even the busiest lawyer become better at practice development.”

Sandra Cohen
Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP


The Secrets of Women Lawyers Who Sell Well! Today women lawyers face the challenge of balancing the demands at work for both client billable hours and new business development. And they are asking the question: “Do I really have to do drinks, dinner and play golf (like so many of my male colleagues do) to be successful at getting new clients?”

In this revealing CD, based on her work and research with law firms, Lynda McDermott speaks about what successful women lawyers believe and do to excel at building strong client relationships and gaining visibility and credibility in their marketplace.

Lynda McDermott

Lynda is honored to be one of over 570
Certified Speaking Professionals
in the United States

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