When The Customer Isn't Interested

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One of my salesmen has been struggling lately after a very strong start. This is a fairly common occurrence in the sales game. There is the thrill of a new job, new things to learn, new customers, and then it becomes routine...if you let it.

While there are benefits to routine, there are also drawbacks, and particularly in sales, where you need to keep it fresh, even if it's the same old product.

The newbie in my office is suffering from doing the same old thing too many times. Back in another lifetime I sold chemicals, and I made a lot of money doing it while other salesman sold about the same amount all the time. While they would sell cases, I would sell 55 gallon drums. I would often sell more in a couple days than they did in a month.

The company asked me to go out with other salesman and see why they weren't selling. I took a few ride-alongs. After going out with 5 different salesmen I knew what was wrong.

They were boring. Watching them make a presentation was like watching paint peel. They were lucky anybody bought anything from them. I made my report to management. The VP of sales said,
"Jim, chemicals aren't exciting."

Well...that's true, but it's not the point. Chemicals in and of themselves aren't exciting. But what they can do is. When I visited the factory that made most of our chemicals, I spent hours talking to people in the plant. I had them show me what all the chemicals did, and what was the best way to demonstrate their effect on the customer.

Apparently no one had ever asked them these questions.
They lit up and showed me dozens of ways to demonstrate the effectiveness of the products, and some of them were very good.

I stayed in touch with one of the guys in the plant, and whenever he had a new idea for a demo we would talk. Every time I visited a customer I had a new demo. I would show the decision makers how the chemical worked, and what it could do.
Then I would show them what it cost, and how it was more cost effective than what they were using.

Now the truth is that they never saved any money. The reason was because they failed to monitor how their employees used the product, which is very important. But that was their job, not mine.

My job was to sell the product, which I did, by making it fun, and interesting. Buyers would always say to me, "What have you got to show me today?" And I always had something, even if it only lasted a minute or two. Sometimes all I did was show them a new way to use an old product.

Back to my newbie.

I had him give me his presentation. Just as I suspected, he had lost some of his pop. He was not the least bit entertaining, and he bored me quickly.

I stopped him cold, and told him he was putting me to sleep. I told him it wasn't that the customer wasn't interested in what he had to sell, it was that the customer wasn't interested in him.

People don't buy products, they buy the guy selling them. A good product helps, but I have sold many mediocre products. And believe me, being enthusiastic about your product helps. Enthusiasm can overwhelm a superior product because it's contagious.

Sometimes, customers really are not interested in your product. No one product will fix everything. But more often than not, not interested means not interested in you.

P.S. One more thing, the Whelan Credo is that "not interested" only means "not interested at this moment." Tomorrow is another story altogether.

Jim Whelan is The chairman of Board and owner of The James R Whelan Agency - The Most Powerful Name in Advertising. Please sign up for his daily free newsletter at thejamesrwhelanagency.com

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