Effective Strategies E-Zine

Volume 5, Issue 2

ďLetís face it; the customer isnít always right when they are making a purchase. If the customer is faced later with buyerís regret ó the sinking feeling that they should have bought something different and itís too late ó do you think they will purchase from the same loser salesperson who let them make a wrong decision the last time?Ē

Carrie Smith
Chief Sales Officer

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Be a Sales Consultant

Every time I spend my money, I want the same thing ó value. For many of the buying transactions I make, that means that I expect the company Iím buying from to provide advice and product knowledge as well as the right product, responsive service, and a fair price. Truly though, if a company is providing me information I donít have to research on my own, Iím not as price sensitive. However, I still expect the right product and responsive service.

Here is my biggest pet peeve in the whole world when I make a purchase: sales people who simply fill out a sales order based on what I think I want. It infuriates me to figure out later that I was making a bad purchasing decision when the salesperson could have helped me explore different products that better suited my needs. Letís face it; the customer isnít always right when they are making a purchase. If the customer is faced later with buyerís regret ó the sinking feeling that they should have bought something different and itís too late ó do you think they will purchase from the same loser salesperson who let them make a wrong decision the last time?

Here is my second biggest pet peeve: salespeople who try to sell me products I donít need or wonít use. Frankly, if they asked the right questions, they would know if I actually need additional bells and whistles ó at least they would know WHICH bells and whistles I could use. It becomes quite obvious when salespeople are more motivated by the additional sales commission instead of doing what is right for their customer.

Weíre All in Sales

Our everyday lives are full of sales transactions. Not all of them require selling a product or service to an official customer. In our careers, most of us had to convince an employer to hire us and later promote us. When you propose an improvement to a company process, you have to sell the idea to someone.

However, we donít just sell in our professional lives. Perhaps you had to encourage your grandma to give you just one more cookie when you were six. What about when a mom has to talk her baby into eating the spinach goop in a glass jar? Think about the young man who has to convince his one perfect love that she should spend the rest of her life with him. Whether you operate in a sales role where you bear the official title of salesperson, operate your own business, or simply live life Ė you are in sales.

The shocker is that people who end up in small business ownership often discover they donít want to be a salesperson. They simply throw open their doors for business and expect customers ó lots of them ó to flock to their doorstep. For that to happen, prospects who have a need must be educated about the business offering and then convinced to buy.

If entrepreneurs discovered that they didnít want to be salespeople before they invested their life savings in a business, someone could stop them. Life is too short to spend it doing something you loathe. If you hate sales, donít ever go into business for yourself. Youíll be miserable or youíll starve.

Iím not so naÔve to assume that you love sales or you hate it. You can really, really dislike it but learn to tolerate it and succeed. Generally, this involves incorporating a process that includes knowing and believing in your products. To be successful in sales, the first person you have to sell on the product is yourself.

Buyers Donít Want a Salesperson ó Buyers Want a Consultant

The Internet has become a major shopping mall. Iím convinced that itís popular because we can get all the information we need to compare products without ever dealing with a salesperson. If the salespeople looked at their role as a consultant, more people would choose a human transaction.

Shopping on the Internet isnít that easy or fast and you donít know if youíll be ripped off. Just ask me about my miserable transaction with Fotoconnection.com. They did ďbait and switchĒ and then didnít send me the same products I ordered (and some of what they sent didnít work). They refused to take my order back without a restocking fee ó Iím still dealing with my credit card company and the Better Business Bureau of New York to get my money back. Iím sure Fotoconnection.com cheats other unsuspecting people too, but they still get to operate. We trust people to operate fairly but when we canít touch what weíre buying, there is some risk involved. I would much rather purchase something I can hold in my hands before I plunk down my hard-earned cash.

Buyers want a salesperson who gets to know them and their needs. When you get into premium products, that interaction becomes even more important because the prospect likely has a million other important decisions to make. They seek out sales consultants who will advise them on the right product for their needs. Provide them with an excellent buying experience and they will tell the others ó and shoppers of premium products tend to hang out with other people like themselves.

Does this mean that the budget shopper doesnít expect a consultant too? If you read The Millionaire Next Door, you learned that most people donít become millionaires from overspending and living lavish lifestyles. Never assume that someone who is looking for a bargain does not have great purchasing power or influence. Even if they are truly a budget shopper because they donít have a lot of money, the chances are good that they will have more purchasing power someday. Treat them like they were spending a million dollars now and they will remember you when they are ready to purchase again.

Three Simple Steps to Being a Great Sales Consultant

Know Your Product and Who Best Benefits from It. Salespeople make a living based on completed sales transactions. Ability to identify prospects and convert them into customers is how sales consultants earn their money. Product knowledge provides a salesperson a competitive edge. By knowing their product intimately, they can research what type of buyer it benefits most. Really proactive sales consultants seek out leads for future customers by telling others what kind of buyer they are looking for. Letís face it, lots of people need the products we sell, but not everyone is willing or able to buy. Educate yourself on your target buyer. Most important, be willing to tell a customer when your product isnít right for him. Buyerís regret makes for a terrible reputation for both the salesperson and the company.

Ask Questions and Listen for Meaning and Understanding. Ask me, ďCan I help you?Ē and Iíll say, ďNo, thanks. Iím just looking.Ē Ask me, ďWhat are you shopping for today?Ē and I have to respond with an explanation. The first option was a close-ended question where I can respond with ďyesĒ or ďno.Ē Ordinary salespeople use the first type of question because they are happy to lurk in the merchandise shadows waiting to pounce on a customer seeking a place to pay for their purchase. Sales consultants use the second type ó the open-ended question ó because it generates conversation. That conversation gives the sales consultant the information she needs to help the customer make a buying decision that best fits his needs. It also tells her which related products the customer needs to know about.

Follow Up After the Sale. Smart salespeople know that happy customers are the most inexpensive source of marketing. They also know that it is easier to create a return customer than to find a new customer. Sales consultants stay in touch after the transaction so they maintain top-of-mind awareness. I once heard someone say that if you donít make contact with customers at least every six weeks, they arenít your customers anymore. Make contact periodically even if you just send them a postcard. E-Bay sends my husband a customer anniversary card. He has no idea what date he first became an E-Bay customer (or E-Bay junkie) but the card helps E-Bay maintain top-of-mind awareness with him.

Choose to Be a Sales Consultant

Whether you choose to be in a sales role for a company or you discover you have no choice but to sell because you run your own company ó you can choose to be a sales consultant. Look at the sales process as a consulting opportunity, and you will view sales differently. Some of the tasks will still be less pleasant but you will truly begin to see your role as one of helping others as you build your customer base. Here is the really beautiful thing ó your customers will see you as someone who can help people like them and refer them to you.

Carrie Perrien Smith is a professional speaker, published writer, and owner of Soar with Eagles, a Rogers, Arkansas-based company. She is a publishing, communication, and training industry veteran whose corporate career spans 15 years, split between Texas Instruments and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Her company offers training, book publishing, conference management, and consulting services as well as a professional speakerís bureau.  

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