I Thought You Were a Customer???

NoI’d like to share a classic story of how to NOT close a sale. I was shopping at Costco with my friend Terry the other day for a few things we needed for the office, and like most people, I love Costco because I generally find several things I never knew I needed until I serendipitously stumble upon them. Such was the case on this day. While walking the isles looking for external hard drives, and a few other relatively inexpensive items I stumbled across a special events vendor selling a Murphy Bed that was built into the coolest book-case/ cabinet I have ever seen. This thing was beautifully designed and engineered and I REALLY liked it. I spent probably 10 minutes looking over the three display models, commenting on the features I saw particular value in and complementing the salesman (who I later found out owned the company) on the quality of the product. I was even talking about where I would like to have this product in my house. I was basically sold on this product, but now I will probably never buy one!

Why might you ask?

I ask the man for some sales literature and a business card and as I walked away he said “That’s too bad… I thought you were a customer!” My first thought was What the hell! Are you serious? Do you REALLY expect me to drop 5K on a product I just stumbled upon in Costco without talking to my wife or making some kind of plans for how to pay for this? The words that came out of my mouth as I looked over my shoulder were briefer though…  ”I was…”

Not “I am” or “I will be” just a simple “I was”.

I understand what he was trying to do, he was trying to close a sale, but a close like this almost never works. In fact, its poor sales skills like this that got this blog started nearly 5 years ago. What he should have done was temperature checked me before I left with a simple question like how would you like to have one of these in your home, and then saw where I was in the buying process, collected my information and followed up in a day or so. This simple change could dramatically improve his close rate and the reputation surrounding himself, his company, and sales force. People don’t generally spend 5K on something they saw for the first time in a Costco. They may on your sales floor, but that’s a different scenario… I came for that product, I am interested in it, and I wouldn’t be there if I did not on some level want to buy it. It is important as sales people to understand the purpose of each event you are in. Are you generating leads or closing sales? When you are asking yourselves these questions keep in mind your customer, your product, and your venue. you could have a very different sales cycle on your showroom floor, at a home show in a high-end neighborhood, and in a suburban Costco. That doesn’t mean there are not buyers in all of those locations. What it means is that you may have to approach buyers differently in each location understanding the individual wants and needs of that market.

I am sure this guy was just frustrated… He had probably shown that product to 500 people who were all very interested and didn’t buy. What I experienced was the result of that frustration. However, what he should have done was stepped back and analyzed what was happening and come up with a new strategy. My suggestion would be lead generation, I would still close for sales, but if I couldn’t get it I would go back and add 400+ names to my database and follow-up with great customer service. It’s not a fast buck, but I am SURE my way would have sold a few more beds and at 5K each I think it’s worth the effort.

What would YOU do?

Have you had an experience with a salesperson for a quality product that went terribly wrong? Share your experience in the comments. I’d LOVE to hear about it!

3 thoughts on “I Thought You Were a Customer???”

  1. So this isn’t a particularly bad sales experience, but I was at Fry’s with a friend roughly 5 years ago because he was looking at laptops. As was typical back then, the little information tabs on the laptops back then didn’t have every detail that I considered important. We asked a sales associate about a few bits on a few models. He didn’t pick up at all that my buddy was following my advice, and mildly tried to go through the sales song-and-dance, though I thought it was somewhat obvious that he was going to walk away with a sale. Sometimes, you just want them to answer your questions and that’s it.

  2. Speaking as a sales professional, I can honestly say that he went wrong way before you walked away. He should have, as you said, ‘taken your temp’ to find out whether you were at need, desire or curiosity when you got the literature. I am not an impulse buy kind of guy, my threshold is about $50 for truly spontaneous purchases.

    What I do like to do is to tell the sales person right up front EXACTLY where I am in the process. Whether that’s “We are planning to buy X and are shopping cost/benefit right now” or “I’ve never thought about buying one of these but it’s kind of cool and I’d like to learn more about it.”

    A few years back we were at the local sports & outdoors show with my sis-in-law and her husband who were actively shopping for an RV. A sales guy approached my wife and I with ‘Can I help you find anything?’ and I replied that we weren’t buyers, we were just getting a feel for features and prices because it would be a few years before we were ready to buy an RV. Before I had a chance to say “However, this couple with us are basically ready to buy” he had already turned around and as he was walking away he muttered that ‘they’ll probably have wings by then.’ That dealership lost a customer because that sales guy was a jerk.

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