Last week, Natalie walked into a sports store to buy a swim cap. She found the swim caps in the store and a young man, the "sales person" on duty, walked over and asked "Can I help you?"
She told me she said "yes, I need a swim cap" as she stood looking at the rack of swim caps. The "sales person" proceeded to tell her that their most popular cap was out of stock and he didn't know if any of the other 10 varieties would work for her, before walking off. Natalie stood dumbfounded and then decided to walk out of the store.
As she told me later, she would have bought anything swim related that day - swimsuit, goggles, towel, swim buoy, even flippers, if only the "sales person" had cared.
So, what went wrong? Here was a lady who had gone to a business with a specific reason to buy something, to spend her hard-earned money, and yet she walked out of the store without spending any of the hundreds of dollars she was prepared to spend!
How often does that happen?
The fact is that it happens more often than it should, and the reasons are five-fold.
1. We fail to care. So often we get sales people who don't really care if they make a sale. They fail to understand how important their job is to the success of the business and the satisfaction of the customer. Many times, they don't care to see the customer as someone unique, a real person with a life outside this relationship. Rather we see the customer as an interference, an inconvenience, a challenge. When this mentality starts to breed within our organization, we are in for trouble.
2. We don't train. Even if we have the right people, we don't train them in sales. Many businesses don't spend the time, money or energy to properly onboard their staff and teach them the fundamentals of sales. That young guy that served Natalie probably applied for a sales job with absolutely no understanding of what it meant. We expect our staff to know instinctively how to sell things yet we fail to train them or test them.
3. We need to figure out what works. If we have a sales process, we fail to document it and script it for our sales team. Undoubtably if we have been in business for a while, there is a process that our customers go through in making a decision to buy from us. Engaging them along the way of that process and helping them to make a decision can be scripted and anticipated. Documenting and teaching this process can be huge for increasing our sales.
4. We fail to understand why. There are 100 simple questions that are better than "Can I help you" which when scripted or taught can start off the process of understanding why a prospect has reached out to us. Without understanding their why, we will rarely be able to provide the right solution. Unless we can solve the pain or pleasure need of the customer, they will go to find someone who can and we will lose a sale.
5. We fail to measure. Yes, its true that we can go into a business and get asked at the till if we were helped. But say no sometime and see what happens. Usually the person just says "oh" and moves on to the next question. Would we like a bag? Without measuring what is happening in the sales process, we are doing our business and our customers a disservice. Tracking the conversion rates of people who come into contact with us, is important. We need to understand where we are failing and determine where we can make changes in the sales process that will give the customer what they contacted us for and drive sales for us.
Natalie's example of her defeat in her attempt to buy a swim cap might seem trivial. However, without the ability to understand how to sell, (and we all sell something whether its goods or services, solutions, religion, education, ideas, or even love) we become frustrated and unsuccessful in fulfilling our purpose. With this in mind, perhaps we might become better people if we started teaching sales skills in school with the anticipation that better questioning might just lead to a better society.
- Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning Certified Professional Business Coach and the author of the book "Profit Yourself Healthy" email your questions about swimming to firstname.lastname@example.org