Frightened Salespeople Are Terrible Salespeople

scared-salespeople-0116In a meeting last week with the senior management at one of my biggest clients, they shared with me a metric that was frustrating them. Their retail sales associates, as a whole, are incapable of getting attachment sales of any accessory that costs more than $50.

Management can see it in the numbers: in the attachment rate, the gross margin, and in the sell-through of items by price band. And it frustrates them — none of their efforts to cajole, coerce or incentivize increased accessory dollars have worked to move that needle.

I’ve seen this before. It’s simple. The salespeople are afraid — afraid of scaring off the customer.

They’re afraid that if they offer their customer too many products, or products that cost too much money, the customer will say “NO” to not just the attachment sale, but to the whole transaction. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s what they think.

It’s an incredibly common phenomenon among salespeople. If I’m going to be completely honest here, I suffered from it too (for about a month) when I first started out.

The solution is to train your salespeople in top-down selling. It’s the opposite of up-selling, because instead of starting at the bottom and trying to go up, you’re starting at the top.

It’s psychological: No one is ever offended by being shown the absolute best, most expensive things that you have to offer.

It’s easy to visualize if you look outside your own channel: Imagine if you went to the car dealership determined to buy the Porsche of your dreams, and the salesman suggested that he walk you over to the Volkswagen side of the showroom. As the customer, you’re not getting what you wanted, and the salesman isn’t getting the sale. It’s not the salesperson’s place to decide how much the client should spend; it’s the customer’s. It’s the salesperson’s job to make suggestions, but the focus is always on showing off the best you have to offer.

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It’s simple: When a client comes to you for something, after getting a handle on who she is and what her needs are and show her the best, most dazzling example of what you have to offer. One of two things will happen: She’lll say yes, or she may ask you to show them something else. You may or may not end up selling the best, most expensive thing you’ve got, but if you don’t show it off first you, won’t have sold it at all.

It’s also not the salesperson’s job to say “no” on the client’s behalf. You don’t decide when the client has spent enough, he does.

It doesn’t matter if you’re accessorizing a smartphone activation, selling a hi-fi package or a whole-home system. You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. So set the bar higher, take pride in what you have to offer and never force the client to spend less money than he intended to.

I shared all of this with my dealer, and now the company’s management team has the tools to effect the changes they need. Coach your salespeople to start at the top and work their way down. Your sales metrics will thank you for it.

Lee Distad

About Lee Distad

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at lee@ravepubs.com

  • Lee Distad

    It’s worth noting that, in the interim between when I submitted this editorial to rAVe and when it was published (a spread of about 6-8 months) the regional retailer I alluded to has shut their doors.

    The reasons for their decision to close are many and varied, and I’m not going to lay them out here.

    I can’t lay it all at the feet of their salespeople’s issues, but that certainly didn’t do the company any favors in the long run.