Whatever you sell, don’t be THIS GUY


I recently accompanied a friend as she shopped for a new car. She’d done her research online and knew which models she wanted to see. Our goal that day was to get a feel for the vehicles and evaluate which ones suited her best. She was not, mind you, ready to buy.

We arrived at a small used-car lot planning to browse around, intending to ask for a representative only if we had specific questions. Within moments, that plan was shot as a loudspeaker announced, “Salesperson needed on the lot.”

A burly, bald-headed man in khakis and shirtsleeves approached. He gave his name, shook our hands, and asked, “Will it be cash or finance for you today?”

No “How are you?” No “How may I help you?” Not even a “What brings you here today?” He skipped right over building rapport and qualifying the prospect to haggling over money.

He’d already lost the sale.

But it only got worse…

My friend told Mr. Oblivious which make and model she’d come to see. “Come inside,” he says. “We’ll have a look.” Inside? Why? The cars are parked OUTSIDE. But he was already walking to his desk, so we followed.

At his computer, Mr. Oblivious tells us, “That particular car is on my other lot.” Some 15 miles and 45 minutes of rush-hour traffic away. “C’mon, I’ll drive you.”

Uh, excuse me? Did he just tell two ladies to hop in a strange car with a strange man and head across town? Not a chance, mister.

So, he changed tactics…sort of.

“What’s your budget? I’m sure I can find something for you to take home today.” He was back to negotiating. He didn’t have the product we’d come to see. Didn’t ask the customer about her preferences. Hadn’t bothered to show us around the car lot. And was now pushing whatever happens to be in stock that she can afford!

When my friend demurred, a second salesman jumped in to badger her about money. He essentially argued there’d be no point showing her a car if she wasn’t prepared to pony up the dough. Were these guys serious?

The high-pressure sales tactics continued for some 15 minutes before we walked out–totally pissed–never to return.

“Always be closing” is so 1992

Always Be Closing

Image Courtesy of Alan O’Rourke o Flickr

Alec Baldwin’s “Coffee’s for Closers” speech in Glengarry Glen Ross popularized the ABCs of selling: Always Be Closing. Despite the fact that Alec’s character is a hostile, egotistical prick, some people still think this is sound sales advice.

Mr. Oblivious epitomized the Always Be Closing mindset, and in doing so embodied every negative stereotype ever ascribed to a used-car salesman.

The problem with Always Be Closing is that it makes your interactions with the customer all about YOU, the seller, which is the exact opposite of how it should be.

Smart salesmanship isn’t about separating your customer from their money. It’s about meeting their needs so they walk away happy with their purchase. Because happy customers are repeat customers, and repeat customers are profitable customers.

How not to be Mr. Oblivious

If you’re in sales (and as a small business owner or consultant you ARE in sales), you have to pay attention to the customer journey. Every customer takes a different journey to their final purchase, but overall the buying cycle is pretty standard and predictable.

Buying Cycle

Your job is to meet the customer where they are in the buying cycle and give them whatever they need to feel comfortable taking that next step.

Using your online presence to meet customer needs

Eighty-one percent of today’s shoppers conduct research online before making a purchase. That means your sales process starts long before and may continue well after you speak with the customer.

Properly managed, your web presence can help customers through the first three stages of the buying cycle, bringing them to your door (or phone) at the decision stage, when they are ready to buy.

So how do you go about selling to customers online?

  1. Have a professional website. Your website should be clean and modern looking. It needs to be easy to navigate and provide all the information a customer might be looking for.
  2. Be where your customers are. Use social media to raise brand awareness. Join the same online communities as your customers and contribute constructively to the conversations they are having.
  3. Have all the answers. Fill your website, blog, or e-store with answers to your customers’ questions. Help them feel confident they are making the right decision when they choose to buy from you.
  4. Make it easy to get in touch. Some customers really want to speak with a representative by phone, while others prefer email or instant messaging. Give your customers several options for communicating with you and make those options easy to find.
  5. Nurture your leads. Stay in touch with your customers throughout the buying cycle, including after the sale, with email marketing.

Mr. Oblivious lost any chance at the sale because he came across as rude and untrustworthy. Don’t be Mr. Oblivious. Earn your customer’s trust by being there for them with the right information at every stage of the buying cycle.



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