While at the rental car counter on a recent business trip, I listened to the salesperson rattle off the upgrades and insurance available, etc. Then she concluded with the “up-selling” question, “Would you like to buy a pre-paid tank of gas?” I replied, “No,” even as I noted the price per gallon was very competitive. I didn’t expect to drive very far that particular day and would probably require less than a tank’s worth of gas.
As I often do, I reflected on the sales transaction after the fact (an occupational hazard of one who leads sales training) and the way the salesperson approached the pre-paid gas offering. Her focus had been on her sale of the gas, failing to identify my needs or the benefits this purchase could provide me. The salesperson had been operating in her own “Odds Are.” “Odds Are” refers to the research-supported premise that, at any given point in time, Odds Are 2 to 1 that an individual’s behavior is inwardly focused, and the information he or she experiences will be in terms of how that information impacts him/her and his/her own needs.
This very human and normal preoccupation with one’s own goals and needs limits a salesperson’s ability to experience the customer’s needs, concerns, or problems from the customer’s point-of-view. I suspect I declined the purchase of the pre-paid tank of gas rather automatically, since I was given no compelling reason to give it further consideration. If re-worded, the rental car agent’s original question might have resulted in a different outcome with me, and would certainly improve sales performance overall:
What if she had asked, “How familiar are you with this local area, especially around the airport?” followed by, “Have you driven in this traffic before, during rush hour?” My focus would have shifted from the cost and potential waste of the pre-paid gas to the benefits of the purchase (saving my time, increased convenience of gas replacement, reduced stress in trying to catch my return flight, etc.) and might just have tipped the balance toward me buying that pre-paid tank of gas.
Such exploration may have spawned any number of effective selling statements, maybe suggesting that I could “benefit from having a full tank of gas already purchased should traffic get problematic or I couldn’t find a gas station for a refill on my way back to the airport to return the rental car.” I might have realized the benefits of saving time, trouble AND money by investing in that tank at that moment, versus later when I’d be pressed for time, driving in unfamiliar territory.
The effective salesperson brings the customer’s needs and solutions into alignment. By first recognizing the existence and consequences of the “Odds Are” factor, a sales professional can consciously improve his or her own sales skills by altering his or her thinking to consider the customer’s concern from the customer’s perspective. When the sales professional chooses to think in the customer’s “Odds Are,” the focus of the interaction moves from being salesperson-focused, increasing the satisfaction for both.