Selling is never easy. Never. But salespeople often make it even tougher for themselves by letting customers get away empty-handed. It isnt that customers dont find what they want or what theyre looking for. Its just that they dont want to deal with the salesperson.
With the 800-pound Internet gorilla lurking over every sale, todays customers are much more demanding when dealing with salespeople. If the experience doesnt meet their expectations, theyre gone.
Also see: "Closing sales means making sense to customers."
More often than not, misreading customers causes them to look elsewhere missed sales. It doesnt need to happen and heres how to avoid it:
1) Be sure youre speaking with the right customer.
Wrapped up in every customer is a handful of different customers, who behave differently depending on the situation. The first job is figuring out which of these customers youre dealing with at the moment so you can respond correctly. Here they are:
- The I want to know more customer. This customer requires patience, so ask clarifying questions and get them talking. Dont push, but gently pull them along until theyre comfortable.
- The I have all the answers customer.Let this customer talk and tell you all about it; dont cut them off. This person wants to be the salesperson so let them feel they made the buying decision on their own.
- The I know what I want customer.By listening carefully to these customers, you may find inconsistencies in their thinking. Then by asking them follow up questions, these customers may recognize that what they thought they wanted was not a good idea after all.
- The I cant make up my mind customer.Here, the salesperson becomes a resource, offering options and comparisons and making note of the customers responses so the person can recognize the best solution.
By making sure youre talking with the right customer, salespeople take a big step toward making the sale rather than losing it.
2) Think individuals, not groups.
Even though everyone is unique, we lump people into groups doctors, servers, business owners, blue collar, boomers, Gen Z, old people, Hispanics, and on-and-on. In reality, we know that all Hispanics, accountants, or electricians are not the same. For example, out of the nearly 80 million 18 to 35-year-old millennials, theres a segment of 6.2 million with an annual family income of $100,000 or more. Theyre the affluent millennials and theyre quite different from the other 62 million non-affluent millennials of the total group.
According to a study, Money Matters: How Affluent Millennials are Living the Millennial Dream, this group is in a second phase. Compared to non-affluent millennials, affluent millennials over index when it comes to changing jobs, buying a home, and making home improvements in the last 12 months, and they also over index when it comes to expecting a child in the next 12 months, states FutureCast, the study sponsor.
Its clearly good to be cautious when making marketing and sales assumptions about any group. Basing decisions on opinion, inaccurate information, or hearsay leads to misreading customers and missed sales.
3) Dont stop with first impressions.
A marketing manager called about meeting to talk about working with his company. After a 400-mile drive, he arrived in a near-ancient pickup truck, wearing ragged jeans, a wrinkled shirt, and dirty boots. There was little doubt about that first impression: The meeting was going to be a waste of time.
Not recognizing it, we instantly pigeonhole customers and that can be a mistake. First impressions may not tell the whole story. The man in the dirty boots is a good example. He was for real; his company became our largest account.
Never get carried away with first impressions, and be prepared to discard those that dont fit.
4) Always offer options.
Theres a lot to learn from companies that do a great job capturing customers by offering options. The Honda Accord, for example, comes in several models, each with a basic price: LX, Sport, EX and EX-L. Choices engage customers so they dont go away.
To be effective, options must be realistic and not so many that they become confusing or frustrating to customers. A financial adviser may present three scenarios for a clients consideration, while a real estate agent may show a client several styles of homes. Options should create discussion and further interaction.
5) Dont tell customers what to think.
Do you love it? asked the interior decorator after delivering the reupholstered sofa cushions. The couple murmured a few words, Its bright and different. But at that moment, one thing was certain; they didnt love it.
Far too often, salespeople make the mistake of trying to guide customers, tell them what to think: This a great buy. Isnt this a perfect floor plan for your family? Dont you just love the color? This is going to look great in your home.
Customers want help and suggestions, but they dont want salespeople telling them what to think. When that happens, its a turn off.
6) Forget about customer loyalty.
Its only human to believe that we have loyal customers. When some leave, we make excuses as to why they left. Its tough seeing customers leave. Its as if they are rejecting us. It negates everything weve done for them. Breaking up is painful, particularly after making customer care a top priority and bending over backwards to satisfy them.
We think that customers show their appreciation by being loyal to a company, brand, or salesperson. However, what we label as loyalty may be something quite different. It may be nothing more than convenience, price, laziness, inertia, or habit. Nothing more.
In other words, customer loyalty is an illusion. It lets us think the interchange with customers should result in their loyalty and thats a big mistake. Today, nothing absolutely nothing stands in the customers way from getting what the customer wants, the way the customer wants to get it, and where they want to get it.
Also see: "The little stuff that drives customers away."
We misread customers and lose them when we expect their loyalty. Our task is to focus on doing everything possible to give them a great experience. Thats the only reward that counts.
Misreading customers costs sales. To prevent this from happening, it takes doing battle with our assumptions, particularly those that influence how we think about customers and what we expect from them.
Graham, of GrahamComm, is a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas. Reach him at email@example.com, (617) 774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.
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