Sales 101: Do You Have All The Business You Can Stand?
Avoid the temptation
The high cost of deception
Once upon a time I answered a purchasing agent's question in a manner that was not the complete story. It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the whole truth either.
"Is your price on Lava brand bar soap less than what I have been paying at grocery store down the road?" she asked.
Emphatically I answered, "Certainly - since we deliver to your door, you don't have to take time away from work to go get the product. You don't have to pay an employee to go and get the item, and you don't have to pay for the employee's gas."
What I failed to understand about the question was the literalness. The purchasing agent wasn't focused on the real savings I offered, only the difference in price. For two years I had the agent's business based on a misunderstanding of the facts. One day I entered the facility only to be greeted by a screech -
"You lied to me! Get out, and don't you ever set foot in this door again!"
I was taken aback. "What are you talking about? I don't lie!"
"The Lava bar soap! You told me you were cheaper than the grocery store! Now get OUT!"
I was flabergasted. Although I had not actually lied about the price of my product versus that of the grocery store, I had failed to state that my price was higher, literally, but lower by means of the other factors: delivery, service, time, labor, payment terms, gasoline costs. My guilt was in withholding the complete information. Two years earlier, upon first meeting the client, I should have told her straight up that my price was higher than the nearby grocery, but the overall savings of dealing with me would make her cost lower. Instead, I allowed a misconception to occur that finally bit me in the posterior. I lost her business.
The surest way to lose customers is to give them a reason to doubt your integrity. It doesn’t take much, just a single instance of seeming untruth, and they’re gone. This can happen in a variety of insipid ways. The question you should ask yourself whenever tempted to stretch the boundaries of truthfulness is, “Do you have all the business you can stand?” I’ll bet the answer will always be negative. Unfortunately, there are thorns to prune if you wish to maintain a high level of trust with your customers.
Use common sense
Common sense is the best shear to cut away your prickly temptations. Little things will cost you the most. Here are some prime examples:
- Reading the contents on a buyer’s desktop or computer when making the sales call is a big NO – restrain your roving eyes.
- Listening through the door to private conversations between a buyer and another supplier – tune your ears to filter out unrelated conversation; listen carefully to what the buyer has to say TO YOU.
- Browsing a buyer’s workplace like a nosey mother-in-law – this is a distraction from your task, RUDE, and none of your business.
- Pestering other personnel at the buyer’s facility about details pertaining to the buyer – see “NOSEY mother-in-law” above.
- Selling to a buyer who is not authorized to purchase your products – this is TAKING ADVANTAGE of a situation for your benefit and not the customer’s.
- Overstocking a weak buyer for padding monthly sales totals is DISHONEST.
- Creating confusion over pricing and quantity in order to sell more is like ROBBING from Peter to pay Paul.
- Not anticipating problems that could arise through use of your product and failure to NOTIFY the buyer about them prior to the sale – Example: the customer mounted the new towel dispenser in the restroom too high for children and mobility impaired patrons.
- Committing to service after the sale that is not feasible – PUMPING UP what you are capable of doing.
- Overselling product features to mislead the buyer into thinking the product is better than it actually is – this is called “HYPING” or “selling the warranty” and is a sure way to disappoint, since no product can live up to a false expectation.
- Failure to keep promises – unreliability is akin to LYING.
- Not following up on quotes, presentations or demonstrations wastes the buyer’s TIME.
These are only a few of the ways to dupe buyers, any one of which can cause them to evaporate. Why not simply keep your mouth shut except to say what has to be said, ears open to hear what has to be heard, and eyes focused on what has to be seen to complete the task of doing the best job for your customer. It would be the easiest route to maintaining an honest reputation.
The potential customers asks, "Is this the best price you can give me on this item?" How do you answer?
The "no alibi" approach
With the rising price of gasoline and other variable costs, a salesperson wheeling around town is running up a real tab against the expense account these days. To alleviate the strain, careful planning of every sales visit to make it as worthwhile as possible is vital. However, follow-ups are pivotal to reducing costs and improving sales totals. Throwing in a bunch of white lies, cover-ups and alibis for poor planning is a waste of resources and money. Every single one of the points above has at their root a greater problem – lack of sales knowledge.
Rather than provide more reasons for a buyer not to purchase from you, why not learn what is necessary to maintain a high level of performance in your sales job. That way, there would be no temptation to hide ineptitude by using unprofessional techniques that smack of dishonesty.
The cost of untruth is high for both the salesperson and their employer. Reduce the chance of losing customers by exercising common sense in dealings, studying constantly to improve sales techniques, and resisting the temptation to stretch the facts. Integrity is the one trait that salespeople should never lose, for if they do, they can kiss their clients goodbye. So, do you have all the business you can stand?