He stormed out of the store, mumbling how he would never return. Yeah, it was our store, and I was in the department that made him so angry.
I was talking with the baby department staff about the new items I saw at a recent trade show. At some point he slipped into the department unnoticed. The three of us continued our conversation, pausing briefly to greet the customers we saw, offering assistance as needed.
But we never saw him. And he never came over to talk to us. He just left angry that no one bothered to help him with a question he had. He even made a few comments as he left about how my grandfather would never have treated him that way. Ouch.
Frankly, we never saw him enter the department, otherwise we would have greeted him as we did everyone else. Then again, he never came up to us, even though he came in with a question to be answered. Which is the point I want to make.
Men and women shop differently because they communicate differently.
Men speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? For a man to ask a question is to admit that he doesn't know, which makes you think lower of him. That's why we guys don't want to stop and ask for directions. It is also why he entered our department with a question, saw the three of us conversing, and avoided us hoping that we would see him and engage him separately. That way he would have the upper hand in the conversation and wouldn't have to engage three of us at once.
Women, however, speak more horizontally. Did what I say draw me in closer or push me further away? Asking questions just draws a woman into the inner circle and makes her feel like she belongs. She wants to ask for directions as much as a man doesn't want to ask.
A woman with a question in a retail store will usually ask the first person she sees and keep asking until the question is answered.
One quick way to remedy the male aversion to asking for help is signage. Put answers to the most frequently asked questions on visible signs where someone might pose those questions. Not only will the men thank you, the introverted women will appreciate those signs, too.
Just watch a man in a store. He walks in, stops, looks around to get his bearings. What is he looking for? Signs to tell him where to go next. He finds his sign, heads off and continues his search. If he doesn't find what he wants, he looks for another sign. Even when someone asks if he needs help, his gut reaction is to say no. He wants to figure it out before having to admit he doesn't know.
Paco Underhill, author of the fabulous book Why We Buy has highlighted this behavior from countless hidden camera recordings.
Men and Women Do Shop Differently
When you approach men (and today's example is a reminder that you have to approach them), they want to speak vertically. Make them feel important and smart and you'll be able to engage them in a way that gets them the help they need without them feeling bad about it.
Women, on the other hand, just want to be part of the inner circle. Invite them in and you'll be golden in their eyes.