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Qualifying the Game Plan

February 28, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 170

Some time ago, I was working with a supplier in the consumer electronics industry. Our mission was to develop some 'train-the-trainer' material to allow their field sales representatives to take a more active part in upgrading the floor selling expertise of their reseller partners. To get a feel for what level of skill might be lurking out there among their retail outlets, I really needed to get some first hand shopper experience. So, putting on my very best 'average customer' face, I hit the streets on a little mystery shopping escapade. To my surprise, during my very first store visit, I was presented with one of the most graphic illustrations of 'how not to qualify a customer' I could ever have imagined...

I walked into one of the better-known retailers and perched myself in front of an impressive line up of televisions. I was greeted with a cheerful 'Hi, what can we do for you?' I happened to be staring blankly at a couple of mid-size models, one a Panasonic, the other a Sony, so to some degree I had already pre-qualified my basic need. Even so, my friendly salesman obviously needed more clues, so to break the deathly silence, I responded with a question, 'What's the difference between these two television displays?' He considered for a moment then replied, 'Twenty bucks'. I nearly died. Managing to hide my amazement, I gave him a courteous thankyou and walked out. Even if I had contrived it myself, I could not have come up with a better illustration of 'how not to greet and qualify a customer'. I have gleefully used it as a case study in my sales training workshops and talks ever since.

Let's take a step back and review how he might have handled it. Assuming he first took the time to establish some rapport, his qualification of me could have started with a question to determine what sort of television I had now, how big, what brand, what did I like about it, what I didn't like about it and so on. With well-constructed open questions, this would probably have revealed if I had any particular brand preference, and furnished him with a virtual library of information about my likes and dislikes. I may even have volunteered some of my key pre-purchase considerations. He could have followed with polite questioning about the size of the viewing area, the viewing distance, how many people would normally watch the set at any one time, the lighting conditions, and the furnishing of the room.

This would have allowed him to avoid offending me by suggesting a brand or product I didn't like, and more importantly would have opened the way for him to recommend various upgrades like a larger screen size, higher picture definition, an upgraded speaker option to acoustically compensate for my furnishings, or better still, a complete surround sound home theatre experience, tailored to my every whim. Price could have so easily been relegated to the background, an almost irrelevant afterthought. Yes, he could have won a sale worth many times more than the one he would have just lost.

Have a think about your own market sector, and the sort of things you need to know about your customer relative to the products and services you are offering. Most good salespeople don't leave this to chance. They keep a folio of qualifying questions in list form to act as prompters, and take the time to uncover the real needs and the real wants of each customer. For example, I can't imagine a menswear or apparel salesperson suggesting a black and silver belt before they had established that it was intended to be worn with brown shoes and gold accessories. It may not appear to be as obvious as this in some of the more complex industrial or technical sales, but really it is.

I guess the moral to the story is that we must learn something about the ballgame before we start kicking the ball around. Simple, well-structured qualifying questions will always set up the game plan for us!

About the Author:

In a distinguished career spanning half a century, Keith Rowe has managed the full journey from shop floor to boardroom. Along the way, he has headed the Australian sales and marketing operations for three of the world's largest Consumer Electronics manufacturers - Toshiba, Sanyo and Sharp.

Keith is not just a successful businessman. He is an accomplished speaker and trainer, specialising in interpersonal skills. His latest book - the KNACK of Negotiating - is essential reading for all those involved in commercial buying and selling. It is available in all the popular eBook formats, from Apple iTunes to Amazon Kindle.

© 2012 Keith Rowe - all rights reserved worldwide

Source: EzineArticles
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Game Plan


Qualifying Questions


Mystery Shopping


Qualifying The Customer

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