Why you should NEVER judge your prospects by their looks
Shop assistant: Hello, can I help you?
Vivian: I was in here yesterday, you wouldn’t wait on me.
Shop assistant: Oh.
Vivian: You people work on commission, right?
Shop assistant: Yeah.
Vivian: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.
If there is one thing I have learned in the world of selling over the past 18 years that I have been involved in it, it is to never, EVER, judge your prospects and customers. The above quote is a great example, and you may recognise it from the famous scene from the movie Pretty Woman, when Vivian, a call girl, walked into a high-class ladies wear store, with lots of bags of designer shopping, having been refused service the previous day because she wasn’t dressed appropriately.
When I used to work in a large investment bank, I was surprised every day by the behaviour of my various customers. Surprised in that my expectations of what they would do versus what they actually did, regularly differed. Supposedly small clients gave more regular trade than supposedly large customers.
People in the banking world or financial advisors, have to go through a process of KYC – Know Your Customer. But this applies to all businesses, whatever you do.
How much time do you actually spend getting to know your customer?
One of the very best salesmen I have ever come across, was a guy called Charles B. He used to wait on me at one of the UK’s leading menswear retailers. When I first met him, I had gone into the shop because I needed to buy a pair of trousers. That first time I went in, I left having spent over £1,000
Charles’ approach to selling was to take a completely holistic view of his customer. He did not ask the typical shop assistant question “How can I help you?” – No – he would ask me what event I was getting ready for; what part of my wardrobe am I having trouble with right now (i.e.. casual, smart casual, formal, or super-formal). He would draw me into a conversation that would go something like this:
Charles: Hello Sir, I’m Charles. How are you doing today, are you planning something special or just looking to add some versatility to your wardrobe? Are you having trouble choosing what to wear in the morning?
Me: Well, actually yes, I just don’t have any trousers that I really like. I have jeans, and I have suits, but I want some casual slacks for when Jeans are just to casual.
Charles: No problem Sir, why don’t you step right into the changing room, and I’ll bring you 5-6 pieces for you to try on. What kind of knitwear, and shirts do you tend to wear, just so I can get an idea of the styles you are comfortable with? You’re a size 32 waist, and small for shirts/tops right? What is your name Sir?
Jason: It’s Jason. Yes that’s my size. I tend to wear fitted shirts, block colours like white or blue – I try not to be too loud or ostentatious.
Charles: Okay, stay there Jason, and I’ll sort you out with an outfit. You don’t have to buy everything, I just want you to see how you would look with what you already have in your wardrobe at home.
I would then spend the next 2 hours in the changing room. I’d never step out of it. Not once. Charles would even bring me water to keep my hydrated (you know what it’s like in changing rooms – HOT!)
Charles would bring me trousers, along with shirts, shoes and jackets (that I hadn’t come into buy) just so that I could ‘try them on’. He would emphasise how I feel and then bring more clothes so I could feel even more. He made me look good, and that made me feel good. He said that I didn’t have to buy ALL the clothes.
But I DID have to buy them, because he found the best pieces in the shop that suited my taste. He even sold me my first ever PINK sweater! That first visit I left with trousers, shirts, sweaters and shoes. Oh, and a belt. I bought it all, because what he also did was ask me to wear all the items in different combinations. White shirt with the navy trousers. Then the black trousers with a green sweater. Then the green sweater with the white shirt, and navy trouser etc… showing me that I wasn’t just buying one outfit, I was buying multiple outfits. He showed me that in fact my money was going to stretch to six-times the amount it would have if I had just bought without his help. I would buy 8 pieces, but have 64 different possible combinations to wear them.
He judged me better than I judged myself when I walked into the shop. I say “trousers”, he says “Get in the changing room”. He sorted out my entire season of clothing in one visit. I didn’t need to go to another shop for 6 months…..and when I did, you can bet I went back to see Charles.
Try to remove the “How can I help you?” vocabulary, and think of alternatives, and properly engage with your customers. Get to Know Your Customer the Charles B. way. My sales guru Zig Ziglar, (R.I.P), would be proud of him.
Oh, by the way, Charles B. now runs a very successful jewellery company called Bead Brothers.