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Don’t Sell “Salesmanship Short”

November 22, 2009

It was early on a Sunday afternoon and there were very few shoppers around. We happened into a store that sold small electric appliances. One item that we were particularly interested in had a sign that said, “ask for demonstration.”

We looked around for a sales person. There was just one and he was standing behind the counter engaged in a conversation with a security guard that had just strolled in before us.

I looked in the direction of the salesman, paused for a minute, and then asked if he could help us when he got a chance. He said, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

We would have conducted our own demonstration but the appliance was battery-powered and the sample had no batteries installed.

Several more minutes passed before we again attempted to interrupt the salesman’s conversation with the security guard. “Excuse me, do you have any batteries?” we asked.

“I’ll be right there,” replied the salesman.

We overheard the security guard say, “Go ahead, man, I’ll stop back later when you’re not so busy.”

The salesman came over, pleasantly greeted us, and asked what could he do for us. We stated our interest in the appliance and asked if he could get some batteries for a demonstration. He said he was sorry but they didn’t have any batteries.

Somewhat in disbelief, we thanked him and left. All stores keep track of their sales, but who counts the lost sales opportunities?

There are plenty of directions to point a finger if things aren’t going so well. There’s uncertainty about the economy. Are we coming out of a recession or are we spiraling into a deeper one? Consumer spending is down and some say interest rates might be heading back up.

Before you start pointing fingers at macro economic phenomena for stagnant sales, take a good look at your sales effort. You might well be pointing that finger at yourself.

I don’t know how economists factor poor salesmanship into the equation for declining retail sales, but I know they are a factor.

I know for a fact that there’s one store manager looking at a weekend sales report that’s lower than it should be, not because of a recession, interest rates, or anything else but a halfhearted sales effort. Anybody can sell ice cream on a hot day, it’s management’s job to insure that sales people are properly prepared and motivated to take advantage of every sales opportunity that comes by.

Five of the ten most common mistakes in sales are:

  1. Lack of preparation and an inability to provide the customer the information they need.
  2. Talking too much and listening too little.
  3. Focusing on product features and technology instead of the customers’ needs and interests. Customers are interested in results and benefits.
  4. Underestimating the value of establishing a rapport with the customer.
  5. Failure to set sales goals.

Can you name the other five? Make sure your sales staff isn’t prolonging the nation’s recession by missing good sales opportunities.

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