Women are utilising ‘I need to check with my husband’ as a way to say no in a sales conversation

Unless you’ve been living under 20 rocks, you have more than likely heard about the #payforprogress campaign. If, on the off chance, you have just emerged from under 20 rocks and are currently staggering around adjusting to the sunlight, here’s an explanation.

The #payforprogress campaign is designed to help business and government implement aligned action to eradicate the economic inequality of women. There are several phases of research planned in the future covering various aspects of the issue at hand, however the first phase has been dedicated to the economic disadvantage of women in business.

As part of the campaign, we’ve been talking to many business owners, multiple of who (both male and female) have reported that women in business ‘frequently’ say they ‘need to check’ with their husbands before making a purchasing decision.

On face value, women saying they need to speak with their husband about purchasing decisions seems like an unsurprising statement in the current climate. The facts tell us that women are economically disadvantaged over a life time for various reasons and are therefore, more than likely to be financially dependent on others. If you'd like a copy of our upcoming white paper that discusses the research around this in more detail, please let us know. However, for the purpose of this article, let's say that assumption can very quickly cloud facts.

The statistics floating around about purchasing decisions vary. Some sources estimate that women make between 70-90% of purchasing decisions and that the majority of women identify themselves as the ‘primary shopper.’ To the contrary, other studies suggest women and men disagree on who is responsible for consumer decision making.

A study by NAB looked into the purchasing behaviour of Australian men and women. Head of Behavioural and Industry Economics, Dean Pearson, concluded that:

“Men and women are clearly both quite important, but their areas of influence are very different. On the balance women probably have greater influence in overall financial decision making.”

With this in mind, we were very interested in reports that women were indicating they needed their  husbands permission before purchasing, so we put the question to the interwebs:

“Women in business with male partners or husbands, do you feel that you have to ask their permission before spending money on yourself or your business (outside of ‘essentials’)?”

35 women responded and the results were interesting:

  • 60% of respondents said ‘no, never’ – they never felt the need to ask their male partner or husbands permission
  • Approximately a quarter of women said they sometimes did, with a few women giving context that both they and their male partners discuss big ticket items with each other
  • The remaining women confirmed that they ‘always’ or ‘often’ asked permission

What came next was most interesting - a few women openly confirmed they use ‘checking with’ their husband as an excuse to exit a sales conversation in circumstances where they had a sales conversation imposed on them (ie. Door to door salespeople), the sales person wasn’t taking no for an answer or they felt otherwise pressured to make a decision. One respondent said it was a shame people believed it to be true.

Seeking responses from a small population of women is not scientifically conclusive by any means, but, combined with other data, it does open intriguing possibilities to further explore.

It’s clear and reasonable that different relationships will have varying decision-making dynamics. It’s also reasonable that there are times when both partners in a relationship will discuss finances and purchasing decisions with each other. However, how many women are potentially saying they need to check with their husbands to exit a sales conversation – and in doing so, perpetuating the idea that their male partners maintain control of the finances? The confirmation that some women feel the need to give the impression that their husband has the final say feeds into the gender stereotype that men’s decisions hold more weight than women’s – that is, “men’s decisions are final.”

What can entrepreneurs take away from this?

Whilst at this stage we're unsure how widespread the use of 'checking with husband' means no is, it's important not to ignore that it's come up and be open to exploring possibilities taking everything into consideration. A great place to start is reflecting on your marketing and sales approaches: 

1.    Sales conversations are not about you selling

The hard sell is dead for a reason so instead of trying to sell to your customers, understand that the sales conversation is about helping them to make the right buying decision for them – even if that’s not with you.

This idea is contrary to many who say your goal is to make the customer say yes. Of course, in business you want as many ‘yes’s’ as possible, however pushing for a ‘yes’ leads to more ‘no’s.’

Enabling a customer to feel empowered in the conversation creates less pressure and more trust which helps you both navigate it more openly together - including any barriers they may have to buying.

2.   Respect a woman’s decision-making authority

Understand that from the moment you create a product or service, through to marketing, selling and delivering, it’s more than likely women hold equal decision-making weight. Never underestimate their influence in purchasing decisions – regardless of whether they are buying cupcakes, finance or lawn mowers.

3.   A woman’s decision is final

Humans are not always black and white, therefore learning to understand what they’re actually saying instead of what they’re literally saying is very important. For example, being able to distinguish the difference between when a potential client is saying, ’no’, ‘I’m unsure’ and ‘not yet’ is crucial in any sales conversation.

The last thing you want to do is take someone’s definite ‘no’ as another angle to try and get a ‘yes.’ In this scenario you are focusing more on your need for a ‘yes’, than the buyers need. A potential customer should never feel like they need to ‘escape’ a sales conversation. This takes the conversation back to hard selling (refer to point 1).

Shevonne Joyce is a humanist who is obsessed with the business of changing the world. She works with female entrepreneurs to help them build brands that are as successful on the inside as they look on the outside. Shevonne is also dedicated to changing the systems, structures and business practices that prevent women from reaching their potential. If you'd like to chat, please get in touch here.

Shevonne Joyce