Men & Women Solve Problems Differently. Therefore, They Shop & Buy Differently

Holly Buchanan, author of The Soccer Mom Myth, posted an interesting article on her website Marketing to Women Online. It was an article written by a man, Aaron Traister, about What Men Love About Women. As she read through the article she noticed a very interesting point. One that I too found entertaining. Here is the excerpt from Mr. Traister’s article on MSN which talks about how men solve problems versus the way that women solve problems:

We love how you solve problems.
The rabbi describes the way his wife tackles obstacles as full of drama: She rages, she cries, she internalizes everything. Her system of problem-solving takes a long time and involves making everything personal and leading with her emotions in a quest to see how she would feel about each possible solution. It is apparently a very stressful process. In contrast, the rabbi’s problem-solving method is to just try to find the fastest fix. When I asked him why he preferred his wife’s method, he said it was because “her decisions always end up being the right ones, whereas mine always end up being the quick ones.”

Interesting, isn’t it?? A marketing layman (the Rabbi) has understood and found value in the differences between men and women’s problem solving techniques; yet most marketers lump their customers together into a genderless group and assume everyone thinks the same way. You’ve heard what they say about assuming, right?

Now, here is an excerpt from Ms. Buchanan’s blog where she explores the science behind the difference in decision-making and how it relates to buying behavior. (On a side note, if you don’t read her blog, you should. This lady’s one smart cookie.)

Brain differences between men and women

Science has proved that men and women have different brains.  This article talks about the differences:

In 2001, researchers from Harvard found that certain parts of the brain were differently sized in males and females, which may help balance out the overall size difference. The study found that parts of the frontal lobe, responsible for problem-solving and decision-making, and the limbic cortex, responsible for regulating emotions, were larger in women.

Hmmm…..so let’s look at what our What Men Love About Women rabbi story said:

Her system of problem-solving takes a long time and involves making everything personal and leading with her emotions in a quest to see how she would feel about each possible solution.

Women have larger areas of their frontal lobe, responsible for problem-solving  and decision-making.   They are indeed  planning ahead, visualizing multiple solutions and using that female brain processing to put more time and effort into a decision or problem solving process.   (aka, taking a long time)

We also see that the limbic cortex, responsible for regulating emotion, is larger in women. Women have more connections to the emotional centers of their brain.  They tap into that emotional center when making decisions (aka, leading with their emotions).

What’s interesting to me is, while the language used to describe a woman’s problem solving process is often negative, the end conclusion is, “her decisions always end up being the right ones.”

Be aware of a woman’s buying process when you are selling to her

Understanding a woman’s buying process is crucial when you are in a sales situation.

  1. Give her enough time – if a woman says “she needs to think about it,” she is not saying no. Women complain that men move in too soon for the close.  If she’s not ready to buy, ask her “do you have any questions or concerns I haven’t addressed?” to see if she is missing crucial information, then let her go do her processing and set up another appointment.  She will appreciate this!
  2. Make an emotional connection-  Ask her questions, find out everything you can about her situation, her concerns, the people her decision will affect.  By asking questions and really listening to her answers, you are building trust – the most important emotion in a sale to a woman.

By understanding the differences between how men and women make buying decisions you can accommodate each gender’s preferences – aka, sell more stuff.

Like I said, she knows her stuff and I couldn’t have put it better myself! Thanks for your insights, Holly!


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Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

8 Responses to “Men & Women Solve Problems Differently. Therefore, They Shop & Buy Differently”

  1. Great points!
    It’s interesting, when I asked a group of women recently what they would like men to know about how to network with them, they ALL said ‘get to know us before you try to sell to us!’.

    I would also add that I had an interesting experience in buying a car 10yrs ago (haven’t bought one since!). I literally went through 9 salesmen before I found the perfect #10. The first several completely disregarded me, as if I wasn’t the decision maker. Two completely ignored what I said. (I told both of them I did not care what was under the hood and not to show me, and they did). Then the most baffling (as a salesperson myself at the time), the majority refused to ‘close’. They said “ok, well go home and think about it, and let me know, Bye!” Ironically, I DIDNT want to think about it. I was sick of thinking about it!
    What was so magical about #10?
    He listened.
    He HEARD what I said.
    He did say ” I understand that you don’t care about the engine, but there are a couple of important things you might want to know. Is it ok if I show you?”
    After showing me the cars, and narrowing it down to one, he simply said “If you are ready to go ahead and make this one yours, I’ll be happy to get you started, if you’re not that is ok too. What would you like to do?”

    Ironically, in this case I didn’t need to process anything. I had been processing for weeks! I just wanted to be done with it and move on. He allowed me to do that without making me feel pushed.

    Thanks for the discussion ;)

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  3. [...] week I received an email from a former male client in response to one of my recent blog posts – Men and Women Solve Problems Differently. Therefore, They Shop and Buy Differently. He and I worked together for quite a few years and during that time we were always honest with each [...]

  4. “The study found that parts of the frontal lobe, responsible for problem-solving and decision-making… were larger in women.”

    Yeah I agree with that.

    No wait, no I don’t .

    Maybe I do…

    On other hand…

    Course there’s always…

    But then again…

    Yeah, what my wife said…yeah that’s the ticket.

    “Give her enough time – if a woman says “she needs to think about it,” she is not saying no”

    I think that is a MAJOR misconception among the male of the species…

    A great sociological experiment which may have already been done is to watch how a man and woman buy something men consider somewhat innocuous…a greeting card…

  5. My empirical data shows that men are bent on DIY when faced with a problem while women believe in expertise. This leads to the difference in purchasing decisions: products vs services – men buy tools to solve the problem while women prefer to hire professionals skilled at using the right tools.

  6. [...] one thing, it’s scientific. We talk about it more here, but essentially women’s frontal lobe, the area in the brain responsible for problem-solving and [...]

  7. [...] She-conomy » Men & Women Solve Problems Differently. Therefore, They Shop & Buy Differently We love how you solve problems. The rabbi describes the way his wife tackles obstacles as full of drama: She rages, she cries, she internalizes everything. Her system of problem-solving takes a long t… [...]

  8. I work in Human Resources. I manage people and run teams. The insight in this article goes way beyond merely teaching folks how to sell to women. It can be embraced by anyone who works with women in a decision making capacity. I am going to consciously apply these principles the next time I need consensus in a group containing women or when a need a response from a female coworker. This will also assist me in understanding my own decision making process when called for by men, i.e., why am I reacting negatively to the request.

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