Lisbiz Strategies: Get your customers off the ‘be back’ bus

Home Columns Lisbiz Strategies: Get your customers off the ‘be back’ bus

November 9/16; Volume 30/Number 11

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Several months ago, I wrote an article called “Who is driving your ‘be back’ bus?” (FCNews Aug. 17/24) describing the routine in which customers say they will be back, but never make a purchase.

While I was at a conference in Nashville, I met Gary Gray, store manager for Mill Creek Carpet & Tile in Tulsa, Okla., who told me he liked the article and uses it for training. Gray is very astute and thorough in his training. It is obvious he knows what motivates people. I spoke with him about what he gained from it and asked if he had any concerns.

“How do you know if the salesperson really did everything he could to sell the customer and follow up?” Gary asked. “Unless you are selling the customer, you have to trust that the salesperson is building a rapport and qualifying her; once a customer is gone, most likely she is gone for good.”

I understand Gary’s fears, particularly after reading the mystery shopping reports on the flooring industry. Out of all the shoppers interviewed, less than 4% felt they were properly qualified. If you can’t qualify a customer, how can you sell her the right product?

That is why it is important to find out the needs of the customer. If you can’t show her the right products, she will continue to shop. And if you’ve done a good job schooling her, she is ready to buy from your competition.

We’ve all told a salesperson, “I’ll be back,” and then ran out the door. Unless you really weren’t serious about buying (which is not often the case in flooring), you left because you didn’t feel confident about the salesperson’s knowledge or you simply didn’t like him.

Once Gary thought about the logistics in terms of numbers, he realized how he could profit enormously from bringing back customers. “We took a look at the entire process. If we have 30 salespeople and they each bring back two customers per month, it will have an important impact on our sales volume and each store’s profit, as well as increasing commissions. Salespeople must understand the numbers and the value of each customer.”

“I’ll be back” should be treated like any other objection. It is the salesperson’s opportunity to get to the bottom of an objection that hasn’t been expressed. The salesperson should ask the customer in a non-threatening way if she would like to make another appointment and when she does, she will be back.

What does “I’ll be back” really mean? You won’t know unless you ask the customer. It reminds me of my friend who told me she went on a great date and the guy said he would call. No, she didn’t ask when or try to close him on the spot. He hasn’t called, and she’s making up stories as to what he really meant. Like her, salespeople would rather let the customer walk out the door and pretend they have a relationship that doesn’t exist. If there really was a relationship, the customer would have shared her concerns.

If the customer leaves without a commitment on some level, there is no relationship. Why would you waste all of that time and send her off to your competitor who will ask for the sale? Unless the salesperson is diligent and straightforward, no one will ever know what the customer is thinking.

Consider “I’ll be back” as an objection that just needs a little more clarification. It’s an objection that can be drilled down by the salesperson to uncover the customer’s real concerns.

Everyone who comes into your store is an opportunity to create a relationship and make a sale. Without a relationship, there won’t be a sale. Salespeople shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and build that positive relationship.

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