'Tis the season for gifting. Many of us are doing our holiday shopping, while also likely contemplating the age-old question we receive from loved ones: "What do you want this year?" This question always sends me into a reverie about my ideal life. Not only what I think would make me happier if I had it, but more importantly, what change I can make within myself to help me live a more satisfying, fulfilling life. Transferring this thought to my professional life, I often think about what I could do to help myself be more successful in my career. What gift, if I received it, could make me a better sales professional? One thing I know for certain is that gift is NOT the gift of gab.

As I've been out holiday shopping, I've noticed one too many eager sales associates trying to convince me to make a purchase. While I know they are not setting out to intentionally irritate their customers, these sales associates aren't necessarily focused on helping their customers either. They seem to only be focused on selling their customers the product that corporate has likely decided has the best chance of creating the greatest profit margins. In turn, the sales associates likely get a larger commission, and so they are persistent in pushing this product upon customers using the "gift of gab."

It goes something like this. You're looking for a new blender to gift to your grandmother who loves smoothies. You walk to the kitchen section of the store, and a sales associate immediately approaches you. When he discovers you're interested in a blender, he directs you to the latest model. The blender has 12 different speeds and can operate at a speed fast enough to bring cold ingredients to steaming hot in a matter of minutes. It can chomp through whole-food ingredients to produce a variety of different textures. The sales associate goes on about the features of the blender, but you ultimately end up leaving because it's not what you want. The sales associate is left confused and without the sale.

Give Customers Your Eyes and Ears, Not the Gift of Gab

Instead of demonstrating his gift of gab and immediately trying to sell you the latest (and most expensive) model, he could have asked what you were looking for in a blender. At Carew, we teach the Exploratory Process™ as a way to understand customers' true needs as a prerequisite to offering solutions. By following the Exploratory Process, the sales associate would have first explored with you to understand what you were looking for in a blender. In doing so, he would have learned that you were on the hunt for an easy-to-use, simple blender that makes great smoothies for your grandmother‚ the number of speeds and variation in textures weren't important. Knowing this, he could have then directed you to blenders that were a better match for you and would have had a much greater chance of making the sale.

From this example, it's easy to see how talking at length about the features of a product (even if we think we are helping the customer by informing them about the product) can actually be detrimental to our success as sales professionals. While we've heard this tale numerous times before, the holiday season is a particularly great time to bring it to the forefront of our minds and reflect on it.

This holiday season, we should let our shopping experiences remind us to be cognizant of how we treat our customers now and into the new year. And when you start thinking of what gift will help you excel as a sales professional in the coming year, make sure you leave the gift of gab unopened under the tree.