Salespeople are typically the nicest people in the room. They ask about your family. They laugh at your stories. They empathize with your hard luck.
But occasionally, you run into someone in sales who just needs a paycheck, someone who’s a technical expert but has the personality of a duffle bag, someone who has been on the job awhile and forgotten the fundamentals.
If you know of a salesperson who falls into this last group, you may want to pass this post along.
A customer says, “This relocation project has to be completed by October 15. We need some assurance from the furniture manufacturers involved that they can deliver all the work stations by July 1 at the latest. All other dates are dependent on our new plant opening by August 1. Homes sales. Moving companies already scheduled. Employee families relocating to the area, and getting their kids in school.”
Sales Consultant: “I understand. . . . How much cushion do you have in that timeline if the furniture IS delivered late for some reason?”
Clearly, the sales consultant didn’t listen and doesn’t get the picture the customer is trying to paint.
Sales training classes suggest a ratio of 70:30. That is, in any given sales interaction, the salesperson should be listening 70 percent of the time and talking only 30 percent of the time. So that means, during your 30 percent of the time, you’re asking questions to encourage a customer to talk more! Salespeople often THINK this ratio happens, but only the best MAKE it happen. Record your next sales conversation and verify for yourself.
Consider this odd communication coming from a salesperson Claudia recently as I shopped for a jewelry armoire.
Me: Do you have this one in stock?
Her: Not likely. (She checked her iPad.) No, you have to order, and it comes unassembled. In a box. And you definitely don’t want one you have to assemble. They are VERY difficult to assemble–way too many pieces.
Me: Hmmm. How long does it take to get them in?
Her: We never know. so we don’t promise a specific date.
Me: Can you check please to see if there’s a range?
Her: I’ll check, but it’ll be at least six weeks.
Me: Will you sell this floor model?
Her: They won’t let us do that.
Me: What assembly is required?
Her: Everything. You’d have to put on the hinges, the hooks, the pulls, every single piece. It would be a nightmare. I have this same model myself. But I bought it used. I’d never try to put something like this together myself.
Me: Is there someone here I can talk to to ask how involved the assembly is?
Her: The floor manager. But I wouldn’t think he’d know.
Me: I notice there’s a store-wide sale. Does that include this piece?
Her: It won’t help you much. Just 4 percent.
The strange thing? The floor manager eventually wandered over to answer our question about assembly. “Putting the armoire together is quite easy. All you need to do is put on the drawer pulls.” Claudia shrugged and walked away. Obviously, she sees the world (drawer, glass) as always half empty.
As a customer, you email or phone the sales team with a specific question, asking which product might solve your problem or meet your need. The salesperson answers in a robotic tone with a memorized spiel: He or she is giving out information, leaving it up to you to dig out your answer in the 5-minute dump of information.
Your job is to peel the onion for the piece of information that MAY be helpful in making your decision.
You’ve heard them as often as I have—the standard lies meant to persuade because they offer either social proof or build commonality: “I have the same model at home, and I love it.” “You’ve made a great choice. That’s our most popular line.” “Those are just so popular. We can’t keep those in stock.” “I just bought one of those for my dad/mother/son/girlfriend.”
Although fewer and fewer salespeople play these games today, some still do. You’ll recognize them:
–The forced-choice question: If you decide on this, are you going to want it in silver or gold?
–The silly question (to get you in the habit of saying yes): “You do want to save money, don’t you? Is that important to you?”
–The “out of stock” ploy: “Wait, we may be out stock. Before you get your heart set on this, let me check stock to see if we have any more left.” (They check and then announce that you are so fortunate that there are 2 left, but you had better act fast before somebody puts a hold on them.)
With salespeople making any of these mistakes, you’re going to need a STRONG marketing team to recover! And if you fear YOU may be that salesperson from time to time, awareness can be the pivotal point to making a quick change in your communication. After all, none of these mistakes are irreversible. None requires a master training class.
All you need? Will power and the right attitude about communication.
For more tips on persuasive communication, get Dianna’s book What MORE Can I Say? Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It (Penguin Random House). Order from all online stores here: WhatMoreCanISayTheBook.com. Or download a complimentary first chapter here.