I’ve been in the sales business for myself all my 55 plus years in a wide variety of different categories. In all those years the one thing that either got my dander up or caused me to want to quit more than anything was not understanding the reason my customer would have the audacity to buy from strangers when I was perfectly able to get what they wanted.
I will restrict this article to the past few years that I’ve been in the Promotional Product and Printing business since the earlier years prior to the internet the problem wasn’t so bad. Being the local person in business I was able to get business because I might have been the only source or sources were limited. In the beginning we used pencil and paper to write and snail mail orders to suppliers until fax machines and computers sped things up.
Then along comes the internet and it seemed ideal until the price cutters started. We had a few loyal customers that refused to go that route. I think the reason was because the price cutters came in with cheap prices and didn’t take care of problems and soon left town or went out of business. Several times I had to visit a red faced person that would start apologizing for buying from the cheap place and asking me to fix their problem. It was sure tempting to give 40 lashes across their backside but I figured they learned their lesson. One lady in particular learned it 3 times.
I think in the past 5 years or less the internet played a big part in shoppers looking for ways to save a penny. Yes, I said a penny. For example, one person always wanted my rock bottom price for whatever she asked for. I always gave it to her but she always bought from the out of state guy on the internet. One day I was accidentally given a gift of all the details of that penny cheaper order. Sure enough she bought a total of 1500 items imprinted and the internet company was one penny cheaper per item. She saved $15.00 and bought out of state. If it was a mom and pop business I would have understood saving a penny here and there to a certain extent.
However, it was a huge place, tax payer funded on my property tax bill and the $15.00 savings was added on to the shipping and handling cost meaning no savings at all. The rest of the gift I mentioned was learning I had done nothing wrong in all the efforts spent in trying to get this lady to buy from me like the rest of the offices there did. I also learned the real reason she would never buy from me was because she didn’t like my looks. I was afraid I’d told too many long winded stories or she didn’t like older men or whatever. When it was told to me that this buyer didn’t like my looks I was really socked in the gut.
With my razor cutting, fire breathing ability I could’ve really gotten even if she wanted to talk about looks. But, I did what any self respecting franchise owning, mature business owner would do. I got the sales flyers of the competitor and sent them to the lady with a note saying my prices were one penny less than theirs on anything they sold. I knew she wasn’t going to take me up on the offer anyway. It didn’t work and she still won’t buy and I assume my looks haven’t improved. Mom didn’t think I was that homely.
Minus those two examples I don’t think there are any others like it in my experience. There have been other customers that bought from strangers and it worried me enough to ask them why they did it. Flat out bold and straight to the point I would ask “is it because” and give them a reason and keep up the questioning until I found the answer. If it is something other than looks that I could work with I sometimes managed to overcome the problem. Questioning cannot be confrontational. You have to have a sort of whipped pup thoughtful look and low tone to voice. In the case of the woman that didn’t like my looks I must’ve had a dog ugly look that day.
I would highly recommend a variety of books on questioning to find out what you want to know. It takes practice to learn. The books I found most helpful were Tom Hopkins & Zig Ziglar books. There’s a lot of others but I think I found them to be best for me.
The one area I find that is the hardest for me after I discover they bought from a stranger is finding out I was more of a stranger because I hadn’t kept in touch the way the other guy did. Visually my customer didn’t know the competitor from Adam. But I hadn’t acted like I wanted business because I hadn’t sent out flyers like the competitor did. They hadn’t seen me for a while and lo and behold a sale flyer came to their email box. It caused them to think they needed that item and instead of calling to ask me if I could get it or if I was still in business they clicked and bought. Custom Fuzzy Socks