There is a retail customer for whom value is not a concern, quality is an innocent bystander and the lowest price is the sole focus.
This customer has unrealistic expectations fueled by ill-informed confidants and the the latest “Never pay retail price for anything” article. Even worse is when the client “used to be in sales” and “knows how things work!”
These customers learn to play the “Price Game” through a variety of cultural, societal and economic experiences. As a sales professional you have two options once you recognize the “Game” is on.
Option 1 is to play the Game using the Customer’s rules. There are two reasons this is a huge mistake. First, these rules vary from customer to customer. Second, the Customer can change the rules at any time! Obviously, this is not your best option.
Your best opportunity to close a deal with some semblance of profitability AND the ability to sell the client again is to use Option 2: Play by the Smart Sales Rules.
Rule 1 – Always “GET” in exchange for your “GIVE”
When you give anything, from a brochure to your “best price”, the client needs to give you something equally valuable in exchange. Sales professionals who talk about being “beaten up” by customers usually add “I gave the client everything he asked for and I got nothing!”
This unfettered giving is rooted in the fear that the customer will leave and take that future commission check with him. The customer is expecting and relying on this fear! “Threaten to Walk Out” is one of their favorite and most potent rules.
Playing the Game using the Smart Sales Rules is less emotionally draining and much more effective:
“We reserve our best prices for our returning clients. Of course, we do have excellent price options for new clients like yourself… I’ll just need your driver’s license so we can get you into the quote system.”
With this simple phrase, you completely change the “giving” dynamic. You have great pricing for the customer and in order for them to GET they need to GIVE something!
If the Customer pushes back, take the opportunity to turn the conversation away from price and back to value. This pivot will solidify the customer’s recognition that in order to GET they must GIVE.
Rule 2 – Commitment goes both ways
I love this phrase: “In exchange for your commitment to this offer today…”
This is a subtle signal to the Customer that by choosing to commit to this offer today, you choose to commit to her. Tying back to the Rule 1, if she GIVES a commitment, she can GET the something she is asking for..
Any time the customer changes anything after you have made a commitment, you must make an equally inconvenient change. For example, if the customer removes an item from the package, the package discount must change. Or, if they push the delivery date to next month, the interest rate should tick up.
Remember, you made an offer based on an agreed upon set of criteria. If the customer is no longer committing to the original criteria (see how their Rules work?), you are no longer bound to your part of that agreement either!
Rule 3 – Write it down
Confusion and misdirection are two other tools Customers use when they play by their rules. When we play by Smart Sales Rules, we write down notes, statements, dates and times. Just the act of you writing down bits of the conversation and saying “good, we agree” boxes in the client with his own words.
If there is a discrepancy, written notes allow you to use another powerful phrase, “as we agreed earlier…”. You can see how powerful this is when documenting commitments (remember Rule 2?) made during the negotiation.
Rule 4 – Use your team
Restocking fees, delivery charges, waiting periods, and item exclusions are company policies that may be waived or modified by authorized personnel. Too often, from that fear of “losing” a sale, the sales rep will give away these valuable items. Most times it will happen without getting anything in return.
As the Game continues, make sure the Customer knows the appropriate policies, their costs and value. More importantly, defer the decisions on any of these items to the authorized person. Get the Customer to commit to a given package, including as many of these policies and fees as possible. With these in place, you give your teammates the best opportunity to use them to close your deal.
Rule 5 – Time is your friend
In many retail establishments the Customer will arrive near closing time in order to use time pressure against you. The way to use time pressure in your favor is to reframe it order to GET as much as you can:
“The bank’s retail credit department closes at 8 o’clock. If you are interested in using our interest-free financing, let’s do that part now before it is too late.”
If you get any resistance, this is them trying to get back to playing by their rules. Use targeted follow-up questions to drive the exchange and write down every commitment to buy.
Putting it all together
With each of these Smart Sales Rules you are required to present information to the Customer. You may not be comfortable with confronting your customer as directly as these rules require. Please note: All this should be done in a professional, friendly and agreeable manner!
Even with your positive manner, using these rules could very well end with the Customer making a scene and walking out. When we are playing using our Rules, the client must have some skin in the game. The information, commitment and timed opportunities are a price some clients aren’t willing to pay. That is their decision.
We’ve all had customers ask us a bunch of questions, thank us for our time and leave. The difference is how the Customer makes you feel. These rules will blunt any Customer’s negative effect on your psyche and the rest of the day! More importantly, Smart Sales Rules help level the retail sales playing field!
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