A cartoon I saw recently shows a male advisor pitching a woman prospect from across the desk. He’s explaining all the facts and figures about markets and indices and asset allocation models.
Next panel: She’s left his office, and he’s pumping his fist in the air saying, “Nailed it! I told her everything she needed to know and I’m sure she’ll become a client.”
The final panel: She’s leaving the building thinking, “There is no way I’d turn my money over to someone like that. He didn’t ask a thing about me and my family.”
What do women want, anyway? It’s an age-old question that Freud famously asked, and many advisors are still seeking the answer. The fact is that women and men are different – the key to working and selling to women is understanding who they are as individuals – and who they are physiologically.
It’s true that generalizations about men and women can lead us astray. For example, here’s some generalizations I’ve heard about women: women don’t like sports, they all love shopping, they take longer to make decisions, and they favor security over everything else when it comes to investing. Those are generalizations based on assumptions – and, assumptions often cause disconnects. But sometimes there’s actual scientific data to back generalizations, and then it’s worth paying attention. Here’s a few studies I’ve seen in the literature.
Women want to connect. A key to understanding women is understanding their brains. A study at University of California at Irvine in conjunction with scientists from the University of New Mexico found that men’s brains have 6.5 times more gray matter (information processing) and women’s brains have 10 times more white matter (connection facilitating). While these findings have nothing to do with levels of intellect, they do seem to impact decision-making. If you are like the fact-oriented advisor in the cartoon, you may turn most women off by ignoring their lives and the important people in their lives. That’s one reason why 70% of widows fire their family’s financial advisor within one year of their husband’s death.
Women want to converse. Yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking: women talk too much. Despite the widespread belief that women talk more than men, there is evidence to the contrary when women and men are together. Two researchers from Canada did a meta analysis in which they reviewed 63 studies found that women talked more than men in only two of those studies. They also found it has nothing to do with status: Even when women hold influential positions, they often find it hard to contribute as much as men to a discussion. If you are a male advisor, remember this research when you meet with women prospects. It’s important for you to draw her out and give her a chance to tell you what’s on her mind. And if you are meeting with a couple, that doubles the problem. Ask them whether there is anything that they’d like to share with you about their lives, and whether there are any changes that you should know. Solicit answers from each of them, and you may be surprised what you learn.
Women love cooperation. A study at Emory University found that women like cooperation even more than chocolate! The (male) scientists used an MRI brain scan in an experiment that alternated cooperation and conflict. They found that women’s brains light up with pleasure during cooperation. And the longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly the blood flowed to the pathways of pleasure! This study may explain women’s well-known attraction to group endeavors – book clubs, bunco groups and the like. Women love to join groups, give advice, and help each other to succeed – because they’re wired for it. Consider starting a women’s advisory board for your practice. Invite your women clients and their friends to gather together as part of a decision-making team to give you feedback on how you work, or weigh in on changes you may be considering. Be sure to invite your women clients who are experiencing rough spots in their lives, so they can enjoy the support of other women as they go through transition.
Women welcome conflict. Does this one surprise you? According to researchers at the University of Arizona, while men have a reputation for being more combative in general, women often welcome conflict in a relationship. When problems arise between couples, they found that men wanted to appease their partners quickly. On the other hand, women used the conflict as an opportunity to communicate and probe to get at the root of the problem, rather than brushing it off or covering it over. When you work with couples, you may find an undercurrent of conflict about money between them. According to psychologist Olivia Mellon, “Money usually represents so much more than dollars and cents. It is tied up with our deepest emotional needs; for love, power, security, independence, control, self-worth.” Rather than ignoring troubling conflicts, ask open-ended questions that let both of them bring those feelings out into the open where they can be dealt with.
Women love collaboration. In a study of 600 corporate board directors published recently in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics, the researchers found that women tended to use collaborations and consensus-building more than men. Another study published in The American Political Science Review found that in groups where men outnumber women, those groups that utilize collaboration and consensus see greater female participation. If you use collaboration and consensus-building techniques with your female clients, especially when in mixed group settings, you’ll likely see the woman becoming more engaged and involved.
Over the past twenty-five years we’ve developed many successful non-profit programs at WIFE.org. , and it’s nice to know that according to neuroscience, when it comes to the differences between male and female brains what we’ve been doing seems to get to the “heart of the matter.” I hope that applying the above tenets to your practice will help you attract and retain women clients and lead to greater returns.
The Women’s Institute for Financial Education, WIFE.org, was founded in 1988 by nationally renowned wealth experts and advocates, Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall. They were recently named KPBS Local Heroes as part of Women’s History Month, and are engaged as speakers by State Treasury Departments presenting financial seminars for women. Additionally, they are the founders of the critically acclaimed Second Saturday Divorce Workshops, which have helped nearly 10,000 individuals navigate divorce, and soon will be rolling out nationally.
To see if you qualify to become a part of the growing Women’s Choice Award® Financial Advisors network of advisors working in the women’s market, fill out the pre-qualification questionnaire).