29 May 2024, 13:21
By Brian Barfield Jan 23, 2016

Modern Day Selling #3 – Cementing the customer connection

Sometimes, we know what we want, but are too frightened to ask, says Brian Barfield, who continues his series by explaining how the ability to make a connection with a customer is more important than both product knowledge and selling skills …

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you possessed a specific need, but felt very vulnerable when offering information? Perhaps you’re looking for a good sleeping solution for a family member with serious allergies, but know nothing at all about the mattresses on the market.

However, to not look ignorant, I act like I know what I need, and offer very little information. I do this because I have the sneaky suspicion that they are going to rip me off – but the simple facts are that I know nothing about what’s available, and the person who can help me has not yet gained my trust.

This is exactly how many of your customers feel when they enter your store for the first time. It all goes back to the disconnection between sales associate and customer that I spoke about in my last article. By now, you hopefully possess the skills to connect with your customer by offering a service that benefits them and helping them relax – they will be open to listening to what you have to say.

But guess what? Many of them still do not trust you.

At this point it is vital for you to establish a bond of trust with your customer, so the information will flow more freely and things will be more efficient. You do this by creating a clear and effective approach to meeting your customer’s needs by communicating effectively.

“In order to establish trust, you must be able to speak clearly and effectively to your customers’ needs. This assures them that you are a professional and that you want to help them”

The best way I can think of to illustrate this is by sharing a car repair experience of mine, where my tyres were sliding when it began to rain. As I entered the store I explained my situation to the first guy. He proceeded to offer a long-winded explanation using his knowledge, skills and plenty of foreign terms, like “popcorn in my tyres”. This was followed with the closing line that my tyres needed to be replaced. I left feeling like I was being taken advantage of and, needless to say, no tyres were replaced that day.

The next day, the problem with my tyres presented itself again. I went back to the same place and asked for help. I shared my previous experience with a new salesperson, and told him that nobody I had talked with had ever heard the term “popcorn in your tyres”.

The salesman then proceeded to walk me to my car. He pointed at the wear on my tread and showed me where some wire was breaking through the surface. He then followed it up with these words: “I bet you are sliding around like crazy when the roads are wet, aren’t you? You got popcorn in your tyre and they need to be replaced.” How did he know that? I did not share that with him. Without hesitation I replaced the tyre, and have continued to go there with all my tyre needs. Trust begets loyalty.

So, let’s recap the situation. Two guys told me the exact same thing. In truth, the first guy seemed a lot more knowledgeable, but he was unable to gain my trust, and thus my business. They were both confident, knowledgeable and skilled enough to assist me. What the second guy did that was more effective was create a visual of the situation which made it very clear that my tyres needed to be replaced. This assured me that I could trust him and that he was looking out for my best interests.

My last two visits there have been quick and easy because the bond of trust has been established. I am now an open-minded customer.

The important lesson to learn is that understanding product knowledge and selling skills will only get you so far on today’s sales floor. It’s the ability to connect with people and build trust that will set you apart and bring you greater success. Sure, product knowledge and selling skills are important, but I will take someone who can connect with customers over a product guru or a selling shark any day of the week. This is an area that we as an industry have failed to focus on.

Someone who can connect with their customer will be more effective in giving their customer a pleasant experience. Have you ever witnessed a product guru’s presentation? Can you say marathon?! By the end of their rant, the customer would rather stick a pencil in their ear than have to listen to any more knowledge. Sure, they may have closed the sale, but that customer will most likely not be returning to see them again.

Meanwhile, they did not even realise that they missed a huge sale opportunity while they were selling that smaller item for two hours. I call them the look-at-me sales associate – we all have witnessed one. The sales associate who can connect with people would have closed a small sale in 15 minutes or less. It’s that simple.

In order to establish trust, you must be able to speak clearly and effectively to your customers’ needs. This assures them that you are a professional and that you want to help them.

I encourage you to explore this in greater detail by using the self-examination skills in my article, The Power of Self Examination, which can be found on my website – it’ll give you the skills necessary to implement this new knowledge and insight and help you connect with your customers.

Brian Barfield is a two-time published author who specialises in retail sales training. His Modern Day Selling series offers a unique perspective in teaching sales associates how to reconnect with their customers and achieve greater success in their sales career.

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