Industry Research

GO LADIES: Entrepreneurs’ Forum Showcases Selling Savvy

Posted on February 10, 2010

INTERNATIONAL LCT SHOW: Each year, female business owners demonstrate how they upgrade the industry through a mix of professionalism, creativity, and class.

LAS VEGAS — The NLA’s 5th Annual Women’s Enterprise Forum at the International LCT Show brought female operators together to discuss new ways to promote their services and attract new clients.

Broken down into two topics, “the elevator speech” and “women in the economy,” the interactive session allowed attendees to come up with ways to enhance their networking skills and to learn more effective ways of selling to women and men.

Newly elected NLA President Diane Forgy, president of Overland Limousine Service in Kansas City, introduced panelists Kristina Bouweiri, COO of Reston Limousine in Sterling, Va., Barbara Chirico, CEO of GEM Limousine Service Worldwide in Woodbridge, N.J., and moderator Naomi Glaser, senior vice president and founding partner of New York-based Valera Global.

Elevator speech raises interest

Audience members were educated on the crucial importance of preparing the perfect elevator speech. Glaser described it as “30 seconds of fame” and explained that it’s important to state how your business is different and your key strengths. “Keep it short, engaging, go for the close.” Where and when to use the speech was also discussed. “You can also use it in email or over the phone, not just in person,” Glaser said.

“You have to know when it’s appropriate. Warm up to the person first,” Forgy said. “Have an opening line to ease into.”

Panelists also shared wisdom on identifying the right audience, and attendees chimed in with their own advice. “Size up their chief concern and address that in your speech,” was one of the tips thrown out.

The panelists also asserted that men and women have different buying styles, and it’s important to know specifically how to sell to each. Women buy with their heads and hearts, Chirico said. “[A woman] wants all the info you can give her on a personal level.”

Glaser said that after exchanging cards, an operator should follow through by sending an email the next day. “I always invite them to our location. I say, ‘what’s different is our people. Come meet the people you’ll be talking to.’ Invite them into your circle. Say you will have a dedicated person on their account, even if you don’t. You have a network of people. Act bigger than you are,” she advised. “I have a ‘Wall of Heroes’ letters, accolades from customers. If women come in, I put family pictures up — your employees as ‘family.’”

Bouweiri added that she sends a follow-up email that includes another copy of her business card and a $50 gift card for three hours, so potential clients can try out her business by using it to go to the airport.

Forgy said that she passes along “something of value, [a resource], like the name of a group you belong to, an article or book you read — make a connection with valuable information.”

The audience got together in groups to practice elevator speeches, one for their own company, and another based on criteria given for an imaginary company given to them by the panelists. A handful of audience members shared their speeches and received helpful feedback from the panelists and other audience members.

Audience tips included:

• Knowing customers birthdays and their significant others

• Emailing the driver’s name and phone number

• Offering cell phone updates

• Letting customers know they are small enough for personal service but large enough to do anything they need.

• Offering full concierge service (making theatre reservations, taking them out to dinner, etc.)

• Staying in contact online after the initial meeting and emailing once a month

• Having a “Loyal Customer Club” Web site

One audience member suggested scheduling time to network into each day. Joining the local Chamber of Commerce and attending its events to draw more business was recommended by one mother-daughter team running a limousine company: “We’ve found that getting out and getting friendly is the best thing you can do.”

Female vs. male buying habits

The second half of the forum was devoted to “The Female Economy,” discussing statistics based on the growing role of women in the U.S. economy, and how to understand the differences between how men and women buy and how to best sell to each group. Women are quickly gaining a larger piece of the economic pie, Glaser said.

“The money is in our hands. Women surpass men in the workplace,” Glaser said. She went on to cite that one-quarter of all married women earn more than their spouses; women make more than 80% of all purchases in the U.S.; control 50% of the wealth — a number that will rise to 66% in two years; and there are more women in college now than men.

“The future of management will be women,” Glaser pointed out. Still, she went on to add that men dominate senior levels at companies and occupy 85% of marketing and purchasing roles. While women may hold much more prominent roles in the marketplace, it’s still important to know how each group is motivated to make purchases.

Glaser explained that “men are designed for single process while women gather more information, and focus on human benefits such as photos, validation, and appreciation. Men are more interested in facts, figures, and graphic representation.”

Forgy said that in her experience, “Men want to get down to business faster. They don’t want small talk. They’re focused on what they need to buy. Women will get back to you.”

“When you do get a woman to buy, she’ll be loyal to you. Men view buying as a negotiation, an opportunity to ‘win,” added Chirico.

“In the elevator speech, I say something personal to women. To men, I say that I grow my business through government contracts,” Bouweiri shared.

Glaser also said that it’s better to ask a male client what he thinks is a good step, instead of, “what do you want to do?” “Men want to feel it was their decision,” she added.

Activities such as golf and wine tours were recommended as good opportunities to do business with both men and women. The fresh air and time with people are added benefits, Bouweiri said. “I do transportation events, and got more limo jobs out of [those],” she added.

— Nicole Schlosser, LCT Magazine

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