I was in an electronics store this weekend. As I selected and purchased my replacement hard drive (big fan of the solid state drive), I noticed a professional-looking woman enter the store. One of the sales reps asked “May I help you?” She replied “No thanks. I’m just looking.”
As I was waiting for the data from my old drive to be copied to the new drive, I wandered through the store. I happened to end up in the same section as the woman I saw earlier. As I walked past her, she asked “Do you know anything about these cameras?” I asked a bunch of questions about why she was looking to purchase a camera, and how she intended to use it. Ultimately, I gave her my input based on my limited expertise. I then suggested “You may want to ask one of the people who work here.” Her reply provides some valuable insight: “These guys are commission-based, and they are going to recommend the most expensive alternative regardless of whether or not I need it.”
Given a choice of getting information from the in-store expert or a complete stranger who might not have reliable information, she chose the stranger. Why would someone do such a thing?
The simple reason she chose the stranger is that she did not trust that the rep was going to lookout for her interest. Rather, the rep was only interested in selling her what would most benefit the rep. Though this example was in a consumer setting, the same thing happens every day in Business to Business (B2B) transactions. Specifically, the rep wants to deliver the pitch about their product and service regardless of whether or not it is in the client’s best interest. Here are three tips salespeople and professionals can use to avoid the “just looking” response.
Don’t push – When the commercial real estate professional starts a conversation by asking “When does your lease expire?” It comes across as being focused on how the rep gets paid (executing new transactions). Focus on the prospect’s needs, instead. Perhaps something like “tell me about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your current office space.” You’ll quickly learn whether or not there is an opportunity where you can deliver value.
Be different – In the case of the electronics store, asking if she needed help has become synonymous with receiving a sales pitch. Perhaps they could say “Can I point you in the direction of what you are trying to find?” Once the customer responds, then the rep could say “There are many options depending on your specific needs. Please feel free to call on me if I can help you narrow down the choices.” In this way, the rep is demonstrating that the choice is based upon the customer’s need. And, by not pushing, they are opening up the discussion to be invited to help solve a problem. Be available, not imposing.
Never forget integrity – Recognize that in most cases, once you learn about the client’s situation, you’ll determine that they don’t need your help. If you are not the best fit, tell them. If they don’t need your solution, let them know. Doing so will raise their trust and give you countless opportunities down the road. Many of my clients tell me that they often get referrals from those dead-end prospects since they now know that you are operating with high integrity and not just pushing a product or service. Even if they don’t need you today, they will happily refer you to those who need your help. More importantly, by identifying that you did not have a fit, if you knock on their door in the future, they’ll be willing to let you in.
Which hurdles do you face? I just might feature your scenario next week.