There is nothing wrong with asking... but asking for your reasons instead of your customer's usually backfires.
"I'm on commission. Please ask for me when you come back."
If I had a dollar for each time that I heard a salesperson say that to a departing customer, I would be a very rich man.
In this article I'd like to give my reasons why we salespeople should not beg for sales in this way. Please note that I am not against reminding customers to ask for us when they return, but we should ask for the right reasons. Remember that the right reasons are never ours but the customer's. Because all of us have been customers much longer than we've been salespeople, we should know that customers buy only according to the law of Wiifm: What's in it for me? While it is all right, and even advisable to remind customers to ask for us when they come back, we should put that request in terms that benefit the customer. Let me explain how to do so through the following scenario:
Customer: I've got one more store to check out. (the customer says this despite your professional best to gain her commitment).
Salesperson: Mrs. Smith, I've enjoyed working with you and I'd appreciate your asking for me when you come back so I can continue to help you make the best buying decision.
The professional salesperson always explains the reasons for his requests and does so in terms of customer benefits. It does salespeople little good to know that customers only buy benefits if salespeople don't apply that fact to every part of their sales presentation. For that reason I regard Learning International Inc.'s "Professional Selling Skills" as the best sales seminar because it consistently stresses Need Satisfaction Selling. Not our needs but the customer's.
It is a law of human nature that we instinctively strive for personal gain. I see this in all of my grandchildren, despite the best efforts of their parents to teach them to be altruistic. Altruism must be taught to children; the rule of Wiifm is instinctive. For salespeople to disregard so ingrained a natural law is counterproductive to winning the customer's commitment.
Presenting benefits to satisfy customer needs are such a powerful tool that salespeople should become masters at making both general and specific benefit statements. I define general benefit statements as those which are not intended to win immediate buying signals. Only specific benefit statements are intended to win immediate buying signals. The following are examples of general benefit statements:
*ou're going to love shopping in our store. Our merchandisers have been selecting the finest home furniture for years.
Wait till you see the recliners in our ad. You'll be happy you decided to shop us now because of the great values at great prices.
We carry three of the top ten bedding manufacturers to help give you the quality sleep you can rely on for years.
*otice how many of these beautiful fabrics are light in color. Our fabric protection helps take the worry out of common household stains.
By the way, we not only deliver. We also set up your fine furniture.
Were you aware that we offer ninety days same as cash?
General benefit statements are easy to come up with. Yet few salespeople make consistent use of them. Whatever in your store merits boasting... its people, its policies, its merchandise... boast in terms that benefit your customer. Are your salespeople involved in professional training? Let your customers know about it. Has your store won a special award for merchandising or for customer service? Let them know about it. Naturally, I am not advocating that you dump a litany of general benefit statements on every customer. One or two carefully chosen will do just fine. General benefit statements are an extension of the skill of preconditioning we discussed in the June 1995 issue of Furniture World.
Look for factors that make your store stand out from all of the rest. One store in Minnesota-Becker Furniture World-recently installed air purifiers throughout the store. I'd like to share with you a letter from a customer who commented on that unique store feature. After expressing her great satisfaction with the store's selection and values and the friendly, courteous treatment she experienced from the owner, the office help, and in particular from her salesperson Brenda, the customer expressed the following:
"I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with a product as well. I have moderate to severe asthma and several allergies. My husband has many allergies as well. My physical condition is touchy and is exacerbated by all sorts of pollutants. I was surprised by the good air quality on your premises after the Living Aire units were installed. Prior to that, I had been unable to be comfortable for more than 30 to 40 minutes. Fumes from new carpets can be threatening to me."
This customer then went on to have the same air unit installed in her home and also convinced her mother to do the same.
Remember, customers don't care how much you know until they know how much you care for them and how much you can benefit them. Benefits give; benefits help; benefits serve. For it is in giving that you are given; in helping that you are helped; in serving, that you are served. The next time you are tempted to say "Ask for me, I'm on commission," try the following instead: "Please ask for me when you return so that we can continue to work together to help you make the best buying decision." I guarantee you'll experience much greater results when you ask according to the Law of WIIMFM
Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.