Sales Talk Part 5: What's Really Being Said in Everyone's Head
By Otto Papasadero
(Editor’s Note: Part 6 was inadvertently run before Part 5 in our last NARDA E-Newsletter. This part should appear before Part 6. We regret the error.)
We will continue our discussion of the most important person in your store, the customer, and what customers really want. I find that it is rare these days for a sales associate to make the effort to actually understand what customers really want or why they are even in the store. The following are some of the basics that customers expect from their experience with a professional sales associate and the sales floor.
Let’s get to know each other. They want to avoid the annoying stuff that is so often found on retail floors. There’s nothing more intimidating to a customer than walking into a showroom and encountering several salespeople standing in groups. From experience, it feels like you’re walking into a school of hungry sharks. My suggestion is to have the sales team strategically placed around the showroom. That doesn’t include having a bunch of them standing together behind a sales counter.
I have found that a comfortable and non-threatening environment is created when salespeople are either busy detailing the display floor or busy at their desk. This takes away the shark-tank effect that occurs when a group, that is, more than one salesperson, is located in one place. Another concern that customers have expressed is walking into silent stores. This can be handled with some easy listening background music. Avoid the heavy metal music – it can be annoying and distracting.
The next criticism comes in response to the questions, “May I help you?” or “What can we do for you today?” These questions are almost never effective and usually lead to the response, “I’m just looking.” Instead, greet the customer casually without any reference to helping them or selling something to them. Become a master at small talk about things that we all experience in common, like the weather. The idea here is not only to put the customer at ease, but to put yourself at ease, as well. We will discuss this in more detail later when we focus on the actual selling situation.
Following your success at making first contact, it’s now time to take the time to find out what meets the customer’s needs. This part of the sales experience is generally referred to as qualifying. I prefer to use the word “interviewing” in a way that is similar to what takes place when someone pays a visit to a doctor. This involves taking the time to ask the right questions that will help both the customer and the sales associate discover what the customer really wants.
Taking the time to do this will save time later and will add to the likelihood that the customer will do business with you. If you are willing to perfect this step and take the time to put it into play every time you meet with a potential customer, your sales performance is going to drastically improve. The simple truth is that almost no one else is taking the time and effort to interview customers in an effective manner.
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