Thursday, 2 May 2013

Stories that Salespeople should know

Today I am sharing with you two stories that salespeople should take lessons from. I will also tie together the terms of responsible marketing, influencing buyers, adoption curve and decision making process... don't be scared with this terminology, it's easier than you think.

Story 1: Terry the window salesman
Once upon a time, there was a young man called Terry, a novice window salesman from England. Terry was the kind of person who couldn't sell false teeth to his own Granny, let alone compete with the other salespeople in the industry... You know... the kind who could sell snow to Eskimos...
One day, Terry's boss decides to send him out on a practical field trip on his first month. He throws him right into the deep end by asking him to visit an interested prospect at the posh end of town... where the big money is in Windows/Double-glazing sales.

Terry, was extremely nervous. With his hands shaking and his knees shaking, he approaches the front door and thuds the door knocker several times. An oldish woman approaches and, after his first shaking introduction, she invites him in.
Terry stays there for over 3 hours. Then, after dozens of cups of tea and mounds of biscuits, the woman signs a contract and purchases over £7000 worth of windows!

What happened? The woman had already spoken with 6 other dynamite glazing salesmen that week. ALL of them offered her a cheaper quote! That's right - Terry's price was the MOST expensive. He was also the most inexperienced salesman there ever was. So, what happened in the background? And moreover, how can you replicate these powerful sales techniques to step up a notch on your own profit ladder? Here comes the secret...

The woman said, "She liked the young lad more than the others."

That's ALL there was to it. She didn't care about the extra expense. Even the other slick salesmen couldn't persuade her to pay LESS than this young chap was asking for. The truth is, this lad's first impression shone brighter than any of the sales talk the others subjected the old woman to. First impressions count, and this young lad's courtesy, attitude, politeness and likeability are what closed the sale. Not the sales hype. Not the low prices with the gigantic over-hyped benefits. But, the actual 'personality' and 'impression' the kid honestly gave was all that was required.

(Adapted from:

Story 2: Mikey and the mobile phone contract
This is one is a personal story. Like the first story for me it is more important the real care. Being a business person myself I know a lot of the tricks "in the book" in other to have a sale, to retain a customer against his/her will, etc. A hard sell approach does not work for me, it actually makes me not wanting to buy the product but wanting to cut ties with the company. I'm the type of person should be wearing a t-shirt that says "Don't try to sell me something, that will not work!" every time I go shopping. So, what works? The care. Let me explain with an example...

Everyone in Australia knows that Vodafone does not have a good national network coverage, for me that is not very relevant as currently I am based in the heart of Sydney, moreover the contract that I have allows me to have free calls to most of my contacts. Don't get me wrong, I do feel from time to time the constrains of having a Vodafone network while comparing to the Optus/Telstra network of some colleagues... and that always makes me wonder...

Some months ago I realised that my yearly Vodafone contract could be over soon so if I wanted I could have a new contract and that would allow me to have a brand new phone. Eventually I decided to go to a store and ask about my contract, I was right... it had ended (note: even if your contract ends you can still make/receive calls with the same conditions of the previous contract). Of course the person in the store starter the whole hard sell approach, "With the new contract you can get this phone X or this one Y" and "You will have this amount of internet data and with these phones you can do this and that... I might get you some discount if you make the decision this week, etc, etc, etc...". The salesman did not realised that my current phone (purchased from abroad) had all the things I wanted and more, he was not really touching my sweet spot and my NEEDS... quite the opposite he made me angry because I was being pushed into doing something that I did not wanted... so I left the store without signing a new contract.

Weeks later, still deciding if I would stay with Vodafone or not I decided to give them one more chance, I called their helpdesk. It was not a surprise to hear a female Indian voice on the other side as many of the Australian helpdesks are now based in India, this is normally not a problem for me as long as I understand the accent. This time around you could hear a slight Indian accent but with perfect and understandable English, her voice sounded older too... Once more I explained my situation however the result was slightly different, here is a bit our conversation:

"... so... I can still use my mobile without a problem right?", I asked.
"Of course, you will have the same conditions... but you will not have any increase of minutes or data as the new plans" she replied
"Hmmm... and I will not have a new phone", I concluded.
"Yes, it is true. But aren't you happy with your current phone? I say this since although we make money while creating and renewing contracts it seems that you are happy with your current plan and phone, isn't that right?", she asked.
"Yes it is true... to be honest I would just do another contract to have another phone... but I don't really need one and my current contract is more than enough...", I explained.
"I see. Well, you might as well leave it as it is while keeping an eye on new promotions. You will still stay with us but you are not locked with a yearly or a 2 years contract neither with a phone that you don't want or need. Then if you see (new) interesting phone or (new) contract deal you can call us again."

Bling-Bling-Bling!!! This was my sweet spot... the care . Of course they were still making money with me since I was still using the phone but on the other hand I was happy since I had more flexibility (am I going to use it?) but more importantly I did not feel the pressure of doing something that I did not wanted, i.e. I was not hearing "you need to buy this NOW because WE know want you need and this is it... And more... if you do it NOW you will have discounts in XY&Z!!".

Four months have passed and today I am still with Vodafone but not because of my first conversation with this hard sell salesman. It is true that I might change to Optus or Telestra tomorrow as not having a contract gives me more freedom but it was the care of this saleswoman (probably in another country) that made me decide to stay with them... for now.

Influencing Buyers, Adoption curve and Decision Making Process
It is important to realise that customers are influenced in different ways, the hard or soft sell approaches will also fit customers in a different way. Normally customers that are not easily influenced will refuse hard sell approaches, however these are not necessary customers that buy products in a later phase (see Adoption curve below). The less influenced buyers are the ones that may take a bit of their own time to investigate options and decide what is best for them according to their own established rules - but they can still be early adopters since they might be more informed.

Actually, these less influenced buyers are the customers that companies need to learn from since they provide much more insights and measures of the decision making process. With their lessons it will be easier to tackle their concerns, which may as well be the same concerns  (in a smaller degree) of the easy to influence buyers. In other words, the sooner a company understands the insights of its potential market the easier it will be to capitalise it.

Adoption Curve

Adoption curve -  describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups. The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or "bell curve." The model indicates that the first group of people to use a new product is called "innovators," followed by "early adopters." Next come the early and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called "laggards." Studies also show that the innovators and early adopters then to be the more educated part of the market.

Putting the pieces together. What does this mean for companies?
If you market your own products and services, consider what impression you are giving to your prospects as you do have a responsibility towards the market. If you appeal to them in a honest way, then you've already done half of the work. If this means redesigning your presentation, then so be it. If this means going out of your way to be polite, helpful and giving the best possible shopping experience to your customers, then so be it. If that means a long-term investment instead of quick profits, so be it. If that means to put all the cards on the table, then be it.

There is nothing wrong with a honest-sell-approach, customers DO appreciate it and that will make a huge difference in the market. The less you hide the more appreciation you will have and that is powerful because customer will remember that so it will be easier to create a long-term relation.

Is it really too much work to secure those big sales? Isn't it easier for companies just focus on the easy to influence buyers? I'll leave you to ponder on that thought...

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Blog Editor and Owner: Luis Aparicio Fernandes (or Mikey) is a Business Expert and a Traveler based in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma due to his achievements in business. You can follow Luis on Google+, and LinkedIn.