Many of us find it impossible to get close to strangers, but to be the best you can be, this is crucial. If you have this problem, think of it this way: Every consumer you meet is someone’s mother, daughter, aunt or best friend. Equal in every way to your friends and relatives and they have a right to be treated exactly as you would treat those you know and love. Would you start the conversation with, “Did you come in response to our ad?” or “We have free padding if you buy today,” or “What rooms are you doing today?” This would all sound pretty stupid to your friends and relatives, wouldn’t it?
I have been a sales educator in some capacity for over 50 years and spend a great deal of time in sales education sessions given by other trainers. Never have I heard them speak about the art of being liked as the crucial first step. Where I do see this is in reading books by professional salespeople, some of whom make a million dollars a year—not just write a million a year. The thread that runs through their books is, “I never speak to customers about the product until the time is right.”
When is that time? “When the customer likes you.”
People buy from people they trust.
How do customers make up their mind to trust you? If they like you.
So the obvious question is: How do you become liked in a matter of seconds or hours when your other relationships have lasted a lifetime? The fact is, you can become a better friend to someone you’ve just met than people you’ve known all your life. Just because you haven’t known them doesn’t make them lesser people.
Every thief, liar, rapist, murderer and embezzler is, guess what? A member of someone’s family just like every good person is a member of somebody’s family. I tell the story of my daughter, Josephine, whose mother tragically passed away when she was only six months old leaving me to provide her care at the beginning of her life. As she grew older I advised her to reach out to strangers, talk to strangers and trust strangers. By now you are most likely thinking that I am crazy.
However, armed with knowledge and knowing that most child molestation takes place within the family, I told Josephine not to talk to uncle Charlie.” The point is we are all in this together, and friend or not, everyone deserves to be treated as such.
People love to talk about themselves. So much so they give you clues as to their interests: T-shirts emblazoned with all kinds of things, having their children with them, their pets in the car, wearing Harley jackets, wearing charm bracelets. The question is never what to talk about, but which of their interests do you want to ask about.
Professionals talk about their customers’ interests, never their own—unless it supports what the customer is saying. Most friends and relatives will never give your customer the chance to speak of their interests as you do. Always remember, customers give you money, friends and relatives ask for money.
My wife Tara has owned a floor covering store for almost a decade and often I get in conversations with her customers. One day a twisted and frail older man accompanied his wife into the store—hands and limbs bent and weighing barely 80 pounds. “What the heck happened to you?” I asked. This man, whom I suspect spent most of his life seeing people avert his gaze and never speaking to him, was just waiting for someone to ask. Together we sat down and he told me the whole story about his neuromuscular disease that started at age 17 and on through his life.
Who do you think he is going to buy from? Me. This is selling.
Never miss a chance to commiserate with customers. Shopping, and especially redecorating, is therapeutic. It could be a death in the family, which others feel uncomfortable talking about; an upcoming operation that she is nervous about, or a family member who has been diagnosed with a serious ailment. People want to talk about these things; get them off their chest by just having someone to listen. Being a salesperson takes courage. Once you make the connection, you can say anything to her. My definition of a pushy salesperson is a person she doesn’t like. If she likes you, the exact same words won’t offend her.
Volumes can be written about the art of being liked. I’ve even been offered an opportunity to teach this as a college level course. When it comes to consumers, mainly it’s about them, their children, their parents and their pets, not yours. Even when you get to discussing product and she wants to carpet a bedroom, you need to ask, whose bedroom? And what’s their name?
Once you get the hang of it, selling becomes a great fun, interesting job—and you are in control. It should be possible to know if the sale is done within minutes. Many elite salespeople regularly write orders and collect money without product being chosen. She has committed to the project because she trusts you and likes you. Greet all customers warmly, make a friend and focus on the right issue.
She doesn’t want price, warrantees, miracle products or anything else printed on a manufacturer’s label. She may select a store because of perceived value, but once inside and finds someone she trusts, she wants a beautiful home.
An owner of multiple stores in New England until 1985, Warren Tyler had a desire to share his retail and sales success with the industry. His career as a columnist, sales educator and consultant has produced hundreds of top retailers, every major merchandising group as well as dozens of distributors and mills as clients—winning accolades from even his peers. He is the author of several top-selling industry books, CDs and DVDs, and is available for keynotes and sales seminars.
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