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Lisbiz strategies: How to tell exactly who’s a customer

Volume 26/Number 22; March 18/25, 2013

“How do I get more customers through my door?” is the frantic cry of most retailers. In the old days, we convinced ourselves anyone who came through the door was a sale.

Owners told salespeople, “No one comes into a floor covering store to look; they’re all buyers and you need to sell them!”

With that in mind, consumers were subjected to our supply of closing techniques: “We have only one left and that’s it.” Today this line will have your prospective customer heading off to your competitors and eBay.

So what is a customer? There are several different types, but not all are buyers—at least not buyers for today. I know this scares owners who will respond, “If I tell my salespeople that, they’ll never sell anyone.”

This has nothing to do with what I just said; it has to do with poorly trained salespeople who determine ahead of time the buyers from the lookers. Also, salespeople who need to spruce up their communication skills.

To me, a customer is someone who you think will benefit from your product. A good salesperson understands the customer has to have both a desire and a need for the product and with the proper resources (money) can decide to make a purchase. Whether they buy from your store will depend on the level of trust and connection they feel with the salesperson.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone you meet in life is a customer. They all deserve the same level of respect.

Yes Virginia, customers do come to flooring stores to look—particularly if the customer is female. I’m proud to admit I’m part of this shopping clan. Rarely would I buy the first thing I see, especially when I’m on the hunt. Remember for females: the hunt is just as much fun as the capture.

Today we’re going to deal with the most promising and valuable type of customer your business owns: existing customers. They have purchased from you before, trust you and are willing to share their most valuable resources with you—their friends. They come in to say hello, want to be recognized by name and want to feel important. A great salesperson realizes his or her worth, takes the time to show this customer what’s new—like what was shown at Surfaces—and shares the latest color trends.

The salesperson is also smart enough to ask, “Do you have any friends or associates who you think would benefit from my expertise?” They say it just like that, not “Do you have any referrals for me?” They treat the customer with the respect she deserves and shares information that makes her feel like she belongs to the inner circle.

Yes, these customers can be pesky, but it’s your job to turn pesky into profit. When I was in business each salesperson was required to maintain a VIP Pesky list, take them to lunch every couple of months and ABA (always be asking for referrals).

Remember you are building what Carl Sewell calls, Customers for Life. If you’ve never read this book, it’s worth reading and has been updated several times. Carl took over his father’s Cadillac dealership in 1972, added Lexus to the mix and turned it into one the most profitable car dealers in the country. In 2012, Sewell was awarded Cadillac’s Dealer of the Year distinction, a title reserved for the top 20 Cadillac dealers nationwide in both sales performance and customer satisfaction.

Something worth remembering, as Carl says, “We can’t control the product, but we can control the customer’s experience.”

So before you ignore that previous customer who stopped in to say hello, remember she may be the link to your next sale.