WE ALL spend a lot of our lives as customers…and we know what annoys us. Unfortunately, when it comes to selling our product, we think the rules don’t apply to us. 

Whether you believe it or not, if you are doing the following things, you are annoying your customers:


Telling them all about your product

The salesperson proudly walks over to his newest arrival, and says: “Here is the Alpha Bravo XXX, let me tell you all about it.” You can hear the customers groan. They don’t want to hear all about it.

Even when they say, “Tell me all about it”, they don’t mean it — because they don’t know what “all” means.  Customers only want to know about features that benefit them.


Expecting them to be impressed by your brand

In the past, people were impressed by brands. But they have seen so many iconic brands disappear (PanAm, Hummer, SAAB), or become shadows of their former selves (Nokia, MySpace) or whose name has been tarnished (Enron, Barings Bank) that customers are not convinced of a product’s value simply because of its name.

Today’s top-level brand may have been looked down on years ago (Samsung, Hyundai). 

Brand loyalty can be generational. I spoke to a teenager recently who craved a new mobile phone, but she didn’t want an iPhone because that’s what her parents had.

She was active on social media, but not Facebook because her parents were on it.

A New York store, well-known for fashionable ladies’ clothes that suited the modern businesswoman, held an opening and huge banners outside advertised the event.

A store across the road — whose clientele was made up of younger women — put up equally large banners on the same day saying: “Get Great Bargains Here While Your Mother Shops Across the Road.”

The one part of your brand that still has value is your brand story. If it started in an interesting way or has a long, eventful history, then find a great way of highlighting that.

When people pay more for a house or vehicle because it was once owned by someone famous, they are paying for the story as much as the purchase.


Expecting them to be impressed by the quality and reliability of your product

Sales guru Neil Rackham, who wrote Spin Selling 30 years ago, says that while in the past you could sell quality and reliability, today, people take them as given. 

Now whether this is true or not is irrelevant.  It is what customers perceive nowadays and in sales, perception is reality.


Giving them too many options

The more you can individualise your product for me, the more likely I will buy from you. Ironically, though, if you give people too many options it makes their decision-making harder.

It has been shown that most people struggle to choose from more than three items.

How do you overcome this?  You do it by your use of questions. You ask questions about their general preferences and usage and use this information to narrow it down to three options for the customer.

Many years ago, I was working for a retailer who had the city’s largest range of up-market car sound systems. Their display of units was large and impressive. The problem was that their sales were not so impressive.

When I observed what the employees were doing, the fix was easy. Customers would walk in and mention their interest and immediately be taken to the impressive — in fact, overwhelming — display.

Customers generally walked out with a brochure. The staff had inadvertently chased the customers away because they overwhelmed them with information that they had to go away and make sense of before they were ready to make a buying decision.

I pointed out that the customers thought they were ready to make a buying decision when they walked in the store and we must not change that. So, we simply changed the process.

We got the salesman to ask the customer three questions (what sort of car they drove, what sort of music they liked, whether they mostly listened to radio or recorded music) and then take them over to the display and highlight three that would be most suitable for them.

Customers were still impressed by the display, but not overwhelmed by the options. Sales increased immediately.


Pretending to know when you are not sure

Everything we say to customers can be checked. Recently, we were in an expensive restaurant and one of the wines suggested by the waiter was from a certain town in New Zealand.

One of our guests said that she was a New Zealander and had never heard of this town, so she asked the waiter whether he knew where it was situated.

He went into a quite detailed description of where this town was, but as soon as he had left our table, she looked up the town on her smartphone and found out that he was completely wrong. His service that night was superb. But, unfortunately, his pretence is what she remembers from the meal.

Don’t annoy customers by treating them like this. Engage them with a comforting ambience, an understanding ear and a memorable experience and they will keep coming back.


Article by Kevin Ryan, managing director of Training Edge Australia and an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International. He is a business communication expert specialising in the areas of employee and client engagement, sales, humour intelligence and presentation skills. For more information, e-mail kevin.ryan@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com