Your Sales Team: Understanding your customers

By Steven Cox, General Manager of Allwest Auto Parts

Edmonton, Alberta — December 18, 2013 — In my last article, I discussed a few straight forward practices exercised by some of the most successful salespeople. I want to emphasize that the easiest and most cost efficient way you can increase sales and profitability is through training your sales team. 

It is simple to train a salesperson, as long you have all the right tools and information, along with your personal dedication. However, a successful salesperson must possess the single most important attribute: confidence. 
When I hire a salesperson, I look for confidence over experience. Confident people are humble, polite, self-assured and calm. Salespeople lacking confidence tend to have big egos, something that has no room in any sales team. 
Salespeople with egos always seem to know better and do things their way, thus never allowing themselves to learn, grow and become more successful. 
An ego driven person will pretend to be confident, often being loud and demanding with attitude, trying to fool you into thinking they are confident. A salesperson with an ego will sacrifice their success over their image when necessary. The image they portray is not motivated by their self-serving need to look good, but to look good because that brings them success. There is a huge difference!  
Remember their image is your company’s image. A confident person feels no need to show their strength, brag, boast or belittle. They do not take things personally and you can never “put their backs against the wall.” 
They just treat everyone with dignity and respect. They do not need constant praise and accept criticism. They have no distractions to their main goal in life and that is to be as successful as they can be. Have you ever noticed that confident people are the most successful? It makes sense to hire successful people if you want a successful company.
Now let’s talk about understanding your customer. Can you and your sales team successfully identify a person’s needs when they may not fully understand what they require to satisfy them fully as a customer? 
You need to do this efficiently, accurately and in a natural progression. When a customer buys from you, it is more complex then selling your products. When you sell something you can also be providing safety, peace of mind, value, a happy spouse, a solution to an inconvenience … the list goes on. 
It’s more than a product. It’s your job to find out what they need and why they are getting it. In our industry, that could be by explaining your warranty or how they saved valuable resources by buying green or how a recycled OEM part is better quality and safer than an aftermarket. 
It could also matter to your customer that buying a recycled part today will save them valuable time and will prevent a huge inconvenience because they had to wait for a dealer part that had to be ordered and will take a week to come in. 
We typically only ask the year, make and model. That’s not enough, you need to listen to your customer and ask questions. It’s all about meeting all your customer’s needs to provide them with a feeling of satisfaction, comfort and confidence. If you can successfully do this, you are guaranteed a loyal, repeat customer.
It’s okay for customers to be demanding. They may even expect more from you than you believe is appropriate. Accept this and get over it now. Everyone is different and what you want and how you want to be treated may not be good enough for your customer. It’s just a good starting place and you can go up from there.
The fact that a customer contacted you is the biggest buy signal you can get! They have decided to talk to you about your product because they want it. A salesperson understands this reality and uses it to give them the confidence to make the sale.
When a customer contacts, your salesperson has one goal! They need to make the transition of the customer needing your product to wanting it. The customer just needs to be educated and persuaded. Salespeople that can successfully make this transition almost always sell 100 percent of the time!
The customer is expecting you to try and sell them. It’s the salesperson role to do this and do it well. If they cannot, they are buying from someone else. Customers will actually feel unsatisfied if your salespeople do not excel in their role. 
Everyone within your business needs to truly understand and support the idea that it is everyone’s job to keep customers and get them to come back. It can be directly or indirectly, but  this is the function of every team member without exception! The customer ultimately pays their wages. Remind everyone of this, and often.
Ask yourself, “Why should a customer do business with me?” You or any member of your team should be able to make a list of at least 20 items instantly.
To finish, I want to share with you a list I often review with my salespeople on how they can effectively communicate and satisfy their customers.
• Cherish customers at all times
• Respect your customer as you would your own family
• Listen to them and decipher their needs
• Give customers what they need
• Teach your customers to want what they need
• Get your customers your product when they need it
• Give your customers more then they expect
• Make sure your customers see the full value of more than just the product
• Thank each customer sincerely and often
• Help customers pay you, so they won’t be embarrassed and go elsewhere
• Ask to do it again! 
Have you ever thought about exactly what to say and do when you’re in a sales situation? I have a few key statements which you can use. Sometimes, all it takes is the right thing, said at the right time, to make the difference. Look for more on this in my article. 
Steven Cox is the General Manager of Allwest Auto Parts in Edmonton, Alta. The company can be reached at 780-465-4730 or on the web at

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