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Selling is as easy as ABC 123!

Good or bad experiences aside, at the very time you want to buy something there's a good chance you'll do it from someone you've never met before. Can you trust them? Will they rip you off? Will they pressure you to buy before you're ready, before you're happy?

Worst of all, will you end up getting home and regret buying? Regret spending the money? Regret you'd ever been to that shop?

Just do what you like

An "Eskimo" won't buy more snow unless they're completely happy. And this is the issue: selling isn't about flogging, it isn't dirty or underhand.

Selling is about helping people reach the point where they want to buy. It's about talking to people. It's about advising them over their decisions. And because tech is complex, this becomes even more important.

Whether you're dealing with a know-it-all, someone who hasn't a clue, or someone who is plain scared, every customer needs helping. Every customer has to leave you not just thinking they've bought the right thing, they need to have actually bought the right thing. And if you have staff, every one of them needs to be able to do this consistently. You owe it to your customers.

I'm Mandy, fly me

The first step in any sale comes the moment you meet someone. And as always, first impressions matter - tremendously. So why, if the customer has chosen to call or visit you - maybe through a recommendation – would you want to humiliate them by confirming their decision was misplaced?

Yet so many Indies do this through their welcome – or the lack of one. We did a mystery shop recently where the welcome consisted of a muted "Hi" from behind the sales counter. And not just that, the salesperson wouldn't come out!

If you're welcome doesn't make customers say to themselves: "I thought they'd be good, seems like they are" you have a problem. This doesn't mean back slapping or cheek kissing here – too much "greeting" can be just as bad. But a simple friendly "Hello", the moment the customer walks through the door is a great start. What's more, you can further confirm their decision by having a simple uniform – it makes you look professional.

By the way, did you know that the use of a friendly personal greeting helps reduce theft?

That's £7.50, thanks

"I'd like this mouse." "OK. There's your change. Cheers." Just taking the money leads to bad sales. Why? Because people buy things for a purpose and right now, you've no idea why they've bought the mouse.

Was the mouse bought as a present, a replacement for an old one or a genuinely new one? Why does this matter? Well, think of it like this. If the mouse that's been bought is in some way "wrong"; if the customer didn't realise it needed batteries and doesn't have any; if it's got buttons and functions they don't want; USB or PS2 Connection; or because of the way they use their computer they"ll need an extension cable before they can use it; will they thank you?

Might they feel a tad disappointed, humiliated or even angry? Will they think you care more about them or about taking their money? Will they tell their friends about what a great shop you are? Will they come back? All because, for some reason, you didn't, couldn't or wouldn't talk to them.

Would you like fries with that?

Now, no-ones expecting you to be the life and soul of the party, but by keeping your mouth shut, by not finding out why this mouse has been bought, you've thrown the door open to some serious damage to your reputation.

By keeping your mouth shut you've also needlessly missed the chance of further sales. The batteries. The extension cable. A wireless mouse and dongle because the customer didn't know he could upgrade his equipment and do away with that troublesome extension. 

Just as selling isn't some devious practice, neither is up-selling (getting the customer to trade up), or cross selling (getting the customer to buy add-ons). Sure, they absolutely do result in the customer spending more money, but these aren't your reasons for doing them.

You try to up and cross sell to customers to save them from disappointment and humiliation. You try to up and cross sell to customers to save them from a needless journey in the future to buy what you didn't sell them. You try to up and cross sell to customers because you're providing great service. The very thing you pride yourself on.

What will you use it for?

Every time someone buys something from you, you have to do two things: satisfy yourself they've bought the right thing and satisfy yourself they don't need anything else.

All it takes is a question and you can start the right conversation to get at these things. Just say: "That's interesting, people usually buy a mouse with a ......" and add – this is the important part - "Can I ask what you're buying it for?" You"re off.

Can I make a suggestion?

Many customers visit with a clear view on what they need. But is what they think they need what they actually need? Case in point, Target Components did a mystery shop posing as a consultant worried about his old computer and looking for a new one.

During the mystery shop, at no time did the sales person ask: "Do you really want a new computer or do you want us to health-check your old one? It's a very cost effective way of checking out your old kit and assessing what needs replacing to extend its life."

Neither was they asked about interest in refurbished machines. Both possible options. Both could have demonstrated the shop was looking out for them. Neither was mentioned. Show you care and cover all the bases with every customer.

No, batteries are extra

No-one likes to feel they are being "spun" to. That advantages are being emphasised at the expense of issues. If a customer gets a hint that anything's being "hidden" from them, you've a problem.

You must be perceived trustworthy.

So, if the mouse doesn't come with batteries, make a point of saying so. If the customer is having a windows reinstall, make sure they understand it doesn't come with Office. These things may sound obvious, but you have to take account of whether the customer both hears and understands what you tell them.

You don't know how they feel or the pressure they're under: bothered because they're speaking to a stranger; a man; an expert; or they're just in a hurry. Communication can be remarkably ineffective so always be utterly candid, keep it simple and make certain you sense they "get" what you"re saying. It's part of showing your integrity. It's all part of showing you care.

"Compared to what" - what makes you say that?

Notice I said "what you will be compared to"? This is the issue. You will never handle any objection with confidence unless you're doing it using facts. So, rather than just thinking "how much can I afford to knock off" the next time someone says "that"s expensive", your first thought has to be "my prices are good, so what am I being compared to?"

Do not meet a price objection by giving in. You have to know the facts before anything can be done. Are they just trying it on – it's a common buying ploy and many people use it; have they found a direct "like for like" comparison; or have they found one they think is the same? You don't know. So find out. Take a deep breath and ask: "That's interesting, compared to what?" Equally, you could have said "What makes you say that?" Even a simple "Why?"

I can get it £50 less at…

A while back Target Components were talking with an Indie customer about how he competes with the big chains. "Ah" he said, "I've got that one nailed". With that, he pulled out a sheet of A4 titled "The True Cost of Your New Laptop". On it was a table with two columns, one headed "Price at Big Chain", the other "Our Price". The rows started with the price of the laptop and then he listed all the setup services he included. Things like: data transfer; account set up; email migration and setup; browser favourites setup; software installation and updates; antivirus setup; and network setup. At the bottom were the totals. And this was the interesting bit: though he couldn't match the price of the laptop, he'd positioned his overall price to have the edge on the big chain.

"Because they charge £110 for the setup it's easy for me to compete." What this Indie had done was stop selling laptops and start selling fully set-up laptops. He'd changed his "product" and in doing so, prevented being compared like-for-like. And this is the issue: where you know you are weak change what you sell – create a package of products and services that changes the game. Do this and you'll have powerful ways to stop price objections in their tracks.

Getting the customer over the line

"So, overall you give a better deal. That's interesting." There you are: in front of a customer who appreciates you're better value than the alternatives. You can smell the sale. You're so very nearly there. But they're not buying. What do you do?

Well, this is another time to take a deep breath - now is not the time to jump into discounts or anything that makes you seem "nervy". If you do, you unravel everything you've done to get to where you are and undermine their trust in you. If you do, you encourage the customer to think: "Why are they worried?" "Is their business sound?" "Is there something they're not telling me about what I'm buying?"

If the customer isn't buying it's because they're not totally convinced. And what you need to do is find out why – remember it's your job to make them happy to buy.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Professional salespeople call it "closing" others might call it 'oiling the wheels' but whatever, sometimes you just need to prompt the customer to make the decision. Break the silence with a simple question: "I can see you're interested in X and I'd love to sell it to you. But before you buy is there anything else you need to know?"

This isn't "pressure"; it"s a simple open question that shows you have empathy and the customer's best interests at heart. It will get a response and give you the opportunity you need.

Make an offer

Offers are the lifeblood of retail. They give people reasons to visit or return. They can be used to create footfall, bring existing customers in or land enquiries as sales. From a simple PC health-check through to a time bound discount on antivirus software if a purchase is made, good offers are good for business.

So build an offer portfolio of 6 or so you can use when you need them. If it's quiet, use the footfall generators, the free checks etc. If you're looking to increase purchasing frequency of existing customers use something like an exclusive discount. If you want to snare a prospect, have an attractive deal. Whilst obviously these offers need thinking through, the key here is having them "in your back pocket" and ready to use.

Go on, you know you want to

Sometimes the customer ends up with different options given what they want. "Do I just buy the replacement mouse or do I go for the blue tooth mouse and dongle?" You've discussed both and the customer understands the advantages and disadvantages of each as well as the cost implications. Should you tell them which option they should go for?

What matters is you want the customer to believe you are looking after their best interests. So whilst it's right you advise them on products, its wrong for you to spend their money. You can further reinforce your integrity and trustworthiness in these situations by simply asking: "So, what would you like to do?" And if they do ask your opinion, they have given you permission to give it. So do.

Exercise: understand your customers better

Selling isn't flogging: it's about helping customers to be happy to buy. There are many ways to go about improving your skills and a huge amount of training out there. If you're serious about improving how you help customers the place to start is by observing what you and, if you have them, your staff are doing. Once you have this and understand where the gaps are, you can address more specific issues.

For every customer that comes in check:

Was the customer asked "what will you be using it for?"

What objections were raised and how effective were the responses?

What further sales opportunities were identified and were sales made?

Would the customer have genuinely felt their best interests were at heart?

Overall, is there any reason possible as to why the customer might not feel they had bought the right products and services?

What would you do to improve any of the above?

Do this for a dozen or so customers if it's just you. If you have staff, make it a bit of fun to observe each other and provide constructive comment on how people can improve. And if you record enquiries and footfall, start noting:

  • Changes to sales conversion i.e. the proportion of visitors who make a purchase

  • Changes to average order values i.e. the average value of each purchase

As always, the business advice we give is exactly that, advice! what works for one person may not work for another.


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