Sales - Getting the Right Perspective
What do sales mean to the sales person?
If you are in sales, your living and lifestyle requirements depend upon your customers responding positively to your efforts to sell whatever products or services you are selling.
On their side, the customers need to do the right thing, cooperate and buy from you. There is something wrong with the customers if they don't do this. At least, some sales people seem to believe and convey this.
As an example, we were recently contacted by the dealership that sold us our car. They sent out a letter saying that we were randomly selected to receive this fantastic offer if we were to trade in our current car for a new car.
When the sales person called us on the phone to ask if we were interested, the first thing we said was that we were happy with our current car. We had not really considered upgrading or trading it in as we had only had it for a year. We were interested only if we would not have to pay in excess of £10 per month more than we were already paying for our current car and that it would not impact our insurance. We also said that we were also interested if the offer included a different model. He invited us to the dealership to discuss this with a promise that he would do his best to meet our criteria.
Good news! When we arrived at the dealership, the sales guy said the offer did apply to new models. We especially liked one of the new, bigger models we looked at. The more we thought about it, we realised that we did often talk about how we needed more space. On the weekends, we frequently take our dog on outings. When my mother comes over to visit, it means that someone has to sit in the back seat with our dog. This would not be a problem if our dog was small. But, she is big and a hound who loves closeness and affection. She loves to sit in people’s laps. When riding in the car in the back seat with someone, there is no getting away from it.
The sales man took us for a drive in the bigger model. As he did, we explained the dog situation to him. We loved how this bigger model had a space in the back storage area where our dog could lie down, safely, by herself. Yet, there was still plenty of room for people to sit in the back seat.
When we arrived back at the dealership, we said we were very interested and wanted to discuss pricing. The only issue we were unsure about was how it would impact the insurance. The sales guy went away and ran some figures to find out how much we would need to pay per month for the bigger car.
It was good news. He came back to us with a figure for that bigger model that was well within our budget, just under £10 a month more than we were already paying. But, we were still unclear about the insurance and needed to talk to our insurance provider.
The following day we called the insurance company and it was good news, once again. The bigger car would have very little impact on our insurance cost as it would be just about £2 a month more. This was sounding like it was going to go ahead. We were excited.
Then came the bad news. When we called back the sales guy to tell him the good news about the insurance, he came back with something unexpected.
Ooops! It turns out that the figure he had quoted us was for the wrong model. The car we wanted would be £40 per month more than what we are already paying. He asked us to come back to the dealership to see what he could do to bring the price down and he was sure he could do something.
When we arrived back to the dealership, he said that he tried every avenue to get the cost of the car down but he could not. However, he could sell us the newest model of the car we already have for £10 per month more. “Why would we want to do this?” we wondered, since the very first thing we told him was that we were happy with our current car. “Because it’s a new car!” he replied, as if we should know that this is important - it was obviously a key factor for HIM. That it was a new car was not that important to us. Our current car was just over a year old. And, we had just spent £150 on annual servicing two weeks prior. So, the sales guy did not get his sale and we did not get the car we wanted. Instead of happy customers, we left disgusted and angry with the sales guy’s incompetence.
The problem is that the sales guy was trying to sell us on what he thought was important rather than listening to what we stated was important to us. Had he offered us a slightly older model of the bigger car that would have fit within our budget, we would not have refused.
Although said jokingly, the sales guy had the nerve to accuse us of wasting his time. He was a fool who got it wrong from the beginning and all away along to the end. He was the one who wasted our time. We were upfront from the very start about what we wanted and needed. He was only interested in selling what he wanted to sell, not what we wanted to buy.
What do sales mean to the customer?
It is an honest fact that many customers view sales as inherently disreputable. This conclusion comes from a reputation built up over decades of notoriously desperate sales people in a variety of industries.
In reality, the emotions that people have about sales, the suspicion and wariness to downright anger at being taken for fools is often based on their experiences. It is up to the sales person to help the customer recognise the true opportunity he or she represents.
If you are a sales person, it is up to you to be the exception. Because of this precarious situation arising from the profession’s negative connotations, you need to be especially conscientious and aware of your behaviour at all times. Your behaviour, more than your words, tells the story about who you are. Your behaviour shows whether or not you will be respectful and demonstrates to the potential customers whether they can trust you or not. It is imperative to use your behaviour and body language to send the message of professionalism and respect.
Communication is an art form of attitude
As a sales person, it is vital to master the skills of effective communication which starts with ensuring you bring the right, customer-oriented attitude to the sales relationship.
Identify the true “enemy”
Your encounter with the customer might seem to be at cross-purposes. After all, as a sales person, you have quotas to meet! Your job relies on your ability to bring in the numbers. This, of course, is dependent upon getting the customer – an independent agent with a free will – to say “yes” and then hand over their money or sign the contract, etc.
It would be understandable to see the customer as the enemy if they refuse to participate in this exchange to help you win you your sales. However, to create a positive buyer-seller relationship, you have to mentally put you and your customer on the same “team”. Handled right, even a customer who says “no” now could say “yes” later on.
The true enemy is having the wrong perspective in that transaction.
The following outlines some ways of thinking about this interaction which may help you to start off on the right foot with the customer.
Remember: You are There for Your Customer – Not Vice Versa
Yes, you need customers. And, it is tempting to think they should be there to serve you and help you to meet your quotas. But, from the customer’s perspective, you will be much more successful if you keep your focus on identifying and meeting their needs rather than meeting your sales targets.
Try not to think of the customer as the make or break of your success. Instead, think of yourself as being the gateway to meeting the customers’ needs. It is up to you to find out what those needs are and how your product or service can address them.
If you focus too much on your success in the interaction, you could set yourself up for disappointment before you even start. Your frame of mind will be on what you are going to get out or not get out of the interaction rather than how your customer will benefit from the products or services you would like them to purchase.
Below are some of the potential problems which can occur from not putting yourself into the customers’ perspective:
1. The Filter of Prejudice
2. The Risk of Taking Things Personally
3. The Risk of Offending
1. The Filter of Prejudice
If you view everything from your own position and not the customers’, you are at risk – by default – of filtering everything they say through your own prejudices, experiences and viewpoints. As a result, this could cloud your ability to get on the customers’ wavelength. How can you begin to identify the real needs of the customer if you are only thinking about your end of the transaction?
2. The Risk of Taking Things Personally
If you approach the customer only with your goals in mind, your attempt to explain every problem will be from your point of view. The customer might have some very negative issues and biases about sales people in general, about your company or products based on previous experience or reputation. Coming from your own point of view, you might (without meaning to at all) sound defensive.
For example, imagine you meet a customer who stated that either they or a family member/friend/acquaintance of theirs had problems with your company or products before and they start right in with everything they know that it is wrong with your company. “The sales person took my money and sold me the wrong product.” Or “I heard the customer service is very poor.”
Resist the temptation to view this as a negative encounter. Also, try to suppress the natural reaction you might have to respond with a defensive stance. Statements like “That wasn’t me" or "I wasn’t with the company at the time,” will only reinforce the customers’ perception of lack of the company’s lack of accountability – if they think that is what the problem was.
It is important to see the interaction for what it truly is – a positive, open door to communicate and resolve some issues for the customer which obviously still cause them concern. Instead of responding defensively, do the single most powerful thing you can do – listen! Remember, you represent brand YOU, a different, better, more customer oriented focus. Even though the customer’s words might be negative, the customer is giving you an opportunity to show how you are different than their previous experience.
3. The Risk of Offending
Without considering the customers’ points of view, it could be easy to offend and put them off unnecessarily. Each customer has their own set of values and interests to which they are entitled. The values you hold and things you believe are important might not be the same as those the customer values and thinks are important. For example, the sales guy at the car dealership thought that we should value a new car because that is what he would value. We valued space and keeping within our budget. The newness of the car was of secondary value.
If you respond to the customer from your frame of mind and your values, you might sound judgemental, patronising or elitist and could put the customer off.
Let the customer tell you what is important to them and then use your wisdom and product/service knowledge to ascertain and present the solutions that would best serve their interests.
In summary, here are some key thoughts to keep in mind when initiating this delicate relationship:
1. Do not think of it as a win-lose scenario. Instead, turn the interaction into a genuine, friendly and positive request for information.
2. Empathise with the customer and refrain from making assumptions or judgements about their choices or interests.
3. Listen carefully and then present the products or services in a way that underscores what they have already told you about themselves.
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