I’m delighted to have Alex Muehle as Guest Contributor this week. Alex (pictured at right) has a good feel for the buyer-seller relationship from the sales side and, as his post shows, the customer side. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.
The Brilliant (and Poor) Salesperson
– By Alex Muehle
Doesn’t it feel great when you can demonstrate how smart you are in front of someone? Especially when that someone is your customer? You’re simply brilliant, and the customer knows it.
There’s just a small problem. If you’re an independent freelancer, you may start wondering why so little money is in your bank account. If you’re employed, you may be shocked when you receive the ‘blue letter’ as it’s known in Switzerland. You’re fired!
Customers want a salesperson with product knowledge, don’t they?
If you need to ask, then you need an “empathy check.” Here’s a personal example in which. as a customer I chose to find empathy — and spend my money — elsewhere.
My daughter and I went shopping for a new mattress on Saturday. We walked into a shop and, after a few minutes, I sat down on a mattress. The saleswoman must’ve heard my “Whooo!” as I sunk deep into this soft, cushiony mattress. Like an impatient boss to a slow employee, she shook her head disapprovingly. “Let me tell you how to judge a mattress.”
I didn’t want to be impolite, so I conceded. And I quickly learned that I had it all wrong. “Sitting on a mattress is no way to judge,” she scorned. “You should lay down on a mattress. After all, that’s how we normally use them.”
(“She’s just brilliant,” I was thinking. “And I’m not.”)
She continued without pause. “Once you’re fully inclined, you should then see whether your hand can go under your back or not. Then, turn to the side to see if your backbone is curving or not.”
I said nothing — after all, I wasn’t exactly motivated to test my intelligence again — so she left us alone… and I was relieved.
I looked at my daughter and tilted my head toward the door. She was as eager as I was to bolt. As we drove away, we imagined the saleswoman pouring a cup of coffee and laughing with her co-workers about another stupid customer.
And she’s probably right: I didn’t know much about mattresses.
But I sure knew a lot more when I went to the next store a half-hour later. Not because this next saleswoman impressed me with her knowledge. But because she asked me some good questions and made it safe for me to ask questions. And then, I talked myself into buying a mattress that was almost twice the price as the know-it-all’s mattress. Now, two days later, I still feel good about it.
The essence of the story is that if you need to be right, don’t be in sales. If you can let your customer feel right and be right, they’ll also feel that they’re making an intelligent decision themselves.
Yes. They’ll feel intelligent. You’ll have a sale… and a happy customer.