Want more sales? Listen to your customer

by Ashvini on June 12, 2012 · 9 comments

in General

Selling is often seen as equivalent to manipulating the buyer to buy things she does not need. I have also undergone such a manipulation, having signed on the dotted line trusting the sales man. Unfortunately only later I realized that I have been told half-truths.

Salesman

We are all familiar with such scenarios where we are sold things we don’t want . It is a known fact that we prefer the places where the salesman do not push deals and do not force us to buy something we don’t need.

My experience in buying a TV

I remembered a salesman in shop trying to sell me a TV. To close it, he threw a deal at me. I would get a DVD player free if I take the TV. It was a good deal, if I had dearth of DVD players in my house. I have so many unneeded DVD players, in laptop, in XBOX, music players that play DVD and one additional DVD that I purchased because it was cheap. Getting one more DVD was really not my favourite choice. I told him about that. He did not know what next to offer me. Maybe his company did not allow him to create deals on the go. Maybe he was not trained enough to make sales.

There are following problems with sales:

  1. It has a reputation of being dishonest( not that all sales people are dishonest)
  2. It hardly puts enough effort in knowing the customer
  3. It focus only on short term goals
  4. It sells us things we don’t need and things that don’t fulfill our actual need.

However sales persons are not the only reason to be blamed for making sales. It is often the corporate culture often that forces people to make sales because everyone has got the targets to meet.

Successful companies however do not rely only on salesmen to make sales

There are a large number of world class companies where the brand reputation often reaches customers much earlier than the people from sales can. That means that those customers are often pre-sold and need very less convincing at selling. These companies demonstrate

  1. very keen understanding of customer behavior
  2. letting go of short term profits for long term relationship building
  3. educating sales team to think about needs of customer first even to the point of missing sales
  4. concentrating on repeat customers and creating deals which makes sense for them.

A customer feels elated when she feels that she has clinched a good deal from you.

Since you know your business well, you can know what deal will work out well for your customer. That would involve studying customer habits and desires and then making appropriate strategies to make them buy your products. An entrepreneur often needs to do much more to understand the customer and he can do it well because he has a small base of customers. Big organizations often use technology to research customer behavior.

A good suggestion then is to listen to your customer and then creating sales around that. It requires full organization to be involved in this not only the salesmen or sales department.

 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 9 comments }

Sonia June 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I recently attended a trade show for my job and it was a huge success for us. What I saw was how many people knew who we were and most came up to us asking for our help without us having to do much work behind it. We still have to make sure we are a good “fit” for that customer and their needs, but to see it first hand was amazing.

From a consumers stand point, if I believe in the brand and their products, its a done deal and easy sell for the Salesperson. Often at times I have walked right up and said this is what I want, give me a good price and its a deal. How easy is that? If all sales went this way, more people would want to be a salesperson. Now that is in a perfect world, because being a salesperson is hard work. I wouldn’t know personally because I have never been one, but when we are online, we often do it without even noticing it. Like when we recommend products, and services to our friends and family. We aren’t getting compensated for the referral, but we still get some value knowing that they won’t be ripped off either. We also get to hear their satisfaction about how much they like the product we recommended.

Case in point: My cousin had a problem the other day with her fridge and she had a service man come out to fix it. The service man did a horrible job and her problem still persisted. She left a note and tagged the maker of the brand on Facebook and they immediately contacted her to address the problem.

To make a long story short, she is getting a brand new fridge and an upgraded model to boot! Once she shared it with me, it made me a believer in the brand, their service and what it meant to because they addressed her concerns as a consumer. Would I buy that brand? Yes. My cousin “sold” me on the product and she was “selling” when she didn’t even know it.

Jeevanjacobjohn June 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I think Apple is a great example of a company that knows its customers.

I am not really a fan of Apple, but I still like their methods with brand building. They have a very good reputation among their customers; hence, people buy their products, even though they are priced really high. But, I think Apple is going down a bit – they are short on innovation (I really think that they need to do something better than “improving” products – and getting the latest versions out).

Only a few businesses like Apple have really managed to know their customers and manage their company and products based on their customers’ behaviors. I think it is something that other companies should learn.

Another important thing to remember is to stop worrying about the profits. We need to worry about our customers and their satisfaction (we can’t please everyone, but we have to provide value through our products). Customer centric approach is the best (I recently wrote a post based on customer centric approach based on a thing I learned from a Magazine – Harvard Business school is studying the case of 2008 Mumbai attacks (they are studying the behavior of the Taj Hotel staff who risked their lives and helped their customers to escape the fire).

Anyways, thanks for the awesome post, Ashvini,

Jeevan

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Hey Jeevan,

Great insights and I loved your analysis of Apple. Infact I also feel quite the same about it ( almost in exact words). Great marketing however has to be supplemented by great product. Because someone with equal marketing muscle and better product can uproot the leader( if they play the cards right). That is what Samsung is slowly doing to Apple. They waited ten years to uproot Sony and now they are playing the slow patient game. Their S3 is now coming close to heels of iphone technically and Samsung may eventually become a threat to Apple.
I am a fan of Taj Hotels and I am a long term customer of their . They are the benchmark of service and everyone can learn from them.
These are certain good companies that keep the customer as center of their business and thus they win too in the end :).
Thanks for your great comment and have a nice day :)

Katrin June 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm

A competent salesman could earn the consumers’ trust very quick, they could be really talented in their profession. I think that they cannot learn these skills, some of them are really natural born salesmen. I know some guys from this type, and I think they could sell everything.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Hi Katrin,
Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. Yes there are some people who are born with the talent to do a job.

Adrienne June 13, 2012 at 12:13 am

I agree Ashvinin, great example.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my Dad was a salesman so he critiqued every one we ever came in contact with. The majority of them were horrible too but I think it’s like you mentioned here, they probably didn’t have the right offers to throw at their customers.

I think the majority of them do their job because they have to, not because they actually enjoy it.

The example Carolyn gave was perfect and those are the types of salesman that will always do right by you. Because of that you’ll always recommend people to them too so it’s not always about the big commission right now. It’s about having very happy customers who love to give referrals and keep coming back for more.

Thanks for sharing this Ashvini, great stuff.

~Adrienne

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Frankly, I have never been directly involved in sales but in consulting I was quite close to that. I learned that both customers and salesrep never gel well. Sales reps want to push the deal and get over with while customer is under perennial fear of getting a bad deal.
I feel sometimes upon observing that salesmen often are not empowered to make deals and organization push them against a wall. They get no time to develop a long term relationship with their customers. Unfortunately this type of thing may be okay for short term, I doubt that the customer will value the brand that much.
Thank you for your perspective and adding to the discussion.

Carolyn | Wonder of Tech June 12, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Hi Ashvini, Great example. I agree, it’s important for a sales person to listen to a customer. Don’t think a DVD player will close the deal if that’s not what she wants. I had a great sales person sell me my car two years ago. I was moving back from England and didn’t know much about cars in the US. I thought I wanted a particular model but she pointed me to a model that cost $10,000 less and I ended up liking better. Then she found some discounts and rebates for us, bringing the price down even more.

My husband loved that she did that and ended up buying a car from her as well. Because she gave us value and listened to what I wanted, she earned our lifetime loyalty. My husband has said he never wants to buy a car from anyone else.

It’s true. When you find someone who really listens to you, you can trust them and value their service.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I think that sales person made a lot of sales. In my opinion, selling is only a very small part of the whole customer interaction. A smart salesman would learn about the customer first and then try to pitch in the offer. I have never worked in sales directly but have come quite close to it in consulting. It is very important to build that relationship because of the fact that you would again go that sales woman who did the right thing for you the first time :).
Thanks for the awesome example .

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