My wife is one of the best sources of sales horror stories. I don’t know what it is, but whenever she goes to make a purchase, she always seems to attract the most obtuse sales persons. Here’s another tale that demonstrates just how to drive away more customers:
Our vacuum cleaner finally bit the dust recently (pun intended.) Having a golden retriever in the house surely sped up that process. So my lovely wife went to her local big box store (hint: starts with a “B” and ends in estbuy.” It’s tricky because evidently, unlike the majority of homes out there that need vacuuming, we don’t have carpeting. We have hardwood floors throughout our home. So my wife finally found a model she liked, and while she was looking it over, along comes the obtuse one. Working from his extensive library of sales training questions, he lobbed a profound one at her: “Are you looking for a vacuum cleaner?” Now, with my sense of humor, I would have had no choice but to come back with something like: “Why, no – I was trying to get a Chai Latte. Is this one of those?”
Beating a Dead Horse
My wife being the sweet lady she is however, simply replied yes. Having established the need, his questions got a bit more sophisticated: What’s your price range? What are you using it for? etc. She told him exactly what she wanted: a canister vacuum (not an upright) that would be good for hardwood floors and lots of dog hair. “Ah. You don’t want that one then, you need this one over here because it has electric beaters that really grab the hair from your carpet and it’s a much better vacuum (and it was more money.) She reiterated that we have no carpeting, we have hardwood floors throughout. “Well I know, but this bla, bla, bla …” She couldn’t remember what else he said, because she had tuned him out at that point. He was not listening to her and she was insulted. She left that store and took my advice instead. She visited one of my favorite small, family-owned businesses (a customer of mine that we do marketing for) that specializes in only two things: vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. I knew Paul and his family would take good care of her, and they did.
Her experience was quite different at Auger and Son’s. She explained what she wanted, they pointed her to a couple models that fit the bill. Then they shut up. Within a few minutes, she came away with exactly what she wanted, at 40% less cost than the same make and model cost at the big box store!
Lessons for Sales People:
No matter if you sell vacuum cleaners or cloud computing, these same principles apply:
- Ask great questions and LISTEN to the answers.
- Don’t make snap judgements about what customers need or want.
- Lead customers to what they desire, not what you think will make you more money.
- Don’t tell customers what they need, let them tell you what is valuable.
- Great customer experiences generate more business.
- Lousy customer experiences result in loss of revenue and bad press.
We live in a skeptical world. Customers are tired of being sold to. They want to be listened to! Take a queue from my wife: Get good at listening and truly serving the interests of your clients, before your own. They will reward you with more business and by telling all their friends where to find the right stuff at a great value.