The dumb consumer no longer exists. Make false claims about what you do and how you do it and you will be found out. Consumers now prepare themselves, particularly for non-discretionary high-ticket value items, with mountains of information about your products and services. Chances are that they have already decided their purchase option even before they visit you and you get to say hello.
This is not to say that the art of salesmanship is dead, far from it. The sales floor is still successfully treaded by very successful salespeople; it is just that the art of selling has changed focus. Previously the sales floor was the source of product information and the salesperson would proceed through a range of probing questions so that they can:
Qualify the purchaser
Determine their needs
Establish the budget level
Identify any wants
Seek any up-sell options
With the availability of information, the salesperson no longer needs to;
Qualify the purchaser: The purchaser has self-qualified themselves and has entered the shop to shortlist the deal.
Determine their needs: The purchaser has completed an extensive analysis of their needs, so questions like Are you replacing an item? Or Is this an upgrade? Are no longer necessary.
Establish the budget level: Product pricing tends to fall into a band of prices. Entry level cars are less than $20k, luxury SUV’s are $60k-$80k. If you know what the customer is looking at, you know their budget.
Knowing that you do not need to probe the customer for the above information is a good thing. Your transaction time is the same in both the pre- and post-information era; now you are able to concentrate on the cream items that can increase your margins, or influence your customer into some additional features that they may have thought that they do not need or did not know about. This is selling.
The downside of all of this information is that any perceived point of difference between you and your competition has evaporated. You are now competing on price (tangible) and trust (intangible).
Unless you want to reduce your profit margins, fluffing about with price is not the best idea. This leaves trust.
If you are trying to establish a trust relationship then what you say and how you say it needs to be beyond reproach; don’t forget, your customer has already pre-qualified themselves and the product or service that they are looking for.
Typical sales personas might include:
The Mate is the sales person that is your friend. They will try and cut you a better deal, following this up with “don’t let anyone else know”. This is a ploy because they want everyone else to know and are banking on the fact that you will let your own trusted circle of friends know about this. Ultimately, this style is transparent and no one believes that you are their friend.
Take me back to the eighties. A style that is mostly associated with slick back hair and maybe a pencil-line mustache. A chequered or stripped jacket is probably not out of place. This style might have worked 40 years ago. Use this at your own risk.
The Arrogant Bastard.
Customers are annoyances. Especially true when the source of information was the salesperson. This style is best used nowhere.
This style is used just to facilitate the actual exchange of money process. There is no value-add by this style and the work could probably be done by a well trained monkey.
Polar opposite to the passive, the shark will actively seek you out and once it latches on, it will be difficult to dislodge. Armed with well-rehearsed answers to your objections, distrust oozes out like a teenagers zit (and just as visually appealing).
Margins are everything, and product A is better than B because there is a better margin available. It may or may not fit the consumer needs, but this will note be the primary focus of the salesperson during the pitch process.
Being an expert is a good thing, although, during the sales process it may not get that much traction. But remember, the point that a customer walks into the shop already armed with a brian-full of knowledge, the sales person who is able to confirm or add to this knowledge is the one that ultimately get the cash register ringing.
A quick google search will identify some interesting stats – these are number that you need to work with.
97% of consumers will go to a website to be informed, not entertained.
18% of consumers will research a product online when considering a purchase.
69% of consumers consider website information as a crucial pre-purchase consideration.
15% of consumers will price search online.
Consumers will look for information from a variety of sources. This includes print media, television and radio, online, billboards, etc. In fact, the usual start point for information will be as a result of marketing of some type, followed by trends and “keeping up with the Jones”. Necessity of product, such as a replacement item, although driven by a different need, will still require the consumer to commence the information gathering journey.
When presenting information, how do you lay it out?
In photography, the subject is positioned so that the viewer subconsciously tracks their eyes towards the focal point. You could use this same process, however, it is far easier to use consumers default and natural tracking process when viewing information, rather than making them work to track an alternative path.
What does this mean?
When reading, westerners will start at the top left corner and scan left and right towards the bottom right. This is our trained tracking process. And this is the tracking process that you need to use.
If brand recognition is important, then your logo is always positioned in the top left-hand corner. If you have a catalog item to move then it takes the top left corner position. This works great when your catalog item is exciting, but what if it was something a little bit more mundane, like a bunion cream? In that case, use an association product – maybe a bright coloured pair of socks. This becomes your lead item to the cream.
The most immediate question then becomes: Why are the right-hand pages of print media (magazines and newspapers) more expensive than the left-hand pages, especially as the top left-hand corner is the most desirable spot to aim for?
In a magazine or newspaper, you turn pages right to left and read left to right. In this case, the first page that is seen is the right-hand page. This ensures that there is greater scan time on this page than the left; and this is why space on the right-hand side page is more expensive than the left-hand side. Regardless of which side you get, the top left of either page is the place that you want to be. [Obviously, if you are in a middle-eastern country where reading and writing tracks right to left, then your most important spot is the top right corner.]
Although we have only looked at print media, the same principles apply to all static media (such as billboards or posters) as well as dynamic display (such as web and television).