Even if you pitch like a girl, you can win the game.
So says Ronna Lichtenberg, author of "Pitch Like a Girl: How a Woman Can Be Herself and Still Succeed," (Rodale, $23.95).
Lichtenberg contrasts "pink" and "blue" selling styles, which tend to fall along gender lines. Brain research, she says, suggests that women are often better at empathizing, relationship building and multi-tasking, whereas men are "systematizers" who excel at analytics.
"Someone with a pink style is fabulous at opening -- getting the conversation started," she said. "But she may also have more trouble closing, because that's the moment where there's a little relationship strain."
Lichtenberg believes that women can have distinct selling advantages, even in fields typically dominated by men.
In any selling situation -- pitching a proposal, vying for a job or actually selling a product or service -- pink personalities can capitalize on their natural abilities, Lichtenberg says. Still, they need to translate the business benefits into language that a blue mindset will get.
"Speak in numbers, use logic and present one idea at a time," she advises.
A woman applying for a pharmaceutical sales job, for example, should come prepared to say, "Here are three ways I think I could do a good job getting past the receptionist and into the doctor's offices."
Allison Cohen and Dawn Betrus put those abilities to work at the Sewell auto dealerships in Dallas.
Betrus was Sewell's top sales associate last year, and Cohen achieved third place in sales volume.
"It's not like we're the better sex at selling cars," said Cohen, who works at Sewell Infiniti. "But women tend to be softer, a little more emotional. That makes some customers feel more at ease."
Betrus, who works at Sewell Lexus, says some customers are surprised to meet a "Dawn" rather than a "Don" when she turns up for an appointment.
But she doesn't feel she has to "act like a man" to succeed.
"Many women customers will ask specifically for a female salesperson," she said. "I think they feel a woman is a little less threatening."
Betrus and Cohen work in Internet sales, handling customers who first contact the dealership by e-mail. Both think this is a niche in which women might have an edge.
"I think women are very good at putting their feelings into words and communicating by e-mail," said Cohen. "It's all about building relationships."
Cincha Kostman of the Harry B. Lucas Co. also brings a pink touch to her job. She's an agent in commercial real estate, another male-dominated sales field.
With every real estate deal, she said, "You have to keep people moving and keep the process moving along. That takes people skills. I think, generally, women are more communicative and more perceptive about feelings, and that's an advantage."
Kostman says that women in sales should take a lesson from the "good old boys network" but give it a feminine spin.
"We don't need to act like men, but we need to do a better job of networking and building relationships," she said.
To fill the gap, she got involved with Commercial Real Estate Women, a networking and career development organization. Dallas has one of the largest chapters.
Lichtenberg says that sales is a great field for women.
Many salespeople are their own bosses and have flexibility in their schedules. And, she said, results are easily measurable. Even in fields where bias might exist, the numbers don't lie.
Sometimes a female salesperson may have an edge in a male-dominated business simply because she stands out -- like the woman who excelled selling farm equipment. Often, the job put her in a room full of men.
"The customers might have had a little prejudice against women," she said, "but they sure did notice her."