Years ago, when I started my career in retail I was required to read a book titled “Successful Shoe Salesmanship” by Dr. William Rossi. One statement from that book has stood out in my mind for over thirty years. The statement was: “Give your shoes a reason for being and you give your customer a reason for buying.” In other words, it is up to the salesperson to create value in the merchandise they are selling, whether the item is shoes, jewelry, furniture, electronics or space shuttles.
The first thing that salespeople need to understand is the definition of the word “value”. I believe that value is simply “perception”. I know the value that I have for a hundred dollar bill is totally different than the value my children have for the same bill. They think “let’s party” and I think let’s hide it from them. I am sure that Bill Gates has a very different perception of a hundred dollars than I do, and so on.
Let me illustrate. Several months ago I was doing a seminar on the subject of value. I told the group that I have a pair of shoes that cost three thousand dollars. They all looked at me with a “deer in the headlights” kind of look thinking that I was crazy to spend that kind of money on a pair of shoes. I said, “Let me tell you about the shoes. A few years ago I broke my ankle and leg and had to have six surgeries to correct the problem. Everything is fine; however, my feet are now two different sizes. I am on my feet 250 to 270 days a year doing seminars and consulting so I need shoes that are very comfortable. Further, there are only six companies left in the
The point is that salespeople can have a tremendous influence on the customers’ perception of value based on the words and the phrases that they use. In addition, knowing that value and perception are very personal things, a salesperson will be able to maximize their success by first finding out what the customers’ perception of value is when it comes to jewelry and selling them jewelry based on their perception of value. Some customers come into the jewelry store with a preconceived perception of value and others are looking for the salesperson to give them a perception of value. Every customer is different and needs to be dealt with in a different manner.
The only way that a salesperson can be successful in determining what pre-conceived perceptions a customer has, if any, is through asking open-ended questions. One of the biggest mistakes that I see in all types of retail stores is that the salespeople sell based on their perception of what is valuable and not on the customer’s actual wants, needs and desires. In far too many stores the only time a sale is made is when what the customer likes about a particular item or piece of jewelry accidentally matches with what the salesperson likes about the piece of jewelry. Salespeople need to ask good, solid open-ended questions to determine the customer’s needs and any specifics issues that the customer wants addressed.
The question: What is important in selecting a ___?
This question is without a doubt the most important question in all of sales and one that needs to be asked with every customer. What is important in selecting a gift? What is important in selecting a watch? What is important in selecting jewelry? The reasons that people buy are numerous. The chances of you making a sale and being able to sell higher priced goods lies in your ability to ask questions and then base your demonstration on the specific concerns or issues that the customer needs to have addressed. I call this the NA=A/DA theory or NADA theory. This stands for:
Needs Assessment equals Answers/Demonstrate the Answers!
For example, if you were to ask several different customers, “What is important in selecting a diamond?” Their answers may vary from, “I want an ideal cut,” to “I want the biggest I can afford.” Another customer may say it is the color. Another customer may say “I don’t know, this is the first time we have looked at diamonds.” One hundred different customers may give you one hundred different answers. This is what sets the professional salesperson apart from the average salesperson. The professional salesperson sells based on the reason(s) the customer wants to buy, not on the reason(s) that they want to sell.
Another major mistake that many salespeople make is bringing up the price prior to establishing any value. In my mind everything is too expensive until value has been established. Through asking questions you can usually get a pretty good idea of a price range that you should be working within. However, keep in mind that I absolutely believe in starting high and working your way down. It is far easier to come down than it is to go up. Further, I believe that it is a compliment to people to show the best that you have available. Questions that you should ask to help determine the customer’s perceptions of value are:
What have you seen before that you liked?
What have you had in the past?
Tell me about the other jewelry you wear.
What would you like to do differently this time?
Tell me about her engagement ring and wedding band.
In addition to obtaining the answers to these questions you may want to take notice of the clothing that they are wearing, the jewelry that they have on, what kind of automobile they are driving, etc. This information, along with the answers to other questions, may help you determine what the customer’s perception of value may be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that you should pre-qualify people based on the way they are dressed or on what kind of car that they drive. However, it doesn’t hurt to notice these things to help in determining their income and spending ability.
Once you have asked the questions and found the answers or what the customer needs, you should begin your demonstration. (Product knowledge is one of those things that you have to have, you just may not need to use it in every sales presentation.) During the demonstration you should describe your merchandise using Features, Benefits and Agreement questions. A feature is something that the manufacturer has made available in the merchandise. A benefit is what the feature will do for the customer, and an agreement question is getting them to say “yes.”
It is interesting to note that most salespeople are very feature driven. In other words they talk exclusively about the features of the merchandise. For example: It has this and it has this and it has that and it also has this. However, customers don’t buy features they buy benefits, or what the feature does for them. In many situations I have heard salespeople rattling off features in terms that the typical customer cannot and does not understand. Many salespeople talk in a foreign language using industry jargon. The customer then gets confused or won’t admit that they don’t understand and then make up an objection. Something like “I’ll be back” or “I need to think about that,” when in reality, we, as salespeople confused them using words that only we understand.
Therefore we need to talk in terms of Features (what it has or our industry jargon) Benefits (what the feature does for the customer in easy to understand words) and agreement questions (getting them to agree with how important the feature and/or benefit is to their decision making process). For example: One of the spectacular things about this ring is the six-prong head, which will make your diamond extremely secure, that is terrific, isn’t it? Another nice thing about this ring, is the white gold that will perfectly match your other jewelry, as you mentioned that is an important consideration, correct?
In order to create the perception of value, salespeople need to speak in terms that customers understand and using words that give a descriptive definition to the customer. Saying words like; exquisite, gorgeous, beautiful, hand made, spectacular, etc all are words that will increase the perception that customers have of the value that they hold for the merchandise. Saying this ring is pretty or functional, or this necklace will match, and last a long time, doesn’t do enough to increase the perception of value. Look at the examples in the previous paragraph and eliminate the adjectives that give value and you will hear a mediocre presentation at best. Keep the adjectives in and suddenly you are describing a valuable piece of exquisite jewelry that anyone would be proud to own.
As a sales manager the greatest help that you could give to your salespeople is to take the time and actually listen in on several of their sales presentations every week. Listen to see if they are asking the correct questions, hear if they are selling based on the reasons that the customer wants to buy. See if they get the customer to open up and reveal valuable information that will help the customer close themselves. Listen for descriptive words that add value to the presentation. Being successful in sales does not necessarily require a gift of gab, it requires an ability to ask questions, really listen to the answers and react to the answers. Selling based on the customers’ perception of value or your ability to increase their perception of value will make all the difference in the world when it comes to selling higher priced merchandise. Selling items that the customer will be proud to show and that will last them for years to come will increase your personal trade, repeat business and referral business substantially.
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