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People love to buy things, but they hate the feeling of being sold. What customers want is a business or retail culture that makes buying a comfortable experience where sales professionals give them quality time. Everyone is looking for someone they can trust, someone they can have confidence in.


True or False: A salesperson’s job is to sell products and services. False!

A salesperson’s job is to help customers buy the right product or service, the one that fills their needs, wants and desires; not simply to close a sale. When salespeople understand this, price becomes a secondary issue.

Businesses and stores spend trillions of dollars annually on advertising, incentives and promotions simply to attract buyers. Yet, salespeople who focus on selling, meeting quotas and landing the immediate sale, often succeed at only one thing: turning buyers into shoppers. As a result, management believes their teams don’t perform, frustrated salespeople blame the lack of incentives, poor market, or their management, and a negative attitude permeates the entire business.

Through extensive experience and research, I have found that buyers who leave businesses without purchasing usually describe their experience as uncomfortable, either because the sale is not moving in a positive direction, the salesperson is not connecting with them, or they are not being shown a product that meets their needs.

People love to buy things, but they hate the feeling of being sold. What customers want is a business or retail culture that makes buying a comfortable experience where sales professionals give them quality time. Everyone is looking for someone they can trust, someone they can have confidence in. Most opportunities walk into a business or store ready to buy. The salesperson doesn’t have to persuade them; he just needs to help them find a product that meets their needs.

Buyers rate the helpful attitude of the salesperson as one of the major reasons why they purchase. No one ever talks about being “sold” a product by the efforts of a persuasive salesperson. They describe how a salesperson guided them through to a “buying” experience. When this happens, sales increase and satisfied customers make referrals and return for additional services or accessories. This is a true measure of value. These customers are on their way to becoming clientele.

Beware of these three traps that can turn buyers into shoppers.

One: Killing the sale before it ever gets started

Salesperson: “Hi, can I help you find something?”
Buyer: “No thanks, I am just looking.”
Salesperson: “Ok, Let me know if you need help.”
Buyer: “Ok.”

Instead of asking a question that everyone knows will be answered with a “no” or a simple shrug 90% of the time, the salesperson should ask a question that starts to build a rapport and engages the opportunity in conversation. Introduce yourself. Find out the customer’s name. Then, find out how you can assist. Offer to help the opportunity make a selection and guide him in his decision through thoughtful questions that provide insightful information.

Every Wal-Mart store has a greeter stationed at the entry door of every single store. As soon as a customer walks in, the greeter engages them in a non-threatening or pushy manner. They smile, say “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” Their job is to build rapport, put the customer at ease and make it easy for them to ask for help.

Before your next customer walks in, think about how you will engage them. What will you say? How will you put them at ease? What question will you ask? Always put yourself in a position to win, not in a position where the customer can make you lose.

Two: No. Don’t. Won’t. Can’t. Negative attitudes bring negative results.

Buyer: “I like this product, but I want it in silver.”
Salesperson: “Silver is on back order right now and I can’t get it for a month or two. You probably don’t want to wait, do you? Let me show you the gold. It’s metallic and has the same rich look as the silver. You won’t know the difference.”
Buyer: “Hmmm, I really wanted silver…let me think about it. I’ll be back.”

How many times have you heard that one? Einstein said it best, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In this case, the salesperson stopped the sale with negative responses. Instead of pushing the gold vehicle, the salesperson should have presented all of the options. Then the opportunity could have made an informed selection. He may have picked his second favorite color – perhaps red, ordered the car in silver, or opted to think about it and come back.

Three: Buy Now vs. Buy

Buyer: “I am looking for a full size SUV with 4-wheel drive. I have six kids!”
Salesperson: “I don’t have one of those in stock right now, but I have crossovers. They are similar and provide virtually every feature you can find on an SUV. Let me show you one of these. I have one that is a bit smaller, but it should work. And you can drive it off the lot today”
Buyer: “Thanks anyway, I think I’ll look around a bit.”

In this last case, the opportunity leaves and becomes someone else’s customer because the salesperson was more concerned about closing the deal quickly – now – than with helping the customer find the right vehicle and falling in love with it. While the crossover may have been similar, a smaller vehicle would not have met the needs of a family of six…their friends and gear!

Each of these traps resulted in buyers becoming shoppers who left and most likely went to a competitive store. In each case, the salesperson didn’t build rapport by asking thoughtful questions and listening to the answers. The salesperson was more interested in selling than in helping a customer select the right product, the one they actually needed, wanted and desired. Falling into these traps causes buyers to become disenchanted or frustrated. Even though the buyer will promise to “think about it and come back,” more often than not they were just ‘being nice’ and had no intention of returning. Instead, these shoppers turn to alternative stores or the Internet until they find exactly what they want to buy or until they find a salesperson with whom they want to do business.

A few simple changes, especially in attitude, will help avoid these traps and bring about enormous rewards in terms of performance and the bottom line. With the right attitude, skill and patience to ask meaningful questions, listen, and focus on helping the opportunity select a product or service, no one will ever leave your business as a shopper, but as a buyer – whether they purchase now or later. Think of it this way: A salesperson’s job is not to sell, but to help customers buy. Only then can you focus on building long-term clientele.

About the author

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin has written two acclaimed books that help people of all walks…

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