As every warm-blooded human remembers, 2011 was a great year whether you were a reader, or married to a reader. 🙂
It was then that the erotic novel “50 Shades of Grey” debuted and was consumed vigorously, launching the biggest baby boom in 40 years. The words from the book translated from page to action. Readers found themselves living a love affair with the book, whether it played out on the bookshelves, or pinned against the bookshelves, or on the table, or on the floor, or up against the window, or tied to the bed, the readers couldn’t get enough.
The relationship between the two main characters is that of a dominant and a submissive. Many in the retail industry believe the exchange between customer and salesperson should be a similar dichotomy.
“The customer is always right.”
“Always put the customer first.”
“There is only one boss. The customer.”
We’ve always been taught to bend over backwards for our customers. “Yes, sir.” “No, ma’am.” “Mr.” “Miss.” We’re told that’s just being polite. Respectful. However, I must be a dominant because I think that leads to giving up all of your power with the shopper. Being submissive doesn’t mean best customer service. Let it be known that I find myself to be extremely mannerly at all times. I always am saying “excuse me, sir”, “pardon me, miss”, “thank you, ma’am.” and “allow me to get that for you” in most general interactions with others, even when it’s just a passerby or they’re younger than me. I show respect and that often earns me some respect. This holds especially true when it’s someone I am buying from.
If I am the salesperson and the customer refers to me by my first name, though, I always recommend referring to them by their first name in turn. If customers are conversational or jovial with you, you don’t have to be overly professional, but can mirror the interaction. Many customers have a negative perception of salespeople so it is necessary to put yourself on an equal level with the shopper, and have them consider you a peer. While I believe consumers want to spend their money with someone who tries to earn their business (and shows it), I also believe that customers prefer to do business with people they respect, oppose to those they don’t. If you place yourself in a submissive relationship with your customers, as if they can treat you anyway they choose (and you’re willing to take it) they may use and abuse you.
This isn’t about imposing your will onto shoppers. This isn’t a call for salespeople to “control the customer”. It isn’t ideal to be a dominant when selling a product any more than it is for you to be a submissive. But the consumer + salesperson connection is a relationship. And it is one that works best when there is mutual respect; where both parties recognize the mutual acknowledgement of time, effort, expertise, and intelligence in one another.
[blockquote name=”Joe Webb” organization=”@zonewebb”]I don’t always adhere to the mantra “people buy from those they like”. I buy things all of the time, and I don’t like most people.[/blockquote]
I don’t always adhere to the mantra “people buy from those they like”. I buy things all of the time, and I don’t like most people. But I at least need to respect them.
When dealing with customers, don’t be a submissive. Don’t give them endless control, or you’ll only end up blindfolded, getting whipped at the negotiation table with a leather riding crop. (Okay, maybe I know a little too much about being a dominant. After all, I did once refer to myself in a blog thread as “the Christian Grey of automotive consultants” 🙂
Find common ground with the shopper, but, moreover, try to earn their respect. Don’t give in to their every whim and desire or you’re just handcuffing yourself from making a sale. Ensure that you too are in a position to determine the outcome as much as they are. After all, the dealership is your “Red Room”. They just walked into it.