Making the Sale: How to Alienate Your Customers

Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959

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Have you ever walked into a store only to be instantly surrounded by salespeople trying to sell you whatever their corporate office has decided is the most important thing for them to sell this week?

I remember walking into a big blue electronics store to buy a TV.    The beautiful corner-unit entertainment center that perfectly matches my living room will fit–at most–a 32″ screen.   Unfortunately, any questions I asked were answered with an attempted upsell to a big screen. I don’t want a fancy TV.   I don’t have room for it.  It doesn’t fit my needs.

Why do the salespeople persist in strong-arming me into something I can’t use?

Later, I’ll be visiting a couple of potential customers.   I know from talking to them that they are expecting a hard sell and a push to sign a contract today.

I don’t do that.   I can’t do that.

My goal for these meetings is to find out what these people want, and–more important–what they need.   How can I know what they need before I have a chance to sit down and ask them?   Even bringing a proposal to the meeting would show that I cared less about them than I do about their checkbooks.

Here’s my checklist of items to bring:

  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Spare pen
  • Business card
  • My winning personality

That’s it.

I can accomplish more with “How can I help you succeed?” than I can with “You really need to buy this from me, today.”

If the high-pressure sales-weasels at the big blue electronics store had been taught that lesson, I may have gone home with a high-end (though smaller) TV, rather than going home to buy online.

Have you ever had a sales-weasel try to convince you that you want something you don’t need or need something you don’t want?

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  • 12 comments

    Comments

    1. I think Jeffery Gitomer explains sales really well. He often reminds you that you need a value proposition. It’s not what can the customer buy from you, it’s what can you offer the customer. There’s no need to be pushy if you can offer the value and most importantly, listen.

    2. I absolutely hate it when salespeople try to do this. Now, I have gotten to the point that I either walk out or tell them I am just looking.

    3. I have no trouble saying no! I do it in such a way that they believe me. If yo don’t act like a prospect they give up fairly quickly.

    4. That’s the difference between someone who works in sales and a true salesman. If you can tell someone is trying to push something on you they are not a good salesperson. The best don’t even let you know it’s happening.

    5. I absolutely HATE dealing with salespeople – I think that’s why I love online shopping so much. I will ask for help if I need it, but if I have a clear idea of what I need, it drives me crazy if someone tries to sell me something different.

      The worst experience I’ve had was shopping for a dining room table. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted and had been to probably 30 furniture stores with no luck. In one particular store, the salesman refused to let me look on my own – he followed me around, asking more and more nosy questions. He did try to look through some of their catalogs to get closer to what I wanted, which was nice, but when it became apparent they didn’t have what I wanted, he wouldn’t let me leave. I ended up saying I was going to eat lunch and come back afterward (obviously I didn’t come back).

      That experience will keep me away from that store forever, and I discourage family and friends from shopping there. A good experience, though, will have me recommending a store or product for life. I don’t know why some salespeople don’t get that.

    6. I hate it when salespeople don’t listen to the customer. If I say I want a 32 inch TV, that’s what I want!

    7. Salespeople are there to make money for themselves and their employer. That’s totally fine.

      However, from a customer’s perspective, none of that matters. In fact, it simply shouldn’t be on display for the customer to consider. It’s all about the customer, and how the item under consideration for purchase can add value to the customer’s life or business. The salesperson is there to help the customer and that’s it – from the customer’s perspective.

      To the extent that the salesperson’s own motives come out – no matter how understandable – they will impede the process and simply alienate the customer.

      When I see a salesperson deviate from this model of helping me the customer, and try to upsell me or try some other tactic, I tend to lose trust and disengage.

    8. I think you’ve got a good approach. Selling is about making the customer happy by meeting their needs. The places that really impress me are the ones that say they can’t help me, but then find someone for me who can. You can bet I go back there when I do need something they offer.

      • I’ve done that, too. “I’m not the best person to help you with this. Let me hook you up.” Usually, that brings more business later. 🙂

    9. I like your approach. That’s what many customers want to hear, how can this person help *me*?

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