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The Sales Clinic: Why People Don't Buy From You

It's interesting to note how many sales opportunities salespeople or business owners miss out on—offers they likely could have won. Were they only to realize how much that lost business is worth over a 12-month period, no doubt they'd be quicker to do something about it.

There are many different reasons why a sale is lost, but here are a few of the most common…and also the most correctable.

1. Poor first impression. I'm astounded at how often people struggle to get this one right. Think about the first impression people have of your business; if you're a salesperson, that impression might be you. That means looking smart, arriving on time (or early), and looking the person in the eye when you greet them. If people are coming to your premises, it might be things like how easily they can park, how your receptionist greets them, or the literature in your reception area for example.

An example of a business that often gets this wrong (as anyone who travels a lot knows) is a hotel. Think about one of your first impressions when you enter a hotel. The first interaction you normally have with staff is when you check in. What's often one of the worst things about a hotel? That's right, their checking-in procedure.

Think about it: it's 1 a.m., you've been driving for three or four hours, and you finally reach your hotel for the night. You're tired, exhausted, and just want to get to bed. You wearily drag your bags and suit carrier up to the counter…only to answer the same inane questions you answered the previous 14 times you stayed there.

Think about what action a hotel could take to improve the experience. How about if you were greeted with something like, "Good evening, sir. You've probably had a long journey. While I quickly check you in, I'll get the porter to take your baggage up to your room right away."

How much extra effort does this take? Not much. Is it worth it for the impression it leaves the customer with? Of course.

2. Not taking a genuine interest. This is something vital to generating more sales, yet often overlooked. Far too many people simply don't take a genuine interest in their clients.

Let's use a retail store as an example. Most people have had the experience of going into such an establishment looking to make a substantial purchase—usually something like a television, computer, etc. But the resulting experience often isn't as good as it could be.

I've seen many potential customers standing around, desperately looking for someone to help them make a purchase. They wait for ages (the ones that don't get fed up and leave, that is), and when someone finally comes along, they appear to have no interest—no interest in the potential customer, no interest in what they're looking for, and definitely no interest in making the sale. What kind of behavior is that for a salesperson?

Be aware of customers looking for help. Engage them in conversation. Ask them what they want the product or service for, not just ask about the technical specification. Ask them better questions about reasons and drivers behind the purchase.

3. Poor last impression. If your business would like repeat business, testimonials, or customers referring you to others then people's "last" impressions of your business are as just critical as their first impressions.

Perhaps the last impression of your business is the delivery driver or courier? The personal experience the customer has when paying for the goods or service? The package when it arrives at the customer's offices?

Let's revisit the hotel example from earlier. After checking in, what's the second most annoying aspect of being in a hotel? That's right—checking out.

You line up at the desk behind people checking in, those just wanting directions, and so on. Then, when you finally get to the front of the line, you're asked for your credit/debit card details all over again. Then you have to wait while they do yet another card transaction…all while you're in a hurry and itching to leave. The best you can hope for at the end of this long-winded procedure is a mumbled "thank you" from the receptionist.

Does that sort of experience inspire you to book that hotel again? Send them a testimonial? Recommend them to all your family and friends? I thought not.

How about when you check out, they ask you if you'd like the payment to be taken off the same card you used when checking in? Or how about taking full payment when you check in, so you can leave quickly in the morning? What if the receptionists were trained to say, "Thank you for staying with us, and here's a voucher for 10 percent off your next stay with our compliments."

How much extra loyalty and business would that generate? Quite a lot, I'd think.

Andy Preston is an expert authority on selling for small businesses. Visit him online at www.andy-preston.com and www.salestrainingbreakfastclub.com.