Retail will die. Harsh words, I know. Managers and business owners need to focus on listening to what their people on the floor and on the phone are saying and doing to their customers.
You may be spending hundreds if not tens of thousands of dollars in advertising every month trying to bring new and existing customers into your store, drive qualified prospects to your website or motivate someone to pick up the phone and place an order with you. The majority of sales made however, are the ones that these salespeople run into. For example, if I need a new phone, I’m going into the store and either tolerate the service and professionalism that comes with that experience, call them to place the order or simply order it online. Regardless of how I go about purchasing the phone, it’s not changing the fact that I still need one and will have to endure traveling down one of these three common paths to do so.
So, If corporate feels, “Sales are there, so why change. Why spend money on training and developing our people?” then at what point have you trained, coached, equipped and prepared your people for the one constant; change? Rather than learn what it really means to sell value, up-sell and cross sell, these salespeople continue to survive in transactional selling mode, taking the order and moving on. Some growth is achieved, and mediocrity breeds eternal.
I remember years ago, wanting to purchase advertising space in a national magazine. I’d been a subscriber for years and knew everything I needed to know to select them as an advertising vehicle. I called them with one intention: to place an order.
When I called their office, the salesperson began doing what she felt was appropriate, starting to sell me. She began with the history of the magazine, then moved into a discussion about her subscriber base, how effective an advertising campaign can be and ended with information about her ad design team. She was unaware that I already knew all of the information that she decided to share with me.
She never took the time to ask what my intention was in running the ad or what information I might be interested in hearing more about. While she was speaking at me, I could only think about how many selling opportunities this must have cost her when dealing with prospective customers who didn’t have the time or patience to listen to information that didn’t fit for them.
Product Knowledge Can Kill
This is not an unusual problem. Many salespeople spend much of their time during a sales conversation attempting to educate the prospect about their product, service, brand and industry. They think it will stimulate interest and increase the odds of earning a new customer. In many cases, this is the same strategy that compromises their opportunity to create a relationship with that person.
Unfortunately, this is the easiest way to lose their attention. Once a person hears something they aren’t interested in or if they feel you are providing information that doesn’t apply to them, their interest is lost and they stop listening.
A sales call is not the time prove how much you know. It’s the time to find out what you don’t know about the buyer and what the buyer doesn’t know about you. It is not your knowledge that sells, but how effectively you customize your knowledge to meet each of your customers’ specific needs.
“What Does The Customer Know, Anyway?”
Before you can uncover a person’s individual needs and educate them on how your product will meet those needs, you must first uncover what they already know.
Your company’s presentation, sales and marketing materials are designed to assist you in building your customer base. However, it’s your job to determine and provide the appropriate information that will fit their specific situation.
Start your conversation by asking certain questions. Questions will enable you to uncover the relevant information to provide and identify the person’s objective and expectations. Begin with the following questions:
- “How familiar are you with the new (version, model, line of….) that was just released? “Are you interested in seeing the new ((version, model, line of….)?”
- “What are your expectations of (good customer service/our meeting today)?”
- “What information can I provide that would assist you (today/in making the right decision when choosing a vender/service provider/contractor)?”
- “Just so I don’t sound repetitive, what do you already know about…?” Then, based on the information you receive, you now know what they know and what they don’t. So, craft your message around the gaps you hear in order to create a new possibility for them.
How To Turn Off A Customer
When listening to what any prospect or customer already knows, some of the information you receive about your product or industry may be inaccurate. Address this carefully. Instead of correcting them, simply add another truth to their statement by asking another question or adding to what they had said. Otherwise, while making yourself look right, you run the risk of making them look wrong, which just puts them on the defensive.
Most important, learn to put your ego aside and let go of your need to “sell.” The most effective sales conversation is going to be judged by the outcome you produce and the value you deliver. This begins with finding the right balance of information that your customers want and need to hear.
Photo credit: Jes