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The Parental Problem

The social cues women receive throughout the years play a role in our reluctance to discuss money.

An adult’s hang ups about money are largely formed in childhood. You observed how your parents handled money and developed your own money concept from that.

       I grew up in a family where money was tight and never discussed. I observed my mother cutting grocery coupons from the newspaper, and what we ate that week depended on what was on sale. As kids we learned the importance of saving when we went with our parents to the bank to open a savings account and got our very own deposit book. “A penny saved isa penny earned,” I was told. “It is impolite to talk about money.” “It is not ladylike to ask someone if they are rich.” “Lorraine, don’t be so nosy. It is none of your business.”

         My friend Michelle grew up in a family with lots of money. On shopping sprees her mother would be concerned about the quality of the clothing and say things like, “Honey, I think that dress is too cheap. Let’s look for something better.” Going out to dinner was frequent, and Michelle could order whatever she wanted. Messages she received included: “Quality is more important than price.” “Don’t worry about it; buy what you want.”

         Fast forward to both of us as sales professionals. I struggled for years when it came time to talk about money with a buyer. Once when I came back from a sales call, I talked it through with my boss Paul. I shared the buyer’s problems and our agreement that I would put together a proposal. Paul asked me what their budget was. I said, “They don’t have a lot. I can tell because their office is very stark. We are going to have to come in at a low margin if we want to win this business.”

         “Lorraine,” Paul said, “I did not ask about their office décor. I asked what they have and are willing to spend to address these problems. What is their budget?”

         I told him I did not ask that question since I did not feel comfortable and did not want to make the buyer uncomfortable. I felt it best if I gave them a basic low-cost solution.

         Paul shook his head, “Without being on the same page regarding budget, you are headed toward disappointment or at best a long sales cycle. Call the owner now and ask the money question.”

         Making that call was one of the most agonizing and uncomfortable I’d ever had to make. I had Mom on my shoulder telling me, “It is impolite to talk about money.” Every part of me was fighting the conversation. But I made the awkward call and learned they had set aside a budget that was more than I expected.

         Michelle, who grew up with money, also does not bring it up in her sales calls. The difference is that she assumes money will be no object. She is constantly surprised when she presents a solution and it is “way, way more” than what the buyer is expecting.

Social Cues

The social cues women in particular receive throughout the years play a role in our reluctance to discuss money. Only recently has there been a strong effort in schools to encourage girls to pursue math and science. Many women I know rely on others to handle financial planning in order to avoid it all together. The news has reported on studies that predict that while women live longer than men, we do it in a much poorer state financially. For some saleswomen, the product they sell is too expensive for them to buy themselves, so they assume it’s too expensive for their buyers.

All of these forces converge to impact our approach to the Budget Step of the qualification process.

The preceding is adapted from The Unapologetic Saleswoman:  Breaking the Barriers, Beating the Odds by Lorraine Ferguson ©2018 by Sandler Systems, Inc. and published with permission from Sandler Training.

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