All of us with the responsibility of supervising our staff have wished we could clone our most extraordinary salesperson, knowing our sales would reflect a substantial increase.
The masters of legendary service are skilled in utilizing questions to learn more about customers, their needs and how to close the sale. The masters also know the three things they are selling (more on this later).
The master begins conversations with customers by engaging with an “open” or “probing” question or statement. This open format can be as simple as a statement welcoming the customer, or inviting a comment in a “neutral area,” such as the weather, a new product you sell or a local sports team.
Utilizing the probing technique requires the master having some additional information about the customer. This can occur when the customer has “landed” at a particular display, or approaches the salesperson.
The probing questions are appropriate at this point, because the salesperson can ask what prompted the customer”s interest in the item, or why the customer is looking at a certain product.
Using a “why” question opens the door for additional probing questions. Armed with this insight, the master salesperson can continue the necessary questions that will add items to the sale, and help to close the sale. Imagine the customer, having made a selection of an item, being asked by the master, “Is one enough, or would two be better?” The master knows 17% of the time the customer will decide to take the second item.
The next type of question is as often a statement as it is a question. The emotional question or statement can give reinforcement of the relationship with the customer with an “I value your opinion,” or a question/statement of “I know you enjoy bourbon. How do you like his new one?”
The questions can often be used in conjunction with each other, in a variety of sequences or blended to create the appropriate scenario for the master.
The “leading” question, while a type of question a master is aware of, is used sparingly. A salesperson known for being pushy or high-pressure is more apt to use the leading question. Any example of the leading question can be observed when the customer has shown a preference for a lower-priced product, and the salesperson responds by asking, “You don’t really want to purchase the lesser-quality scotch, do you?”
While this may help in some sales, the master does not utilize it because they recognize the long-term value of the customer. It is not simply the dollars generated by this one sale. Instead, the master is aware of the lifetime value of the customer.
Lastly, the master is aware of the three items he or she is selling.
First, they are selling themselves to the customer. They build a relationship utilizing the questions appropriate for the situation in helping the customer achieve a level of comfort with the salesperson.
The master then sells the business in which they work. A master can often explain to the customer that this is the business they have selected to work in because of the product selection and dedication to customer service.
After a master has sold their self and the business, they are now free to sell their product. And when the customer is ready to make another purchase, the first thing they will decide will be to talk to the master of legendary service.
Tom Shay is a lifelong small-business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management; a college textbook on small business financial management and co-authored a book on retailer/vendor relations. Read his recent piece, 10 Tasks for a Profitable Retail Business Year.