...from the desk of       Elly Valas
Issue: 07-02   Date Feb., 2007

Elly Valas

Biz News You Can Use

When Less is More

If store associates would do less selling, more customers would buy the products they have to offer.

Huh?  You say “I thought the job of a sales associate was to sell.  Now, you say don’t sell, what’s up with that?”

Among the definitions of “sell” listed in the Encarta dictionary is to “make people want to buy something” and “persuade somebody to accept something for money.” 

And that’s my problem with selling.  If we approach our customers intelligently and let them be a partner in the process we shouldn’t have to make them buy or persuade them to accept our wares.

The reason it can be hard to sell something is that we don’t understand enough about why our customers want to buy or how to best satisfy their desires.  Most often, they are willing to, as the same dictionary says, “acquire something by payment.” 

In many cases, your customers don’t need to be persuaded; they come to you eager to buy what you are offering.  You just need to uncover the why behind your customer’s need or want. 

That’s easier said than done.

The most important part of the sales process is establishing a relationship-- making the customer feel welcome in your store and comfortable with you.  Start with a warm smile, a friendly greeting and a little small talk.  Try to get the customer’s name by introducing yourself and extending your hand and saying something like, “by the way.  My name is Elly and yours is?” Keep your hand out and your eyes focused on theirs.

Next invite the customer to answer a few questions to help you understand what they’re looking for.  “Do you mind if I ask some questions so that I’m sure the product I show you is exactly what you need?  I’m going to make some notes to make sure I don’t forget anything.” Taking notes shows that you’re interested and really listening to them.  Questioning enables the customer to share his thoughts, dreams, hopes and desires regarding the purchase.   You gently prod and guide the prospect into talking about the product as if he already owned it. 

 It is hard to let your customer talk because it makes you go into scary dark places.  It’s the place where you turn control of the situation over to your customers and where you are uncertain about what they might ask or say.  What if they ask for a brand you don’t stock or for a hot model that’s out of stock?  You have to be genuine and you have to listen instead of talk.  Let the shopper be the star of this part of your presentation.  Be patient.  Your turn will come.

The best sales counselors are those with the most well-honed and well-rehearsed scripts—those who know exactly what kind of questions to ask each prospect they encounter.  Scripting doesn’t make you sound canned or rote, but rather confident and professional.  The more you practice, the better you’ll be.

The guided discovery process helps you narrow the products you’ll want to demonstrate to those few that will exactly meet your customer’s needs.  The more you know about the customer and her plans the easier it is to match a product exactly to her needs.

There are two kinds of questions used in learning what might be right for your buyer.  Develop a list of questions to ask for each product category you stock. 

The first are the straight forward journalistic questions—how, who, what, where, when. “When will you want it?” “What will you want your new product to do?”  “Who else might be using it?”  “Where will it be used?”  “What do you have now?”

Try to avoid why because it might put your prospect on the defensive.  For instance, asking “why is that brand important to you?” may force a customer to dig in his heels instead of considering alternatives you may suggest.  Simply turning the question into “is brand important or are you willing to look at other possibilities?” will likely make your prospect look to you for advice.

Leading questions work well in helping you to suggest new ideas to your customer.  They will help you sell full-featured products in giving customers a sneak peak at features they didn’t know about.

Would you be interested in seeing an energy-efficient model that will save you money on your utilities?” is a pretty sure bet.

Would you be interested in having theater-quality sound with your flat screen TV?” would practically guarantee an audio add-on.

Remind me to tell you about the classes we offer to help you use your new machine” will entice your customer to ask about them.

Leading questions helps you get the customer beyond an entry level price point.  They make the customer consider products that in the long run will serve them better, are more state-of-the art and have the features most customers want.

How many questions do you need to ask?  As many as it takes to narrow the products you demonstrate to the one or two that most closely meet the shopper’s description of what they want.

More questions means less time showing products that don’t really meet the buyer’s needs. You’ll waste less of your customer’s limited time and more easily demonstrate appropriate products.  You’ll close more sales.  You’ll have happier customers.  They’ll come back again and again.  They’ll send their friends in to buy from you.

All of that from doing less selling and letting the customer do more buying.  It’s a simple forumula.

More questions + Less hard selling = More sales


Business Trends Poll (07-02 ):

Are great sales associates born or created?

1. We hire for attitude and train for skills.
2. We hire seasoned, trained professionals who have     previous experience selling our products.
3. We prefer to promote to sales positions from within.
4. We recruit associates from our competitors.

View this month's and previous month's Trends Poll Results

To participate, click the button to go to
Business Trends Polls
at www.EllyValas.com

www.EllyValas.com    [All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007]         <Business Trends Poll >