I have recently moved to Shanghai together with my family on an assignment to shape, execute and ensuring sustained business development, and offer and order management in the whole region, in addition to overseeing project management for complex projects. This is a 2.5 year assignment and so we moved most of our belongings and possessions into a shipping container that will only arrive 3 months later. Luckily we have a partly furnished house here in Shanghai so we have to buy only the important missing items until our things arrived and also the daily-used items.
We were missing a kettle, a rice cooker, a heater and washing detergent among many items. So we went to Carrefour and while standing in front of a bunch of different kettles, we were suddenly approached by 4 different sales people, each representing the different brands. I have never seen anything like this in Europe. We were even approached by several sales people when we wanted to buy washing detergent. They were very pushy and did not allow us or give us the time to digest what they were saying. Especially my husband not understanding the language at all, and me not as well as I would like to, I told them to give us some time, but they really do not take 'no' for an answer. So this is the general perception we have on sale people; pushy, never listen, talk too much, serves only their interest, aggressive, desperate, and many more.
But most importantly, they are BIAS!
That is because they are all representing their own brands and we, consumers, are not stupid. We know that they get paid and incentivized to sell. This is the ONE reason why we do not trust sales people. No matter how hard they try to be seen as helping us, they are still selling and we are their target.
I am also in Sales, but while writing this, I am writing as a consumer because at this point, I am referring to B2C sales people. But the perception of sales people are not any different for B2B sales people because I have had a lot of feedback from my clients about other sales people from other companies that serve them and even feedback about my own colleagues.
The above example is about TRUST and why we do not trust sales people. So how do sales people overcome this negative perception of his or her profession and gain the consumers' trust?
How to overcome negative perception
If you are a sales person, you could make an effort to overcome negative perception by being a little more in tune with customers' real needs. Before pushing aggressively your product to potential customers, it is absolutely necessary to ask these customers questions. This behavior of being curious to what your customers need shows them that you have their interest as your priority. It comes with verbal and non-verbal language that you have to project. As we know, 30% of verbal, which is our words, are effective, but the 70% non-verbal, which is our body-language speaks even louder. So be curious!
Secondly, if you have a very loud customer who likes to express his or her opinion about sales people, very gently say 'I know that you have had some bad experiences with sales people, you are not alone. Unfortunately not all sales people have their customers best interest at heart. So what do you need specifically?'. Always gently come back to the main topic as soon as you can. Never act aggressively and never get defensive. Remember, it's never personal.
How to gain TRUST
By building rapport. If you have a customer like me who likes to take a glance at all available options before I narrow down to 2 or 3 preferred options to go deeper before deciding which one the winner is, this means that this customer will take more time before you can close him or her. So take the time to build rapport to gain trust and also give your customer some space. Read the body language and the facial expressions of your customer. Always remember that people will not buy from you unless they like you and trust you.
To gain trust also means that the customer has to trust that you are going to solve his or her problem. So you do not have to talk too much on the benefits and features as you will only overload them with all these information. Focus on their problems and only provide information that is useful to them at that moment. But make sure that you know your stuff! You need to have extensive knowledge of the product or the service and never take this for granted. Consumers can see through you very quickly to know that you don't actually know your stuff.
But if you know that you cannot solve their problem with your offerings, then direct them to the people who can. So do not be afraid to make that recommendation. You never know what good that will do to you at a later point of time. So be positive!
I know that in this high tech environment, more and more people are buying from the internet and people get bombarded with emails, newsletters and website. But you can never build rapport, a relationship and trust through a website. So nothing beats a one to one conversation, interaction and relationship building and that is why sales is a very exciting profession and it gives you the drive to want to improve yourself and master the skills that you know will benefit both your customers and yourself.
Now, when you have done everything that I have listed above, how can anyone have bad perception about sales people?