To me it seems that the trouble with salespeople is that they are never around or they are always around. If you have shopped for things at all you know exactly what I mean. Either you are searching the whole store for someone who you can ask a question or you are attacked the moment you walk in the door. The results to us the customers are two words that start alike, either frustrating or frightening.
When I attended high school I had a job in the local Sears store selling men’s clothing. It was through a co-op program where I went to school in the mornings and worked in the afternoons or evenings. My class teacher and my supervisor at work both trained us not to approach the customer the same way almost every salesperson we knew approached. The standard line “Can I help you?” was not the line we were to use. If someone for instance was looking at some shirts or one in particular we were to say something like “that’s a nice looking shirt!.” A statement like that let’s the customer know that you are there and available to help them without the threat that you have to show them something they don’t want to see. Approaching with a friendly statement usually doesn’t solicit a “no I’m just looking” response. You see the problem with the “no I’m just looking response” is that it cuts off the conversation. On the other hand this approach encourages conversation in a non threatening way. The customer might say “yes it is a nice looking shirt but I was looking for blue.” Or “Yes, I like this shirt…I wish it were my size!” Usually in the standard approach the salesperson after asking if they can help them and getting the no answer will say “Well let me know if you see something.” In other words if you find it on your own I’ll ring it up. Is that really the job of the salesperson? If so why do we need them? We can walk into a place, look around, pick something out, and scan it through the self scanning line.
The salesperson should be friendly and helpful, available, yet not pushy. They should be able to relate to the customer as they are a customer too. Relating experiences of their purchase of the same product is likely very helpful. Trying to match the product to the customers needs without feeling like it is pushy or self motivated keeps the customer relaxed. The salesperson should always keep the customers needs in mind.
Mark has a business in our town repairing cars. Mark runs his business with fairness and integrity always putting the customer first. I have gained trust in Mark over the years because he has given me advice that did not make his business a dime but was right for me. I had an old car and Mark would tell me to keep an eye on some part that could cause problems later. Instead of having me repair perfectly serviceable parts because they might be wearing a little his advice made sense. I have heard Mark give advice on the phone that far exceeded his business interests. Mark works a lot with college students and he frequently directs them where to go in the stores and what to look for.
We had an experience with my sons car where we took it for an oil change. We had a coupon for another place which also included a complete inspection. To be honest we were just interested in the oil change. We realized that the car being old had minor problems. The inspection was done before the oil change and 45 minutes later the verdict was in. The list was long as there were seven or eight things wrong with the car and the cost was over $1,700.00. I again repeated that we were only interested in the oil change. The counter person was not happy with me and had me sign a waiver paper on the car denying repair which I did. I can report that the car is still running strong two years later. If it were Mark he would have possibly said “keep an eye on this or that and if it starts making a noise or any other symptoms bring it in immediately.” The difference is that Mark really cares about us and does the best thing for us, not necessarily his business in the short haul. The other business was out to make the quick buck in a non caring impersonal way.
I have been to a few sales presentations in the past. They usually are ran about the same. The one in particular that I remember was a time sharing presentation. A representative was assigned to us and this representative tried to find out everything he could about our situation. The information he gathered was used to try uniting our needs to the service he was selling. The representative was friendly and seemed to care about us as people. After a little while there was a formal presentation showing the benefits of their program. They didn’t get around to the price until much later. Only after they had enticed us with all of the benefits did they let the price enter the picture. It was the question on every ones mind as the presenter kept sweetening the benefits. All of the time he was building up our desire for their services as he led us through their wonderful presentation. This involved being asked for our dream vacation spot and telling how their plan could get us there economically! At that point they specifically mentioned the price, but it was only the price of our dream trip, not the price to get into the program. After the presentation the representative started asking questions about what we thought. He reminded us that this was a one day offer. If we rejected this offer it was done and over for us. He then walked us through their basic rates which included a large lump sum payment that could be financed along with a yearly maintenance fee. It is confusing to me how I would have to pay close to $300 a year for a maintenance fee along with say a $15,000 payment to join the organization. Sure they could save me money on things, but it would take years of savings just to get back my original investment. I still can’t figure out how my one week stay should involve paying the large maintenance fee to keep the place in order. When you consider that they can sell that same room 52 times and collect close to $300 in maintenance fees each time you can see that a ton of money is going into their hands!
What happens in these situations is if the original representative cannot sell the program they call in their manager. We found out that the manager has power to change prices around to close the sale. For instance he or she might drop the original price from $15,000 down to $10,000. That kind of thing is troublesome. It reminds me of a local garbage service that raised their rates. When a friend of mine complained saying they wanted to switch services because their price was higher than the others, this company matched the lower offer. They figured the ones that didn’t complain could just pay the higher rate. When the closer couldn’t pressure us into buying the program (and believe me he tried extensively) by lowering the price three times, his attitude changed. Now he wanted us to feel bad and stupid that we didn’t buy as he hurriedly filled out the rejection paperwork in a quick and abrasive way. No longer were we the nice people that he cared so much about. It became clear that he never really cared about us at all. He faked it all until things didn’t go his way. Then he turned on us like a poisonous snake as his true feelings were revealed.
When we are representing God it is an awesome responsibility. I’ve heard that everyone is a salesperson in some way whether they want to be or not. In Christianity it is the same way. We are supposed to be demonstrating love, compassion, and caring. Sometimes people believe that is what we are all about until they discover that they were sadly mistaken. The damage that this causes is worse than if we never engaged them in the first place because their trust gets broken. Once trust is broken it is very difficult to repair. So the question I challenge you with today is “What kind of representative of the Gospel are you?” Are you the one that can’t be found? Do you pounce on people at the door? Are you selfless in your mission or do you have a hidden agenda? I’ve heard that people don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care. Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now that is the ultimate attitude necessary to really care about people!