Mark Williams and Paul Whitehouse – actors in UK comedy series Fast Show – had it right with crazy tailors Ken and Kenneth:
“Good morning, sir. How are we today, sir?”
“Fine. And you?”
“Radiant, sir. Radiant. Woo that is a lovely suit, isn’t it sir?”
“Yes, it’s nice.”
“Suits you, sir, suit like that, Ooh! Do you want one off the peg or do you want one made up?”
“Well I’m looking for something a bit smart; I’m starting a new job.”
“Ooh, congratulations! Will you be having your own secretary, sir?”
“Yes, yes I think so”
“Will you be giving it to her, sir?”
A persuasive sales technique if a little off-the-wall! But what effusive enthusiasm. It strikes me that this is what is missing from modern business to business sales. We are so caught up on professionalism and image that the emotion has gone.
OK, I am not suggesting we need to ask customers whether they were serviced by their partner the previous night, but we can build so much better emotional ties.
Contrast Ken and Kenneth’s approach that with a recent encounter I had with an Ikea customer service representative over some tables my partner and I wanted to buy.
Me: We wanted to buy two white bedside tables but we came down to the warehouse and the bay is empty
Ikea: Then it is out of stock
Me: I see, when will it be in stock?
Ikea: [silent spends 2 minutes tapping on computer, I expect him to look up and respond “Computer says ‘no'”] 3 weeks
Me: do you have any other white bedside tables?
Ikea: Look in the catalogue [hands me catalogue looking around store but not at me]
I spot 3 others and ask him to check if the are in stock. Lo and behold they are out of stock. At this point I think that I could settled for another colour but life is too short.
We bought the bedside tables in MFI 2 days later.
Don’t get me wrong, not all companies have missed the point. While I passionately hate Vodafone for the appalling service they gave me last year, a recent encounter with one of their call centre staff mellowed by attitude. Julie had been with the company eight years and she passionately felt that my attitude was misplaced and she personally vouched for the company and pleaded that I give them another try (and it worked). What would you do for staff that put that much emotion in retaining and winning customers?
Kevin Roberts has written a book, Love Marks – the Future Beyond Brands. He should know, he is the chief executive office of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide.
Kevin rightly points out that human beings are powered by emotion, not by reason. The neurologist Donald Calne explains ‘The essential difference between
emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.’
How many times have we gone into an electrical store – you know, one of those ones with the red logo and white letters and a spotty youth has asked if the can help us? Let’s assume it is one of those rare occasions that we have not taken the opportunity to answer that closed question with a “no” and we let them make their presentation. And we marvel how they read off energy ratings, cubic capacities, freshness coefficients and other riveting statistics. And then they stand there and are surprised when you look at them blankly, thank them and part ways.
Aside from the inability of these staff to ask questions about your requirements – I actually think it is a phobia on their part – it is the lack of emotion in the presentation that kills the sales opportunity. Frankly we get the same service and better prices if we go online.
Time and again I ask friends why they bought the car from the dealership they eventually chose. What is the most common answer? They were offered the biggest discount? Best servicing record in their group? Most local dealership? Or the most awards? Of course not – they liked the salesman. And this emotional decision is made over the second most expensive asset most of us ever buy.
In the words of Maurice Levy, Chairman of the French division of advertising group Publicis: ‘Consumers who make decisions based purely on facts represent a very small minority of the world’s population. They are people without feelings, or perhaps people who put their heart and emotions in the fridge when they are leaving home in the morning, and only take them out again when they go back home in the evening. Although even for these people, there is always some product or service they buy based on impulse or emotion.’
I mentioned before I thought that the modern sales process was devoid of emotion because most business are more focused on improving the process. This ignores the vast swathe of businesses that do not recognise even the flaws in the process. I am biased because my company focuses on sales training, but why is it that the majority of businesses that we prospect have never even considered structured sales training for their staff?
Most business find it easier to spend large amounts on image make-overs, expensive advertising, revamped marketing or more prominent premises. Often the most expensive and most adaptable asset is ignored – the customer-facing staff. So look at yourself and the people the sell your product and service. Could they be telling prospects more, “suits you” with passion and emotion?