What Your Customers aren’t Telling You


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The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this saying holds true in business. Unfortunately, many salespeople think that if a customer doesn’t say anything (for better or worse) they’re generally satisfied with the transaction. That’s not necessarily true and (even though it may seem this way) the majority of unsatisfied customers aren’t going to write a negative review so you can’t find them that way. Sadly, your customers silence might be telling you something important, but you’re too distracted by the squeaky wheels to notice.

People communicate non-verbally much more than they do verbally (or in writing). This means salespeople have to pick up on non-verbal cues, practice and ask open-ended questions while showing a genuine interest and openness if they really want to ensure 100 percent customer satisfaction. What you don’t know really can hurt you. Here are a few things customers probably aren’t telling you and why it matters.

1. “I’m not happy with this experience.”

If you have a bad experience somewhere, yet you’re in a rush or don’t want to embarrass yourself, someone else or cause a scene, your instinct is to get out of there as quickly as possible. Many people are non-confrontational, and the flight instinct is much stronger than the fight one. If a customer doesn’t say much, don’t assume they’re happy. You may even want to assume the opposite and address it.

2. “I’m feeling really pressured.”

There are of course still cases where high pressure sales are encouraged. However, if that’s not a requirement of your job, understand that bullying and high pressure sales tactics are only going to work on a select few customers. Others will get out as quickly as possible and just never return. Unless it’s truly a requirement of your job, try to genuinely help customers instead of pushing them.

3. “I’m going to go home and research a lower price.”

Some customers are truly window shopping because they want to see a product in person, then go home and find it cheaper online. These are smart shoppers, and you’re wasting your time trying to charm them. There’s nothing illegal about what they’re doing, but provide excellent service and they’ll remember you the next time they’re in need.

4. “I’m already in a lot of debt and shouldn’t be looking at this.”

Shopping is a very real addiction, and it can be embarrassing to discuss. It’s not your job to help customers manage their finances, but if it’s clear a person is getting in over their head, can’t afford an item or is going to struggle to failure in order to pay it off, you might want to swap your empathetic friend side for your salesperson one. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting alternatives or clearly explaining what payment plans will really look like.

5. “I’m going to negotiate no matter what.”

Some people like the thrill of the bargain and some people like the thrill of haggling. If you have a customer who wants to haggle (and many have some serious skills) you’re going to have to just suck it up and engage. It’s a rush for many, and in the end you might learn a thing or two for your next transaction. It’s not something that everyone enjoys, but if a customer engages you, that means they’re really interested.

Working in sales is a challenge that requires you to be a bit of a mind reader. See your customers as people with unique characters, flaws and best sides and you’ll be able to better give them what they want. Read between the lines and you’ll be surprised by what you find.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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