Identifying the Problem
Among the attributes of a sales person that a sales manager should look for, the ability to gain and retain a customer's respect comes close to the top of any list of desirable characteristics. This holds true whether over a long association with a client or during the one-time contact of a sales presentation. Regardless of the benefits the product or service may offer the customer, he or she may back away from a commitment to purchase merely because of a lack of respect for the sales representative.
Astute sales managers have long recognized that the success of a great many sales talks rise or fall on the basis of decisions arrived at emotionally. Lack of respect for the salesman definitely can provide an emotional stumbling block in the way of a sale. With that in mind, the manager might wish to sit in unobtrusively on one or more of the salesman's presentations.
Things to Look For
A sales representative may unconsciously generate a lack of respect in a number of ways. By pinpointing them, the manager can help the salesman improve his selling score.
Talking down. A salesman who talks down to a prospective client not only will suffer a loss of respect, but may generate a certain level of resentment. It can prove difficult to detect a superior attitude on the part of the salesman. The manager might look for personal remarks that crop up during the presentation. If the salesman consistently refers to customers as "boy," "son," or "sweetheart," the habit easily can turn them off.
Interrupting. During the sales talk, the customer may wish to voice concerns or ask questions about the product or service. Quite possibly, the company representative has heard them before and the interruptions occur unconsciously. Nevertheless, such interruptions easily can come across as blatant rudeness. The manager needs to encourage the salesman to let the customer finish a comment before responding to it.
Unpreparedness. The salesman may have developed a creditable presentation that covers a majority of the essential points relating to the product or service being offered. However, the salesman also needs to have a working knowledge of the minor aspects of the offering, such as delivery options, product composition or after-sales service calls. If the prospect poses numerous questions the salesman cannot or will not answer, respect can fly out the window.
Exaggeration. An obviously skeptical customer may tempt the salesman into exaggerating claims concerning the value of the product or service. This may work with some customers but, as someone once said, "You can't fool all the people all the time." If a customer begins to suspect the presentation contains implausible or exaggerated claims, a certain lack of respect definitely will develop.
The manager may not wish to confront the sales representative directly; conducting a seminar attended by the entire staff that covers these and similar impediments to successful selling may prove the better option.
Want Respect? Give Respect!
SUCCESSFUL SALESMEN learn sooner or later that enjoying the respect of customers usually involves nothing more complex than offering respect to them. Demonstrating respect for a customer releases the power of reciprocity. By giving respect, the salesman stands a much better chance of receiving respect.
Showing respect requires a few basic principles any salesman can follow. Treat the customer as you would a friend. Listen to what he or she has to say. Respond to questions or objections forthrightly, making sure the customer understands the answers. Remain honest and truthful throughout the presentation. Avoid any tendency toward overbearingness or authoritarianism; let simple facts prevail.
Bottom line. Gaining customer respect can make the difference between winning or losing in the game of salesmanship.