The tall, gangly man wore an old t-shirt and cutoff jean shorts. His long black hair hung unkempt halfway down his back. And he arrived at the luxury car dealership on a bicycle. The veteran salespeople knew better than to waste their time with him. They sent the rookie out to deal with him.
The man was rock star, Alice Cooper.
And he bought not one, but two top-of-the-line vehicles from the fortunate sales rookie. Who received not only a nice commission, but also a valuable sales lesson: Never judge a prospect on their appearance.
I hear similar stories all the time from attendees in my seminars and workshops: experienced salespeople who mistakenly assume a particular person isn’t a buyer because of how they look, sound, or act.
It’s a habit most of us get into at some point in our sales careers. We only have so much time, and we want to spend it with people who are most likely to buy. So we ignore anyone who doesn’t seem to measure up at first glance.
But that’s a terrible habit. Because first impressions can be dangerously misleading. You may have a clear idea of who your ideal buyer is, based on years of experience, but that doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t fit that profile isn’t also a potential buyer. Prospects come in all ages, sizes, genders, colors, ethnicities, and abilities. And if you make a snap judgement that they aren’t a buyer because of circumstantial information, you’ve already lost the sale.
How do you avoid making this deadly mistake?
1. Assume all prospects are buyers.
Treat everyone with courtesy and respect. Make them feel important and appreciated.
2. Engage them.
Ask questions. Learn about their needs, wants, concerns, budget, and so on. If they aren’t a good prospect for you, a few questions will uncover that pretty quickly.
3. Help them.
If they’re a good fit for your product or service, proceed to the next step in your sales process. If they’re not right for you (and vice versa), help them anyway. They’re still people with needs. Provide them with information; suggest alternatives; recommend competitors. The goodwill you create may lead to referrals. Or this particular individual may become a customer of yours in the future.
Looks can be deceiving. But don’t let yourself be deceived. Because it will cost you sales. Just because a buyer doesn’t look like your ideal prospect doesn’t mean they can’t become a great customer. But if you treat them like they can’t, then they won’t.
Remember: Buyers don’t need to impress you. You need to impress them.