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Knowing Your 4 Enemies & 1 Friend in Selling

By Percy Chong, 30th October 2013

Much have been written or said about the topic on “the Characteristics of Consumers”. However, none can be more poignant than the first hand observation, experienced through continuously staring at the end of the prospect’s smoking barrels for over a decade of selling.

The sum of all these experience seems to consistently gravitate towards 5 recurring “qualities”. And they appear to cut across all categories or classes of prospects or consumers; from all age group, gender, race, culture and socio-economic background etc.
These 5 Characteristics of Consumers are:
  1. Defensive
  2. Indifferent
  3. Sceptical
  4. Cynical
  5. Self-centred

Depending on the consumer’s own innate values or “qualities”, each of this “traits” may either act singularly or collectively when triggered in a selling situation, to eventually influence the sales outcome. With sales results hanging on the thread of these characteristics, a sales person would do well not to underestimate these “behavioural” traits that every consumer carries with them.
Enemy #1: Defensive
Perhaps the most common and natural instinct of a consumer, is for them to put up a defence when approach by sales person; especially so, during the initial approach when the intent or purpose of the sales call is not yet known.
 It has been observed that these “invisible” walls, usually comes up in response to any potential “threat”…the “threat” of losing money or time, should the consumer be convinced to purchase the wares touted by the sales person. And these “invisible” walls are usually manifested as common “objections” to shoo the sales person away, and sometimes, even before finding out what the pitch is all about. Example: “I am not interested in what you are selling”, “I don’t want to buy anything”, or “I have already bought many products and services and I don’t need any more”.

Enemy #2: Indifferent
Of all the characteristic traits, an indifferent consumer is probably the most challenging to tackle. Although they do not put up any wall of defence when approach, the impassive consumer leaves the sales person guessing whether he is dealing with a prospect or suspect! With little or no sign of interest, the sales person is pretty much shooting in the dark when proposing any sales ideas or initiative.

Example: The ‘devil may care’, ‘happy as I am’ or laissez faire attitudes, are typical of an indifferent consumer.

Enemy #3: Sceptical
How often have we encountered a consumer that challenge or have doubt in any of our sales pitch or claims?  Even with the terms and conditions clearly listed out; they are still looking for the fine print or the “catch”.

Sceptical consumer is typically suspicious of any transaction and usually requires proof or evidence before allowing the sales to proceed. The sceptical nature could be triggered due to previous bad buying experience, or possibly the ‘there is no free lunch’ mentality.

Enemy #4: Cynical
Imagine meeting a prospect who has negative opinion to everything you say or propose; they hold alternative and unreasonable views, and their comments may even be personal. It seems to be their nature to ‘argue to win’, or simply ‘to be right in everything’.
No amount of convincing can sway or turn them around…and a sales person’s day (ie. emotions and momentum) could sometimes be affected when dealing with them. The sales person is sometimes better off, dropping them politely and moving on.
Now that we have introduced 4 character traits of the consumer that potentially can sabotage the sale, it’s time to talk about a “friend” that can make a difference in turning the sales pitch into an opportunity!

#1 Friend: Self-Centred
Self-centredness is perhaps the only “behavioural” traits that the sales person can rely on to secure any sales opportunity. Think about it, no sale or purchase can take places unless we, the consumers are interested in becoming better-off, either for ourselves or our family and friends. Whether it is for convenience, seeking pleasures, or simply daily necessities, consuming helps to strikes that balance in our inner well-being. And it is in this relentless pursuit for a better quality of life or improvement that we often seek out solutions.

It is in this “selfish”, self-interest, or self-centred nature that we become open to any ways, ideas that can benefit us…and that allows for the sales person to capitalise on the opportunity, to interest the consumer for a sale. And that also explains why, the “benefit statement” should always accompanied the sales pitch!

“What’s in it for me”? Unless the prospect can see or feel that his interest can be furthered, the sales person would have missed his shot!

Essentially, you cannot sell to any consumer or prospect without pitching to his self-centredness. The challenge therefore is to present or pitch above the consumer’s defensiveness, indifference and sceptism to target their self-centredness, thereby securing the opportunity to move forward. So it’s safe to say, the consumer’s self-centredness is probably the sales person’s best friend during the selling situation.

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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