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From Pacific Business News
Nine steps help turn the `jerk' into a buying customer
By Ron Martin

Salespeople are pretty good at analyzing their customer's behavior. About the people who browse without buying, they think things like: "cheapskate, time-waster, jerk," etc. When describing customers who buy, salespeople say, "nice people." Many salespeople change their opinion of the customer from "jerk" to "nice person" the second the customer says, "Okay, I'll take it."

But the fact is, your customer's personality, appearance or behavior are not as important as your attitude. You control sales by controlling your behavior. You had a "jerk" in your store, so what? "Jerks" buy too. What's important is how you worked with the jerk.

When customers are greeted, welcomed, put at ease, given information, assisted in their buying decisions and invited to return, they buy, return and refer their friends. That's the basis for the Success Dynamics "Pro-Active, No Pressure" selling system.

When customers enter your store, imagine it is your job to place them on a "railroad track" that goes to "Sale City." It's a useful metaphor. Once you get on a railroad track, you will go where the track goes, provided you stay on the track and keep moving. Think of our selling system as the "Sale City Express." Here's how it works:

When your customer leaves your store, take a minute to analyze your behavior, not theirs. Check off the steps you took to Sale City."

Did I greet the customer?

Did I position myself properly with this customer?

Did I ask this customer if he or she had been in the store before?

Did I give this customer a verbal tour of my store?

Did I pro-actively give this customer specific information when needed?

Did I overcome any objections that were offered?

Did I nudge if appropriate?

Did I add-on at the register if a purchase was made?

Did I befriend my customer in a way that he or she is likely to revisit my store?

You will discover that you don't always need all nine steps, but you should still stay on the track. The track determines the direction; the customer determines the speed and number of stops. Be sensitive.

As you record your answers to these nine questions, you'll find that over time you'll get better at keeping the customer on track.

Salespeople derail themselves whenever they ask, "How are you today?" Their customers say, "Fine; how are you?"

This track leads to small talk. The further down the track to small talk you go, the harder it is to get back on the sales track.

Sometimes your customer throws a switch on you. Just politely throw the switch back to selling. For example, you say, "Hello." Your customer responds with, "Hi, how are you today?" Say, "Great, welcome to the store. Have you been in before?" Some customers throw the switch to "No Sale City." They declare, "I'm just looking!" If you don't get back on the track, this customer will take a self-guided tour to No Sale City.

Nathan is a salesperson in an import furniture store. He told me about the first time he used the Sale City Express to control his behavior.

A customer entered Nathan's store. Nathan said "Hello." The man cordially returned the greeting, then walked away from Nathan. Nathan positioned himself properly and asked, "Have you been in our store before?" The customer replied, "No, I haven't."

Nathan proceeded to give him the verbal tour, then disengaged and invited him to look around and ask any questions he might have. Nathan wandered back to his sales counter and began checking-off his progress. He thought, "Okay, I've completed steps 1, 2, 3 and 4; what's next?" The Sale City Express said: "Show." Nathan noticed his customer was looking closely at a small wooden hutch.

Nathan reapproached his customer and offered specific information about the hutch. He described its design, features, benefits and workmanship. His customer appeared to like the hutch, but said, "I need to think about it."

Nathan stayed on the track. He said, "OK, but I've found that when someone needs to think about it, sometimes it's not the perfect piece. What might not be perfect about this hutch?"

The customer turned quickly, looked directly at Nathan and barked, "I just need to think about it!" Here is where many salespeople might think, "What a jerk!" He told me that he hustled back to the safety of his sales counter thinking, "I didn't know there were land mines on the Sale City Express.

Nathan stood behind the counter, shaken by his customer's abusive response. He looked up at his customer and noticed that he was still eyeing the hutch. Nathan began to wonder, "What should I do now?" He looked down at his Sale City Express and it said: "Nudge."

Nathan froze. The system was saying: "Your customer is still interested in the hutch. You have given him the opportunity to walk away, reject it, or find fault. He hasn't. Nudge!"

But Nathan's feelings said: "No way!" He stood there watching his customer look at the hutch. He soon realized that if he did nothing his customer would walk out the door.

Nathan walked up to the customer, with his knees knocking, and timidly said, "I see you're still looking at this hutch. It must be the right one." The customer instantly looked at Nathan and said, "You're right, I'll take it."

Nathan walked back to his counter, still shaking. The customer handed Nathan his credit card. Nathan looked down at his Sale City Express and saw: "Add-on." He froze in fear.

Nathan couldn't bring himself to suggest the lamp or table that matched the hutch. He also realized that if he had not forced himself to nudge, he would have missed that sale. If he attempted to add-on, he might have sold the lamp or table or both. Maybe next time.

Following the system allows you to overcome judgment and fear, and stay on the track to Sale City.

Ron Martin is the owner of consulting firm Success Dynamics and the author of several books.

 Success Dynamics, Inc © 2006