When you start selling in retail, they say you should do your best to stay a rookie forever. Claiming you’re “new to this” is meant to buy you leeway with the customer, or a sense of pity as if you’re really saying “Take it easy on me, will ya? I’m just a newbie.” However, I don’t believe this is what today’s researched shoppers are hoping to find when walking into a store.
On the flipside, maybe the concept that you should stay “green” for as long as you can is a message to new hires that they shouldn’t get too smart for their own good. Listening to their superiors, following management directives, and doing as their told may actually win them more sales and garner higher profits on happier customers. The only alternative is to make up an answer and beg for forgiveness later. Never a good play.
Anyone in the automotive industry knows that salespeople are unwilling to stay green for long, whether they have the know-how to see every angle with a customer or not. Nonetheless, over the years I’ve found that introducing yourself to a shopper as “being new” doesn’t earn you patience points. It psychologically places you in an inferior position to the buyer.
The old adage “people buy from people they like” is true, but only up to a point. In a world where the buyer researches, studies, checks reviews, and analyzes before transacting places the power in the fingertips of the shopper. Beginning relationships off with an “aw-shucks, I’m not as up to snuff on this stuff as you are, even though it’s my job” doesn’t make you approachable. It makes you unprepared to serve them to the fullest.
I recognize that not every salesperson can answer every question about every product or process, but that doesn’t mean we have to play dumb with them. If you don’t know an answer to a customer’s question, I urge everyone, even green peas to stop saying the wearied line of “I don’t know because I’m knew here.” Instead, when a customer throws a question your way that you don’t have the ability to answer, simply respond with “I’m fairly certain I know the answer, but I don’t want to misspeak since it is important enough for you to ask. Allow me to double-check.” Then, move on with your process until you have the time to find and reply to them with the right information.
I don’t buy from people I like. Sure, it definitely helps. But I buy a lot of stuff, and I don’t need to like everyone I buy from. I’m old. I don’t go about my day hoping to find new people to like. I do, though, need to have an ounce of respect for someone. If you tell me that you’re going to take extra time to ensure I receive the right answer, I’ll appreciate the gesture and accept the delay. If you tell me you’re new to this and don’t know for sure, I will feel like the organization doesn’t value my time enough to provide me with an adequate sales professional or experience.
In today’s heavily-researched and wired world, it is smarter to play let me check than it is to play dumb.