A sale happens when a customer is in the mood to buy something, not when a salesperson ordains it. A prospect needs to have some very basic needs met in order to become a customer. So rather than focusing on pitching, I teach my reps to concentrate on the customer's mindset. They do it by making sure the customer feels these 3 things.
Informed. How many times have you tried to buy something that you were unfamiliar with and put off a buying decision by a day, a month or even forever because you didn't feel like you understood what you were buying? No one likes to feel dumb, and especially not when spending money is involved. Salespeople often make the mistake of speaking to the customer like he is either stupid or unprepared, rather than setting him at ease. They do it by looking down their noses, giving out information in a condescending manner, or asking questions in insensitive ways. Just the other day, I was in an electronics store and heard the salesman ask his elderly prospect "Don't you know what type of mobile data plan you have?". How did that make the customer feel? Like he wanted to disappear from the store immediately, even if it meant leaving empty-handed. Had the salesman asked the uninformed client in a kindly way "Do you happen to know what type of mobile data plan you have? If not, we can check with your mobile company together to find out," he would have helped spare his customer embarrassment and could then have helped to inform him, bringing him to the next major emotional gateway a prospect needs to cross in order to decide to buy something.
Empowered. A customer with confidence is a customer in control. When a person feels in control, he is ready to make choices. Confidence comes from lots of things: feeling heard, feeling understood, and feeling knowledgeable. Salespeople often make the mistake of talking over prospects, ignoring their requests, or providing incomplete answers to the questions they ask. Every interruption, every failure to acknowledge an inquiry, and every half-answer given reduces the customer's sense of empowerment. When I recently went to buy new boots for my son, I asked questions about whether or not they were waterproof. Instead of giving me a solid answer, the saleswoman, obviously eager to get me to take them home, told me glibly that "they must be good because everyone is buying them." She clearly didn't know the answer, and my son has had boots in the past that leaked. I did not feel confident in her reply, and ended up heading down the block to another place that knew all there was to know about the boots they carried, and even took pleasure in discussing each of their boots and which would truly be the best for my child. I bought them because I felt empowered with the knowledge that they really would keep my son's feet dry. Making a customer feel empowered unlocks the final threshold of a buyer's mindset.
Valued. Every prospect believes that his story and his needs are unique to him. He wants to feel that he is not just another customer, but rather an individual who deserves to be treated as such. Salespeople who rush the customer through the buying process, who do other things like chat with colleagues while "helping" the customer, and who act as though serving the customer is an imposition, remove the customer from the buyer's mindset. Instead of helping him feel cared for, they make him seem like a nuisance. My husband noticed a recently opened store in our neighborhood sold desserts and although it appeared to be closing, popped inside for a second to ask the woman behind the counter if there was a chance he might be able to buy something he saw in the window quickly. Her answer was "You can see we're closed, can't you?"--not just thwarting his efforts to make a purchase that evening, but insuring he would never buy anything in the future there either. She could have just as easily "I'm sorry, we're closed for the evening, but if you come back tomorrow, we'll have some lovely pastries fresh out of the oven for you." Had she done the latter, she would have made him feel like she cared about his business, wanted him to come back, and would even have something special for him if he did so. All of which would have induced a buying response, rather than aversion.
A salesperson's job is not to force a customer's hand, but rather to set the stage for the customer to decide on his own that it's time to make a purchase.