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David FullerLast week, Natalie walked into a sports store to buy a swim cap. She found the caps in the store and a young man, the ‘salesperson’ on duty, walked over and asked, “Can I help you?”

She told me she said, “Yes, I need a swim cap,” as she stood looking at the rack of swim caps.

The ‘salesperson’ proceeded to tell her that their most popular cap was out of stock and he didn’t know if any of the other 10 varieties would work for her, before walking off.

Natalie stood dumbfounded and then decided to leave the store.

As she told me later, she would have bought anything swim-related that day – swimsuit, goggles, towel, swim buoy, even flippers – if only the ‘salesperson’ had cared.

What went wrong?

Here was a customer who went to a business with a specific goal of buying something, to spend her hard-earned money. Yet she walked out of the store without spending any of the hundreds of dollars she was prepared to spend.

How often does that happen?

In fact, it happens more often than it should and the reasons are fivefold.

We fail to care

So often, we get salespeople who don’t really care if they make a sale. They fail to understand how important their job is to the success of the business and the satisfaction of the customer.

Many times, they don’t care to see the customer as someone unique, a real person with a life outside this relationship. Rather, they see the customer as an interference, an inconvenience, a challenge. When this mentality starts to breed within our organization, we’re in for trouble.

We don’t train

Even if we have the right people, we don’t train them in sales. Many businesses don’t spend the time, money or energy to properly onboard their staff and teach them the fundamentals of sales.

The young man who served Natalie probably applied for a sales job with absolutely no understanding of what it meant.

We expect our staff to know instinctively how to sell things yet we fail to train them or test them.

We need to figure out what works

If we have a sales process, we fail to document it and script it for our sales team.

Undoubtedly, if we’ve been in business for a while, there’s a process that our customers go through in making a decision to buy from us. Engaging them along that process and helping them make a decision can be scripted and anticipated.

Documenting and teaching this process can be huge for increasing our sales.

We fail to understanding why

There are 100 simple questions that are better than “Can I help you?”

When scripted or taught, those better questions can start off the process of understanding why a prospect has reached out to us.

Without understanding their why, we will rarely be able to provide the right solution. Unless we can solve the pain or pleasure need of the customer, they’ll find someone who can and we’ll lose a sale.

We fail to measure

It’s true that we can go into a business and get asked at the till if we were helped.

But say “No” sometime and see what happens. Usually the person just says “Oh” and moves on to the next question: “Would we like a bag?”

Without measuring what’s happening in the sales process, we’re doing our business and our customers a disservice.

Tracking the conversion rates of people who come into contact with us is important. We need to understand where we’re failing and determine where we can make changes in the sales process that will give the customer what they contacted us for and drive sales.

Natalie’s failure in her attempt to buy a swim cap might seem trivial. But without understanding how to sell (and we all sell something, whether it’s goods, services, solutions, religion, education, ideas or even love), we become frustrated and unsuccessful in fulfilling our purpose.

We’d likely be better people if we started teaching sales skills in school with the anticipation that better questioning might just lead to a better society!

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email [email protected] 

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