You Should Sell to Your Customers…but Not Like This

“There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Zap! My AC adapter was dead as a doornail. Since I work from home, my laptop is my office, file cabinet, and primary means of communication with ETR writers and staff members alike. Panic started to set in. So I immediately called Dell to order a new AC adapter as quickly as possible.

I needed the adapter and I needed it right away, which meant that Dell had to do very little work to make the sale. But the sales rep I spoke to managed to make me so frustrated that I hung up and called Best Buy instead.

It’s possible that you or your salespeople are making the same mistake as the Dell rep. If so, you could be driving your customers away. Here’s what happened…

The sales rep asked me for my computer ID number so she could understand more about me and my computer. I told her that my AC adapter was dead and I needed a new one right away.

“Have you noticed that your computer is running slowly lately, especially when you have a lot of applications running?” she asked.

What does that have to do with anything? I thought. But, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I said, “Sure, sometimes.”

“It looks like you’re using almost half of your memory,” she said. “Would you like to upgrade?”

Okay, I thought, she either didn’t listen to my problem or she doesn’t understand my urgency. “Yes, I’ll consider that at some point,” I told her. “But right now, I really need an AC adapter.”

“Oh, of course we can do that for you. But I just want to make sure that your computer is running at top capacity,” she said. “Would you like to upgrade your memory? It will really help your computer run faster.”

“Yes, I understand that,” I told her. “But I work from home and I need an AC adapter right away. That’s why I called. And once that problem is taken care of, I can think about upgrading my memory.”

“But if you upgrade your memory now, I can offer you a special rate,” she said.

“That’s not my problem right now,” I said. “My problem is that I need an AC adapter.”

“If you don’t upgrade your memory right now, you won’t get this special price,” she said.

“Thank you for your time,” I told her, and hung up. My next call was to Best Buy, who, it turns out, sells a universal AC adapter that works with my computer model.

Michael Masterson has said many times that customer service and sales should go hand in hand. That, in fact, if the product or service you offer is worthwhile, selling it is a service to your customer.

“If you limit the benefit you provide to that which – and only that which – your customer specifically requests,” says Michael, “you are much, much less valuable to him in the long run.”

But that doesn’t mean you should try to badger people into buying something they don’t want. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you should ignore solving your customer’s primary problem in order to make a bigger sale.

Michael puts it like this: “As businesspeople, it is our job to provide more and better products and services to our customers, to help them solve their problems, meet their needs, and achieve their ambitions.”

The key idea here: You want to help solve your customers’ problems. In my example, my problem was that I needed an AC adapter. Had the sales rep helped me order what I needed and then tried to convince me to upgrade my memory, I would have been much more receptive to her offer. (I really do, as she suggested, need more memory.)

Michael points out that there are two types of selling:

  1. Pushing people (to buy things they don’t want)
  2. Helping people (to select those things they do want to buy)

Pushy salespeople try to get you to do what you don’t want to do. “Such salespeople should be tarred and feathered, run out of town, dunked, and pilloried,” says Michael. “They are the same people who delight in not letting you merge into traffic and in cutting ahead of you in the supermarket line.”

So when you and your salespeople talk to customers, you must do three things:

  1. Identify what your customer needs. I needed an AC adapter. If you work for a travel agency, your customer might need a hotel room. If you work for a paper company, your customer might need five reams of printer paper.
  2. Identify what else could benefit your customer – something that would make his life easier or better, something that he may not realize he needs. I need more memory for my computer. Your travel client might benefit from a package of dinners and shows. Your paper client might need some envelopes.
  3. Solve his immediate problem first… then go for the additional sale.

“Taking an order and fulfilling it… without finding out how else you can help your customer… is a major service failure,” says Michael. “You must develop your business in such a way that you can provide more and better products/services on an ongoing basis.

“So long as you are helping your customer understand how your product can achieve his desires or solve his problems, he is prejudiced in your favor. You lose your prospect’s interest when you start talking about other things – your desires and interests, for example, or the product features that don’t concern him.

“So don’t sell him, help him. Begin by finding out what he wants and needs – and then (if and only if you can really help him) make the strongest, most specific case you can make that his desires will be achieved and his problems solved.”

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