Salespeople should put themselves in the shoes of buyers. It’s an educative exercise, especially if you are a salesperson going through one of these periods when you feel the buyers do not want what you have to sell. But, getting inside the mind of a buyer can completely change your perspective.
I learned this while being a rep selling books to non-book outlets, such as convenience stores, post offices, etc. The most common objection was, “But I don’t do books,” to which the default response was, That’s exactly why I’m here.” (I’ve written a previous Wiseacre episode about that). That response was an ideal 'time-buyer', and showed the buyer that you weren’t put off and that his objection was actually a buying signal, of sorts. But once you’d bought the time, you had to use it effectively by providing strong reasons to buy.
So, knowing what is inside the buyer’s mind is vital. I was in my late 20s and I had no experience of running a retail shop and so had no idea of how a retailer thought. Sure, I’d been reasonably successful selling to retailers and had a basic understanding of how to pitch to them. But that’s not the same thing as knowing what sounds moderately attractive to them and what sounds super attractive to them. You really need to know the difference between what a retailer thinks of as essential, and what he/she thinks of as a luxury. That’s why I was glad Dave changed sides.
Dave was a former retailer of a well-known convenience store. He always thought “the reps have an easy life”! Dave had been a successful retailer. He just didn’t like that the retail brand/franchise was trying to tell him what to buy and what not to buy. Hence his career change. And he hit the ground running, becoming our most successful rep. I trained him but my training wasn’t what helped him take to sales like a duck to water. It was that he knew what was going through the mind of the prospects he was speaking to.
For instance, when I was out on calls with him, I was struck by his forthrightness with prospects. He got away with it because they could tell he knew exactly how they thought. On one occasion he’d done his presentation and at the end of it simply said, “So, if this isn’t the new well-margined product you’d woken up today hoping to find, then I don’t know what is.” He was nodding his head, and the customer was almost unconsciously nodding back. Dave then added, “I’ll just nip out and bring in the stand and you can tell me where in your shop it will perform best.” He didn’t wait for an answer. He just went out and came back with the stand, saying, “Unless you’ve a better idea, I’ll just put it here. Now, are you paying C.O.D. to get your extra 5% discount? Or on 30 days terms?”
The prospect felt comfortable because Dave was confident, showed a clear way forward, and the retailer could see that what Dave was proposing made sense. In fact, the retailer risked sounding illogical should he deviate from the clear course to profit Dave had mapped out. Dave’s obvious empathy with the prospects reduced the amount of unnecessary and time consuming objections. This increased the amount of calls he got through in a day and therefore his productivity increased. It was no surprise therefore that he cruised into the lead on the sales chart.
So, at the next training session, I gave the floor to Dave and he gave us a great A Day in The Life Of A Retailer summary. The audience was riveted.
“The first thing you think of when you get up is ‘how do I make this day a good day in the shop’. Firstly, I need product. Sure, bread, milk, sweeties, ciggies and booze brings ‘em in. But I’m not the only retailer providing these goods. So, every day I hope to find, either at cash and carry or via a rep, a new line that I have that no one else has, a line that I know my customers will add to their basket. Sure, when a rep comes in and starts pitching, I see my job is to make the rep work hard for the sale. I want to know exactly why I should stock this line, exactly why my customers might buy it. Some salespeople get put off by that. Well, then they couldn’t have had anything worth my while. Because, remember, I will have to sell whatever I buy from the rep on to my customers. So, I have to know what’s good about it. I have to know what the salesperson says to my objections. That’s how I educated myself on the features and benefits of the product. The salesperson, when answering my objections, is training me. Only with that ‘training’ do I feel comfortable telling my customers how good the product is. Without that ‘training’, it’s just another product in my shop and has less chance of becoming the new line I want to make extra money from. And I need extra money. I need new product. New product is essential. So, whenever a rep comes in, sure, I might do my best to sound unapproachable. But, I know they are coming into my shop for a reason. The truth is, I need the reps.”
For reps listening to Dave and who had experienced that feeling of “I’m wasting my time here” Dave’s words were revelatory. It was a real insight to 'the other side'. Of course, Dave’s real point was that they were not “the other side”, but actually, we were all on the same side, all just wanting new lines to be explained, and to work.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.