A young lady was looking to buy a car after saving up and securing a loan from a bank. Having identified the car she wanted, she was soon on the phone chatting up with a sales agent. After obtaining information about the model of the car she wanted, she decided to pay the car company a visit for a test drive and to possibly close the deal.
This should’ve been a usual routine for the sales agent, having gone through countless test-drives with potential buyers. Today’s test drive was however different, as he keenly observed. The lady was beautiful, sassy, and remarkably charming. As he sat on the passenger side of the car, he suddenly noticed her skirt was shorter than normal, helped by the involuntary drag on it as she sat to drive. She was prepared for this, and like she typically does, looking sexy and charming from the first contact. It’s a move that was more designed to charm than to impress.
She had it all scripted, as the negotiations that ensued will show. Whilst sited, she leans forward, briefly touches his arm and says, “You are even more charming in person than you sound on the phone“. Obviously taken unawares and blushing, he awkwardly says, “thank you” as his mind wondered errantly. She winks at him, and asks, “So what’s the best price you can give me”?
Above is a synopsis of a practical experiment conducted by the Society for Personal and Social Behavior (SPSB) called “Feminine Charm: An experimental analysis of its Costs and Benefits In Negotiations”. The research was an attempt to examine the effectiveness of the combination of friendliness and flirtation as a managerial technique in negotiations.
This technique is not new to a lot of us, especially since the advent of the new generation banks and their use of charming ladies in sourcing for deposits. This model has extended to other industries such as insurance, real estate, hospitality, entertainment etc. as most business owners/managers recognize the power of feminine charm in obtaining economic benefits.
Apparently society still view these techniques, no matter the advantages, as an irresponsible exploitation of women, sacrificing their social values in exchange for economic values. For example, a recent study of Nigerian banks reveal that 81% of the women believe that sexual harassment is a major risk faced by female marketers and another 80% face challenges of domestic stress.
Despite legitimate concerns outlined above, feminine charm does prove to be an effective tool in negotiations provided it is used the right way. According to the SPSB research, the relationship between charm and impression was only observed for female negotiators and not male negotiators providing evidence that indeed this tool if used smartly actually help women perform better in the work place.
The research noted that in zero sum negotiations where one person’s gain is another’s loss, women produced better economic returns when perceived as relatively flirtatious and worse outcomes when perceived as relatively friendly. Displaying warmth (friendliness) mostly signals lack of competitiveness for women as men view them as compassionate, friendly and more concerned with making others happy rather than themselves. This effectively makes them weak during negotiations. However, by balancing flirtation and friendliness such that they are seen to be more concerned about themselves, women are proven to make better economic gains in zero sum negotiations.
But what of complex negotiations involving trade offs, which result in both parties benefiting mutually? For example, bank’s customer wants a loan and the marketer is looking to collect deposits. The customer gets the loan and the marketer deposits a result that creates a “win-win” situation. In such situations men viewed women as cooperative when they applied feminine charm skewed towards friendliness than when they appeared neutral. However it did not result in added economic value for women buttressing the need for them to think more of themselves or interest in complex negotiations?
In summary, in a situation where the woman is either the seller or buyer or during complex negotiations, applying feminine charm ultimately yield better economic outcomes provided she is not perceived to be too friendly. “Given that women are generally thought to be disadvantaged in the competitive negotiation domain, emphasizing warmth alone backfires by reiterating the age-old stereotypes that women are not competitive” the report concludes.
A woman who is successful at employing feminine charm to her advantage will more often than not derive economic benefit provided she takes out time to impress the other with her charm without still compromising the selfish intent of satisfying her own needs. If you are selling sophisticated products like insurance where the economic benefits to your buyer are not immediate, women have to rely much more on their flirtatious feminine charm and impressive knowledge of what they are selling to get their prospects to buy.
The young lady ended up getting the car at a 20% discount at the end of the day as the sales agent was more than happy to sell to her at price reserved for corporate customers only.