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To what degree does gender influence our networking and prospecting? Does flirting help us get business? Can it backfire?

That’s the question David Ackert posted today in his blog, where he explores the potential “advantages and risks inherent in playing the gender card.”

The discussion centers on women flirting or otherwise using their “feminine wiles” (to quote the female HR consultant) as an advantage.  David cites various informed opinions, most of whom seem to agree that, done artfully, and acknowledging the potential risks, it’s a potential arrow in the quiver.

I’ll be the contrarian here and emphatically vote “backfire,” i.e., using your gender as a sales asset is a bad idea, period.

Not merely for the valid and important reasons cautioned in David’s excellent post, but rather because anything that focuses the sales interaction on the salesperson is a bad practice.

Simply, the sale is not about you.

It’s about

  1. the impact of the problem you’re solving, which determines whether or not the prospect has to buy anything at all, and
  2. your ability to facilitate a well-informed, confident, sustainable decision among disparate stakeholders.

That last part should give pause to those who believe that they can “read who you’re talking to before you decide to turn on the sexual charm,” as the HR consultant suggested.  Just as most salespeople believe they’re more adept at using humor than they really are, I suspect that most of us believe we have more “sensitive antennae for timing, personality and circumstances to map your prospect’s personal boundaries” than we really do.

Even if you turn out to be good enough at reading the initial stakeholder, almost no B2B buying decisions are made by a single stakeholder. When you include the other decision stakeholders, the likelihood that their attitudes and comfort zone exactly match Stakeholder #1 is very low.

Now you’ve created a misalignment among the stakeholders, which is antithetical to getting a decision.  Without a decision, you’ve got nothing but a clogged pipeline.

Forget playing the gender card in favor of the “important problem” card.

Mike O'Horo