I have a confession to make. I have done (and am done) with telemarketing. This was earlier in my sales career. The biggest sales difference between that field and flooring is we, as flooring salespeople, try to develop a trusting relationship. Telemarketers—besides severely annoying the people that they’re calling—use a manipulative approach to selling.
What I learned in this brief experience as a telemarketer is the power of the T.O. (turnover – sometimes referred to as takeover). The T.O. is simply a maneuver to engage needed help. Traditionally, it involves introducing a symbolic authority in the form of another person. I would “T.O.” to another colleague, supposedly my supervisor, to gain results that were more favorable for customers who were resistant. With this simple tactic, a difficult prospect would often melt in the hands of the person I turned them over to.
My colleague, the person intercepting the call and sitting next to me, was depicted as an experienced representative and a manager, while I was portrayed as the new guy with limited experience. The transformation usually happened easily and quickly. My colleague would say essentially the same things I had, except with a new voice and personality—with the air of one who could make things happen. One customer even said, “Finally, someone I can talk to.”
He then sold her with the same terms and conditions. In truth, my partners were diverse in personalities, with some being brasher and others less aggressive. Their personality in itself was not the difference. It was the combination of the personality change, the new voice and the sense of authority that produced results.
Now, I believe in a humanistic approach to selling. Still, if I can facilitate the customer’s path of purchasing, and if this is a product she needs and will appreciate and there are no detrimental conditions, then I have no qualms in the use of psychological creations or inspired, inventive settings to create whatever emotional justification is necessary to influence the customer’s outlook and buying inclination.
Once during my floorcovering career, I was a store manager of a large chain of stores and our district manager decided to make his office in my store since he lived in my city but traveled occasionally. His name? The late Bernie Cohen. We became close friends, although I was a bit intimidated by him for a short while.
Nevertheless, he and I made a deal that if either one of us was losing a customer, then before the customer left the store he or I would ask them to hold for a moment by saying, “Let me see if my sales manager can do anything else to help you.”
Naturally, the customers waited in anticipation. With this simple change of presence, personalities and an introduction to a higher authority who could “fix things,” we received remarkable results. Usually, it was just a complete re-manifestation of the facts; however, small price concessions were also made at times if relevant.
You may be asking, “Do you have to be a strong closer to claim the job as a T.O.?” Ideally, the best of the best is always desirable. However, we do not live in an ideal world. Look at it this way: these customers are headed for the door and we all know most “be-backs” do not come back (approximately 80%). Anything is better than nothing; and something is better than nothing.
Strategize a plan that fits your store. Once done, try a little role-playing. The importance of this is worth the trouble. The previous salesperson has already given you the “what’s up” on what is missing from the sale. There is nothing to get nervous about—just a little meet and greet, with some new courtesies, pleasantries, an alternative strategy and a different personality.
After I retained my customer at the door, I would go back to the sales office, which had a glass windowpane, and put both of my hands on Bernie’s shoulders while we discussed strategy. This showed my lack of intimidation and Bernie’s sociability. Once during a turnover while in the office, with my hands on his shoulders, I said to him, “Just give me a minute. I am trying to think.” Hence, if nothing else, it offered me an intermission and the time to rethink my re-approach.
At first, I would sometimes come back out to the showroom with a new scheme of my own that was supposed to be from “the manager.” However, too many times when I went back out to the showroom with new information, they still walked. Therefore, I stopped that practice, because we both found the closing ratio was appreciably inferior without the new face and personality. In other words, I should have sent Bernie as the fresh authority to rescue my situation. Naturally, I was always there to listen and retake the sales relationship when necessary.
The basic principle here is that in approaching their manager, the salesperson is setting up an exchange. You have put yourself out for the customer, so they are now obliged to do something for you—like buy the product. This is amplified as the manager can initially be seen as a fear-inspiring figure of authority, thus making the salesperson a courageous warrior, fighting on behalf of the customer. In addition, when asking the manager, many times this puts a break in negotiating. This allows both corners to return to the table briefly, and many people will pay a fair price upon attaining the backup of the sales manager.
The T.O. approach is proven to work. However, what usually happens in stores when I revisit them is the T.O. policy falls out of practice for whatever reason in a relatively short time. Maybe it is the salesperson’s pride or worrying about the demand on your colleague’s time. Do not let your pride stand in the way of your integration of this approach. Generally, no one should leave your store without at least a more comprehensive commitment than “I may be back.”
Does your store use even a facsimile of this approach? If not, I urge you to evaluate this method of closing and increasing your sales. Generally, use this approach whenever you are losing control of the sale and especially before the customer leaves without at least some semblance of a commitment. Try to set up a measure. If she says no, that is a good indicator that you have not suitably sold her and you need help.
Do not underestimate the power of this close. Tactful persistence is the power of this technique. All you need is a few customers and a second opportunity of “turning over” a prospect to another representative at a specific place in the sales process. That place happens anytime you are losing a customer.
Here is the uncomfortable truth. No matter how good you become, there are times when you will still feel like a bozo. You are losing control of the sale while seemingly doing all the right things, and you know it. By the time the customer reaches the front door, you really need a lifejacket. So take it! It may make the sale.