Know thy customer. It’s a mantra preached to business owners and salespeople, regardless of industry. We’ve all poured through the data disseminated by marketing groups. Our average consumer is female, aged 35-54, median income of $XX,XXX, 2.3 children, drives a domestic automobile, favorite color is blue…you get the picture.
While that information is certainly valuable, it speaks to customers as a group. What about learning about your customers as individuals? When people enter your store, they want you to “Get to know me!” Unfortunately, too many of us get caught up in talking about ourselves or our products instead of learning about our clients’ needs.
October 16 is “Get to Know Your Customers Day,” so why not take a little extra time and really work on putting yourself in the shoes/sandals/galoshes of your customers and find out what makes them tick.
Start off by closing your pie-hole and opening your ears. How are you going to learn about your customer and what they need by talking over them? My internal ESP circuit broke years ago (don’t tell my step kids), so I have to rely upon my customers to tell me their needs. No one has spent more time in their own skin than the people visiting your store, so chances are they probably have a decent handle on what they want. While you may have a good idea of what will work for their particular situation, wait things out and hear what they have to say.
Discussing mattresses, sleep, and componentry is certainly germane to your customer’s visit, but I’ve always felt it’s okay to interject conversation about things other than mattresses. I’m a car guy, so if someone pulls up in something cool I’ll usually comment on the vehicle. Or maybe they’re wearing a college t-shirt of my alma mater. Regardless, it’s nice to talk about things other than mattresses. It shows you’re an approachable person and that you’re not there only to foist your considerable selling presence upon your customer.
I’ve always been curious about other people and their experiences, especially if I find out that they’ve travelled extensively. It makes my job more interesting and it helps me gain perspective about my clients. In a short time you can find out about a person’s passions and what drives them. Finding a solution that speaks to their feelings is more important than specs and facts.
If you engage in off-topic conversations, be earnest. Customers will immediately sense if you’re forcing idle talk or feigning interest. Listen and allow people to tell you about themselves. Let’s face it - if you’re in this business and you don’t like talking to people, you may wish to dust off your resume and update your LinkedIn profile.
Don’t be afraid to ask customers what they think about a mattress you show them, and then reevaluate your next suggestion based upon their reply. We are not the omnipotent, all-knowing comfort consultants we like to think we are. We still need feedback from our customers to guide them through this mattress maze and find their piece of cheese.
And when you’re given an opinion, ask your customer why they thought a certain way about that particular bed. Not in a challenging way, but let them know you’re generally interested in their thoughts on the matter. Finding the right product is often as much about finding what they don’t like as what they do.
I think too many in our industry believe they have a limited time to get everything out in front of a customer or else they’ll lose the sale, so they steamroll over them and don’t allow a word in edgewise. I’ve had visits with clients where we don’t talk about mattresses for the first five minutes after they set foot in my store. By doing so you may end up being too consultative and losing a sale here and there. It’s a balance you have to walk like Nik Wallenda on a high wire (allow me the hyperbole).
In the end, learning about your clients will make you a better consultant and less of a salesperson. You’ll make more sales and do a better job of fulfilling peoples’ needs. You’ll also learn some interesting tidbits. For instance, my last customer graduated recently with a degree in neuroscience. She is applying to different medical schools and thinking of going into family medicine, but her mom wants her to specialize. In return, they know I went to Michigan State, worked for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, and prosected cadavers while in the Honors College, and I coached for the USA Olympic Luge Team.
So how did they get to know about me, and is it really important for a customer to know about their salesperson? Maybe we should declare a “Get to Know Your Comfort Consultant Day” and discuss the merits of such a stance. Stay tuned.