Sales is a field where experience is key. The more time an employee spends interacting with customers out on the floor, the more effortlessly they will be able to handle any situation. With that being said, there are certain rules they should memorize and try to master right from the start. Certain sales tropes, for example, are too awkward and overbearing to be effective. If they try to use any of the following hapless methods, they are practically guaranteed to lose the sale.
There is no getting around the fact that sales is all about getting someone to buy something. Masking this dynamic and making it as subtle as possible is what makes a good salesperson special. If you are too pushy with a customer, trust evaporates, and the interaction becomes tense. No one enjoys feeling pressured or harassed, especially by a total stranger. Not only will pushiness cost a sale, but it might even cost you a customer for the long term. When a person has a negative experience with an over-aggressive salesperson, they often look for another place to do their business.
The solution is to pay attention to the customer. If they say “no” then do not push it any further. If their body language is uncomfortable as you are making a pitch, pull back and help them feel comfortable again.
Steering the Customer Towards an Unrelated Product
Customers expect a salesperson to focus on their actual needs. That means salespeople should push only those products that the customer has shown interest in. Randomly suggesting additional purchases will make it obvious to the customer that you are prioritizing the size of your commission over their satisfaction. This creates distrust, making the customer wonder if everything else you have told them was similarly self-interested.
This is where active listening comes into play. Understanding the difference between the customer’s need and your own desire for the sale can be the difference between a steady sales relationship and a one-time (or no-time) purchase. By listening to them explain their need, you can show them the best product for their situation. This does not mean do not attempt to upsell where appropriate, but if a customer says they have a fixed budget and you push them to spend more on something they don’t need or can’t afford, they will know that you aren’t listening to them.
Lying to The Customer
Customers enter conversation with salespeople assuming a shared commitment to an unspoken social contract. Everybody knows salespeople give a slanted view of the products they are selling, and they accept this bias as inherent to the profession. However, while they’ll forgive the occasional overstatement, they also assume they’re not being lied to outright. If they ask a simple yes or no question, they will expect you to tell them the truth. Nothing ruins a business’s reputation like untruthful salespeople.
The solution is to tell the truth, even if it isn’t pleasant or even good for the sale. Telling lies for the sake of a sale is the fastest way to bring your sales career to a premature close. Once the lie comes to light – and it will – then the harm is not isolated to the salesperson’s reputation. The entire company gets a black eye in the amount of time it takes for a customer to pull out their phone and type a review into Google, Yelp, or another page. No boss should ever tolerate it.
Overblown or Uncomfortable Friendliness
We all know that friendliness is important when it comes to sales. The problems arise when a salesperson overdoes it to the point of being creepy. Beyond just being fake and seeming like the salesperson is not a genuine human being, overfriendliness can lead customers to suspect ulterior motives or feel personally uncomfortable. Asking about a person’s day and greeting them with a warm smile are important, as is being personable. Inquiring too much into their personal lives, commenting on their clothes, touching them without permission, and making risqué comments are all examples of stepping over the line.
Paying attention is the solution as a salesperson and as a manager. Read your client’s body language and err on the side of caution, especially if you feel them coming on to you. Some customers’ perceptions may be wrong or even fabricated to get a deal, but it is safer to take each complaint like this seriously enough. As a sales manager, if you hear similar complaints about the same salesperson then that is a major red flag, because for every customer who comes forward there are likely many, many others who did not and who won’t be returning out of discomfort or fear of being harassed inappropriately.
Making Excessive Small Talk
Chatting a customer up is important if you want to get on their good side. A few friendly words at the start of the conversation will set the tone and make the entire process more pleasant. But while a bit of small talk is good, it is easy to get carried away and overdo it. Many customers are on tight schedules, and they came to complete a purchase, not to make a new friend. Expert salespeople know how to quickly get down to business. Customers appreciate the sense that their time is being valued. Additionally, if there are many customers waiting for service then they may lose patience at the small talk and move on, costing business.
The solution is to be concise and focus on the reason the customer is there. If you sell equipment necessary for healthy living, often you can expect to hear stories of struggle and strife. Respond to good news with encouragement and bad news with compassion but be brief and focus on what you can do for them. “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope things get better” is enough for most customer bad news, and “That’s fantastic you got a bonus! Let’s make the most of it” is good enough for customer good news. If your customer is long-winded, you can be polite and redirect the conversation assertively.
Rushing the Customer
Didn’t we talk about not taking too long? Well, rushing the customer into too fast of a transaction can have a negative effect as well. No salesperson should ever rush a customer, no matter how much they would like to move on. Impatience is a vice better abandoned on the sales floor. Some customers are incredibly efficient, striding into the business and making a purchase before you have even had a chance to say hello. Others are deliberative by nature, spending an eternity mulling over their decision. If you want them to ultimately pull the trigger, you need to be patient with them.
The solution is letting the customer go at their own pace. Letting the customer determine the pace shows them respect and also allows you to help others in the meantime. The solution is to answer all their questions honestly, no matter how silly or repetitive they seem. Let them think without barraging them with salesy comments of your own. If you bide your time and give them some space, they just might surprise you by making a bigger purchase than you had expected.
Talking Above or Below A Customer’s Level of Understanding
If you treat customers like they are experts in the field, they will spend a lot of timing looking at you with glazed eyes and their mouths hanging open. You can also offend customers by talking to them as if they were totally clueless. Good salespeople strike a balance, treating their customers like intelligent people who simply do not know everything about the industry.
Communication is the solution here. A good salesperson will use their conversation skills to gauge a customer’s familiarity with a product. It is always a good idea to politely ask about a customer’s knowledge about the product before going on a large speech. Acting condescendingly to a customer will (and justifiably so) be offensive.
Left to their own devices, salespeople might mistakenly engage in these fatal sales practices. If they have not been trained to do otherwise, it is almost not even their own fault. A business owner should invest in vigorous retail sales training to make sure employees know basic sales techniques. After just a few sessions, employees will learn how to avoid making the mistakes listed above. From there, they will only improve further with practice.