Selling in Today’s Retail Environment: Proof of What Works
I’ve been writing for the trade press for nearly 30 years and never noticed during this time the most important element of selling is used in almost every human interaction. I’m glad I haven’t quit writing because the more I write there seems to be more to write about.
I’ve been preaching the most important element of the sales process is the intimacy of the connection you are able to make with consumers. On LinkedIn, there was a discussion about a “Magical Sales Script.” Without reading any further, I knew the information wouldn’t be useful. A selling script is never very effective, as it doesn’t qualify as human relations. Most of us, whether hearing it over the phone or listening in person, recognize a scripted presentation.
Without adequate sales training, most salespeople, new or experienced, fall back on weak sales tactics such as the current sale, low prices, product knowledge and warrantee when what she really wants is a beautiful home purchased from someone she trusts to guide her to the best possible outcome.
What in the list of items above would give any customer the sense of reaching her purchasing goals? These weak issues are reinforced by observing other salespeople selling in a like manner and manufacturer reps speaking about the latest miracle product and warranty. Observe what happens in your own store as well as others after a greeting. If you’re lucky, the inane questions start to fall: “Did you come in response to our ad? What room(s) are you doing? Let me show you our specials.”
Typical training in most flooring stores is like this: “Follow ’ol Charlie around for a week, he’s been selling for 30 years.” Well 30 times zero still equals zero. Salespeople at least feel comfortable knowing their products and many, especially men, believe product knowledge (PK) is the Holy Grail of selling.
The most common reason new hires leave is insecurity about what they know. Knowing something about their products at least gives them a comfort zone. How important is PK? Sales personnel should know everything about the products they’re selling, but this knowledge should never be used unless asked for—as in answering a concern or a question. It should be a strong silent undercurrent to avoid putting customers in a catatonic state.
All this is a lot to overcome when educating salespeople, especially if they have reached some level of success. To change what they’re doing is almost asking the impossible. Making a personal connection legitimatizes every issue discussed that will follow.
Some of us were lucky; we discovered the power of making an intimate connection on our own. We found people trusting us and believing what we were telling them. I discovered this when I was an installer. In reading books by elite salespeople who made (not sold) a million dollars a year, a common thread appeared: They never discussed the product they were selling until the customer brought it up. They started with friendly conversation and didn’t stop until they felt they made the connection.
As an owner looking for new salespeople, I used to try to catch people doing a good job. For example, a bank teller who could make me feel I was her only reason for being there. When interviewing people for a position, it was most important for me to like and therefore trust the person in front of me.
Proof of what I’ve been teaching was in front of me every day and I never noticed. How much easier would it have been teaching all these years. In the evening when my wife comes home from her flooring business as “Big Bob Herself,” we relax watching crime stories, many involving women who murder their husbands. I accuse her of watching these to learn how not to be caught, but beyond that whether it was a scene with actors or real life interrogations, most started with small talk between the interrogators and the suspect in order to make a personal connection, which I learned, led to a more productive interview.
The perps will naturally tell more if they like the investigator. This is how the good cop/bad cop scenario came about. These are proven techniques just as on TV shows whether news or entertainment programs, the interviewer again, understanding how critical this is, attempts to make an intimate connection leading to a more entertaining and productive session. How I missed this during all these years is inexplicable.
In court trials, whether it’s the prosecutor or defense counsel, both try to establish a relationship with the jury and the judge. I have done the same thing when trying for an upgrade flying or at a hotel, even to get out of a ticket. One extreme example was shortly after my first wife died. I did chores that morning with my infant daughter strapped to my back. In the afternoon, we were scheduled to eat dinner at my sister-in-law’s home. I buckled my daughter in the back seat, cracked open a cold one—stupid, I know—and started to her home. In Wisconsin, the roads are long and straight.
At the end of one road, I rolled through a stop sign, whereupon a trooper pulled up. “Do you know why I stopped you,” he asked.
“Rolling though the stop sign?”
“No,” he said, “going 85 in a 65 zone, I didn’t see you rolling through the stop sign. How’s your driving record?”
“Not good.” I admitted.
“Were you wearing your seat belt?”
I answered, “I wish I could lie, no.” Point being I made a connection with the officer during this and he thanked me for being honest and handed me a warning. Luckily, he didn’t see the beer—together with the other charges and, moreover, with an infant in the car—as he could have hauled me to jail.
Making the connection is powerful, proven and works.