One of the challenges I most consistently face in sales is how to address a customer’s preconceived notions about a product. On a very basic level, this materializes in the following way:

  • Me: Have you ever considered trying X?
  • Customer: X? Oh no, not X. I’ve heard X doesn’t do Y.
  • Me:   Well,  actually…
  • Customer: *not listening*

This happens every single day. 10 minutes on Wikipedia and suddenly you’re an expert. When I first began in sales this was incredibly frustrating and difficult to deal with. I would  nod and smile as I listened to the customer’s reasoning, but inside I would be screaming, “You have no idea what you’re talking about! Why won’t you just listen to me you dolt?!?” In case you we’rent sure, actually telling your customer this is not a great way to close a sale. This is:

1. Identify the source

Listening to your customer is a basic component to the sales process regardless, but make sure you turn your ears up a notch when they’re telling you what they “know”. With a little bit of practice you can determine not only what their opinion is, but also how and why they think it. If you’re going to have any chance at all to change their mind, you have to understand where they’re coming from. For example; if a customer’s preconceived notion stems from something granny taught them as she tucked them in at night,  you wouldn’t want to say “X doesn’t do Y? Whoever told you that is completely off their rocker!” Never insult someone’s sweet old grandmother, no matter how wrong she is.

2. Agree with them

Yes, agree with them. You don’t want to completely validate their misinformation, but at least concede something. If you’ve been selling the same stuff for any length of time, you’ve probably heard your customer’s argument before. Let them know that their are others who share their same feelings. The goal here is to a) take the customer off the defensive and b) provide a data point for change.

3. Educate

So now you know where the customer is coming from and they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. Now its your time to shine. Flex your product knowledge, offering a clear and convincing argument in favor of what you’re selling. The approach here varies wildly based on industry, target market, etc., so I’ll leave that for another day. The important part is that you’ve created a tiny window of opportunity to bring the customer into your way of thinking. This window is always fleeting though so make it count!

Conclusion

A responsible customer will almost always have their own opinions about your product–don’t be disheartened. Changing a person’s mind is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but never impossible. Although customer’s are naturally wary of what a salesman tells them, you still have one key advantage. You’re the expert. As long as you’re careful not to step on too many toes, you’ll be collecting your commission in no time.

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