Lessons learned: Always focus on how the customer feels

Home Column Lessons learned: Always focus on how the customer feels

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Tom Jennings

 

As retailers, we’ve all experienced this scenario at some point in our careers: A sale is lost to a competitor. It happens every day. But have you ever noticed how often the average salesperson seems to assign the blame to the customer?

We’ve all heard the standard excuses: “We’re priced too high,” “They found a color they prefer somewhere else” or “The competition must not know what they are getting into.” Far too often it seems as if the customer is somehow at fault for making an incorrect decision. I find this thought process to be terribly flawed.

Too often the root cause of this behavior is an attitude that says “I know best what my customer needs.” A typical salesperson will spend far too much time talking instead of listening to the customer—that’s a deadly sin. Many retail sales associates feel the need to “educate” the customer on everything ranging from the products themselves to the weaknesses of the competition. They’ll often advise that they have “the perfect solution” for you. Further, they’ll state that they have had many customers with situations “just like yours.” They have an air about them that says, “I’m pretty darned smart and you’re lucky to find me today.” This behavior may work some of the time, but not nearly often enough to be considered successful. With this approach they are doomed from “hello.”

Hopefully, all salespeople have been taught how to qualify a customer. What very few realize is the customer is busy qualifying the retail sales associate as well. As a product presentation is made, the customer is forming a perception of not only what is being said, but also how it is being said. She is judging not only the merits of your product, but of placing her trust in you. The customer is asking herself whether this person truly cares about her and her unique situation. For example, is he so busy providing answers that he didn’t even hear my questions? What are the chances he would even recognize me on the street a week from now?

Elite sales professionals understand that customers walk into a store asking one question only: “What’s in this for me?” They really don’t care how a product works, what makes it tick, how many Taber cycles it can withstand, etc. Most customers simply want to know how it will solve their problems or bring them enjoyment for years to come. They don’t care how busy your staff may be. They just want an assurance that their order will be delivered as promised.

And if you’re banking on your company’s longevity to help seal the deal, think again. Most consumers aren’t overly impressed that your firm may have been in business for many years; they perceive that as history. They just want assurance that the current staff is capable of quality performance. And believe it or not, they are not always looking for the cheapest price. They are primarily concerned that they receive full value for their investment.

Remember this: It’s never about what you think. Rather, it’s always about how the customers feel. They are only concerned about themselves—as well they should be. After all, it’s their money. The professionals who understand this will make their presentations customer focused and achieve great success. In the words of the late, great sales trainer Zig Ziglar, “You can have anything you want if you help enough people get what they want.”

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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