Selling is never easy. Never. But salespeople often make it even tougher for themselves by letting customers get away empty-handed. It isn’t that customers don’t find what they want or what they’re looking for. It’s just that they don’t want to deal with the salesperson, agent or advisor.
With the 800-pound Internet gorilla lurking over every sale, today’s clients and prospects are much more demanding when dealing with agents and advisors. If the experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they’re gone.
More often than not, misreading customers causes them to look elsewhere — missed sales. It doesn’t need to happen and here’s how to avoid it:
1. Be sure you’re speaking with the right “customer.” Wrapped up in every customer is a handful of different customers, who behave differently depending on the situation. The first job is figuring out which of these customers you’re dealing with at the moment so you can respond correctly. Here they are:
• The “I want to know more” customer. This customer requires patience, so ask clarifying questions and get them talking. Don’t push, but gently pull them along until they’re comfortable.
• The “I have all the answers” customer. Let this customer talk and tell you all about it; don’t cut them off. This person wants to be the salesperson so let them feel they made the buying decision on their own.
• The “I know what I want” customer. By listening carefully to these customers, you may find inconsistencies in their thinking. Then by asking them follow-up questions, these customers may recognize that what they thought they wanted was not a good idea after all.
• The “I can’t make up my mind” customer. Here, the salesperson becomes a resource, offering options and comparisons and making note of the customer’s responses so the person can recognize the best solution.
By making sure you’re talking with the right customer, salespeople take a big step toward solving the problem and making the sale rather than losing it.
2. Think individuals, not groups. Even though everyone is unique, we lump people into groups — doctors, servers, business owners, blue collar, boomers, Gen Z, old people, Hispanics, and on-and-on. In reality, we know that all Hispanics, accountants, or electricians are not the same. For example, out of the nearly 80 million 18 to 35 year-old Millennials, there’s a segment of 6.2 million with an annual family income of $100,000 or more. They’re the Affluent Millennials and they’re quite different from the other 62 million non-affluent Millennials of the total group.
According to a study, Money Matters: How Affluent Millennials are Living the Millennial Dream, this group is in a second phase. “Compared to non-affluent Millennials, affluent Millennials over-index when it comes to changing jobs, buying a home, and making home improvements in the last 12 months,” and they also “over-index when it comes to expecting a child in the next 12 months,” says FutureCast, the study sponsor.
It’s clearly good to be cautious when making marketing and sales assumptions about any group. Basing decisions on opinion, inaccurate information, or hearsay leads to misreading customers — and missed sales.
3. Don’t stop with first impressions. A marketing manager called about meeting to talk about working with his company. After a 400-mile drive, he arrived in a near-ancient pickup truck, wearing ragged jeans, a wrinkled shirt, and dirty boots. There was little doubt about that first impression: the meeting was going to be a waste of time.
Not recognizing it, we instantly pigeonhole customers—and that can be a mistake. First impressions may not tell the whole story. The man in the dirty boots is a good example. He was for real; his company became our largest account.
Never get carried away with first impressions, and be prepared to discard those that don’t fit.
More from John Graham:
- 5 key elements of a client-oriented sales process
- 22 behaviors that bother prospects and hamper sales
- 18 little things that drive customers away
Next page: 3 more ways to avoid misreading customers
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