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In praise of sales women of "a certain age"

Image courtesy of Flickr user Raza Vaziri

Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Helen Mirren are all powerful actresses, each with movies in theaters right now, and therefore on the press tour answering the tired question, "Are there any really good roles for women of 'a certain age?'"

Ageist? Yes. Sexist? Sure. It's hard to miss the disparaging statement so thinly veiled in this faux question.

You don't often hear the phrase, "of a certain age," applied to men. Our society has created this dubious category. We can deny it, argue about, or declare its injustice. For today, I choose to celebrate it.

I have the privilege of working with many sales women of this loosely defined category, and I want to write a short list of the fantastic qualities of this elite group.

Arguably, these qualities are not unique to women or to any age. Most good sales people have some of these attributes. But the successful sales women "of a certain age" I know have mastered these skills:

Laugh well and often. Too often a sense of humor is a comment on being funny. Some of the women in my sample are a riot. Some never say anything funny. But every one of them laughs. They break the tension, make friends and change the direction of a conversation by laughing. It seems that they look for opportunities to laugh.

Set boundaries. Specifically, these women have a well-developed sense of what is right, fair and tolerable. You cross that line at your own personal peril. However, if you correct your slight, you are forgiven and can move forward. Usually, these clear lines are set early in sales relationships and the lessons don't have to be taught twice. Of course, this applies internally with their companies, as well as with prospects and customers.

Listen like cellophane. For a study in relaxed concentration and active calculation, watch one of these pros listen. There is a lot worth unpacking in discussing this skill. For now, what I notice most frequently is the clarifying questions they ask. The quality I notice is in the seeking of understanding and precision. The speaker is flattered and the information is better. And we all know that higher engagement leads to good things in the sales process.

Invest in people one by one. Connecting the dots seems to be a consistent skill among these pros. From people to people, to articles, to ideas, to places to vacation, to associations to join -- the list is long. This capacity to discover the interests of people and then facilitate an important connection is frequently a key to their success.

Know it cold. These pros know their business cold. They have stories, examples and case studies that are bang on-point, and come right off the tops of their heads. Sure, lots of people can do that -- but what makes these women more effective is their willingness to declare what will and won't work with absolute confidence based upon their knowledge.

Again, this list is not only found in women "of a certain age." The challenge stands for everyone who sells. From my short, celebratory list, how many of these qualities do you have?

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