Retail Education: Negatives make positives

Home Columns Retail Education: Negatives make positives

By Kelly Kramer

July 22/29; Volume 27/Number 7

So often in sales we tend to leap headfirst into selling. We greet our new customers and move straight to selling a product we like or the company has asked us to push.  This technique makes us just like every other salesperson out there and lets our potential buyer know we have no concern for their given situations.

It’s like the car dealership that offers everything from sub-compact to high-end luxury cars. The salesperson takes you to the high-end car before he even knows what you are looking for. Sure, pushy and ignorant sales will work a small percentage of the time, but why be like the rest? Why not double or triple that closing average by actually investigating the buyer’s wants and needs and proving you understand which direction to take that is in her best interest?

This is not as hard as it seems. It is simply achieved by taking time to draw out the information with a customer interview. At this point I’ve talked about the importance of the customer interview dozens of times. And in each case I explain how making a sale is simply finding the real need and demonstrating how you have the best product to fill that need. But what I rarely talk about is how to use negatives to help narrow down the right product choice for a particular buyer.

Move from positives to negatives

Often, when I’m interviewing a new client, I demonstrate products (product education) while I’m asking the interview questions. For example, if I find out the buyer is tough on floors I might show her my patented “banging a key hard on a laminate floor plank.” Or if I discover that she had a shedding problem in the past, I demonstrate the differences between a staple yarn and a continual filament.

As I go I take care of one problem at a time. After all, the biggest part of our job as successful sales advisors is solving old problems. I’ve learned there are many ways to interview a buyer. One problem I see, like the car salesman, is that we only offer positive characteristics of each product we show. That again keeps us as regular, run-of-the-mill sales clerks. We need to explain the negatives with the positives.

Early in my career I seemed to get a bunch of callbacks on newly installed jobs. My manager would have to field and handle these complaints. For example, some customers complained about seeing seams or vacuum marks in new carpet. Of course I knew carpet had seams and some show marks, but why bring up that negative? Mainly because my boss told me I had to.

So, I figured out a way to include that negative in my product introduction demonstration. Then, in my education on carpet styles, I’d say, “All carpets have seams, but some styles show the seams more. The worst is loop pile berbers, followed by smooth cut, then plush carpet styles. More textured carpets show fewer seams, but they will still show until the carpet gets older and fluffs in.”

I use this same type of negative/positive explanation to describe vacuum and footprint marks. With these explanations the buyer decides the style in which she is interested.

My interview is directed not always by what consumers want, but by what they don’t want. Plus, they feel I’m helping and not selling. Not selling is the idea behind my second book, Stop Selling Start Winning. (You just knew a shameless plug was coming, didn’t you?) In short, presenting negatives makes the positives better and more believable.

Thanks for reading.

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