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From Pacific Business News
Genuine concern for customers' wishes is profitable

By Ron Martin

Next time a customer leaves your store without making a purchase, listen to his or her last words.

"I'll think about it."
"I'm going to walk around a little."
"I'll be back."

It's not a great big lie, but it's certainly not the truth. Salespeople know it. They know the customer probably won't be back. And so salespeople usually react in one of two predictable ways: they "bear down" or they "bail out."

To "bear down" is to disbelieve the excuse and push for the sale. Salespeople say, "Aw, come on," "Go ahead and get it," "It's a great price," or some other form of begging. Begging customers to buy something they don't want will not work.

Other salespeople "bail out." They hand their customers a ticket out the door with a line like, "Here's my card. We're open every day until 9 p.m. Please ask for me when you return."

Most of these customers will never be back. They know it and the salesperson knows it. The fact is, shoppers are liars. They lie to avoid pressure, to protect themselves and the salesperson from embarrassment. Telling the salesperson, "I'll think about it" creates an easy escape.

It's tempting for the salesperson to buy the lie and let the customer go. This is not to say that some customers don't have a very good reason not to buy your product. They probably do. The problem is, the salesperson never bothered to find out what that reason was. When you beg or bail, you neglect to find out the real reason the customer has for not buying.

Instead of bearing down or bailing, find out the real reason your customer isn't ready to buy. Once you know the truth, you can overcome most objections.

One way to find out the truth is by learning your "Okay, but ... ." An "Okay, but ... " is a planned, rehearsed response to an anticipated objection. Say your customer knows he or she is not going to buy your product and says, "I want to think about it," expecting you to buy the lie. When you say, "Okay," this customer thinks he got away with the lie and relaxes. The pressure comes off. When you say, "... but ... " the customer is ready to open up and tell you the truth.

Just say, "Okay, but I've found that when someone needs time to think about it, maybe it's not the perfect one. What might not be perfect about this one." Now the truth comes out. The truth is:

"I don't like it (or something about it)."

"I don't have the money (or don't want to spend it)."

"I'm not convinced it's okay to buy (a lack of confidence)."

Once you know the true objection, you can overcome it. When your customer tells you, "I don't like that color," you can find the right color. If the customer is worried about affording it, you can suggest something less expensive or offer a layaway or finance plan. You solve the problem.

How powerful is this technique? I've seen it work magic. Shannon, an art consultant, had spent 45 minutes with a client. They narrowed the choice down to a small original oil painting about 24 inches x 36 inches. The client appeared to love the painting and offered no objections. The price was $3,500, and Shannon's commission was 10 percent. She felt sure her client wanted the painting and she was excited.

They were sitting comfortably in the viewing room admiring the painting when the client said, "I need to think about it. I'll be back."

After 45 minutes of selling and hearing no objections, Shannon felt the temptation to "bear down" and push for the sale, or to "bail out" and hope her client would return. Instead, she said, "Okay, but I've found that when someone really needs to think about a piece of art, then it might not be the perfect piece. What might not be perfect about this piece?"

He client paused, then said "It's not big enough."

Shannon wondered why a client would admire a piece of art for 45 minutes that wasn't big enough? If she had let him "think about it" the painting never would have become big enough.

Once Shannon knew her client's true objection, she took action. She asked him, "How big do you want it?"

He said, "Six feet by 53 inches."

Shannon was again shocked, but asked, "Why would it have to be that big?"

He answered, "I'm Robert Rines, and I took a world-famous photograph of the Loch Ness creature. I want to commission a painting of "Nessie" to hang in the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio."

Thinking she had lost the sale, Shannon's natural curiosity was aroused and she gently asked, "What was your interest in this smaller painting?"

Mr. Rines went on to say that he had already commissioned a well-known artist in Scotland to paint the piece, but he really liked the style of this local Hawaii artist, Thomas Deir. Shannon told him that the artist might be interested in painting the piece and arranged for Rines to have dinner with Deir and the gallery owners.

That dinner led to a $100,000 painting and trip to Scotland for Deir. Shannon's $350 commission became $10,000. It was easy.

Because the art consultant got curious and said, "Okay, but ... ." She discovered the true objection, then overcame it.

Above all, remember that selling is not the art of talking people into buying. Selling is giving the customer sufficient information to make an intelligent buying decision, yes or no. Accept that it's okay for your customer not to buy the wrong product and you'll be that much more able to help them make the right purchase.

Ron Martin is a retail consultant and author of a series of self-help books.

 Success Dynamics, Inc © 2006