Sunday, May 5, 2013

Vending, Clerks, and Sales

When my daughter was 4, she came down with a nasty case of strep throat.  Everything she swallowed hurt her, including fluids.  It was a hot day, and she was feverish, and wouldn't even drink because it hurt.  I worried about her getting dehydrated.  As I was offering her different things for dinner, she turned down one after another. 

"Let's have ice cream for dinner tonight, Honey." I offered.  It wouldn't hurt her throat, and it would help keep her fluid intake up.

She tilted her head so her curls fell away from her face.  "Okay."  Then she sat up very straight, pushed back her hair, and said, "Wait.  We can do that?"  She had never even imagined the option!

There are three primary ways in which things are sold:

Vending - when things are displayed, and all or most of the transaction takes place without interacting with a person.  This is true of vending machines, most online sales, and grocery stores to name a few.  People are versed in the product and in their particular needs, and can/will make purchases without additional information about features and benefits.

Clerks - when a shopping experience takes place with a human assistant to the sale.  Clerks will direct you within a store to help you find the product you are seeking, and make suggestions regarding fit or ancillary products that work well together. 

Sales - the shopper is guided through the entire process because the features and benefits must be explained and understood on an individual basis.  Buying a car, or consulting a stock broker or insurance agent are excellent examples of sales.

Most of us in the sales world think of ourselves as professionals, but find ourselves behaving like clerks more often that we'd like.  We have a customer who wants to take control of a sale, or who is only motivated to shop, and not buy, and we find ourselves directing them to investigate on their own ("the sale rack is in the back, Sir.") We choose not to sell to them, but instead to deflect them because they're difficult.

How do we motivate ourselves to be a salesperson all the time?  We must decide to never give up control.  It may be taken from us from time to time, but we should never give it away.  Salespeople are hired when they are necessary for the product to meet its full market potential.  Some features and benefits are not obvious, so we need to show the  customer how the product improves their unique situation.  Take the situation above: the child didn't even know ice cream for dinner was an option.  We never know which information the client doesn't have - and we know better than to make assumptions - so we need to cover it all.

When we surrender control of a sale, we end up relying on the customer to ask the right questions to get the answers they need to sell themselves.  They won't do it.  They can't do it.  They don't know the features and benefits of the product the way you do.  You need to lead them through the process to ensure they cover all the information that will help them.  You also need to keep them motivated and excited, because without that, the sale will never close.  People love to acquire, but they hate parting with their money. 
Stick with your sales flow, and commit to answering questions in your own timetable. "I'd like to get to that in a minute."  Take notes while the customer is speaking, so they can tell that you are interested in their specific needs.  Frequently refer to their comments and situation that you took the notes about so they feel involved.  Ask primarily "yes" questions.  ("Wouldn't you love never having to clean the oven again?")  Yes questions rarely lead to the customer objecting, so you can build goodwill, and the customer will feel understood.  Control is the difference between a sale and a callback.  Make sales!

Next time, we'll review Sales Flow. 

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