(This is a great guest post from Jana Botkin. Jana is an incredible artist. Check out her work and her blog at CabinArt.net)
As an artist, I am particularly aware of the fact that luxury items are not in great demand these days. Lately I’ve been ruminating upon how to turn conversations into actual jobs, an exercise that is even more important in a shaky economy.
What are some of the things that can send a potential customer back out the door empty-handed? If your business offers custom products, have you considered the intimidation factor? When someone walks through your door needing your product or service, chances are he is uncomfortable and maybe even a little embarrassed because he is unfamiliar with the process. A customer comes to me, let’s call him Bob. I want to help Bob, but if he feels like an idiot, chances are he will just go “think about it” rather than start the process. “Thinking” is polite-speak for, “Forget it. I changed my mind because I feel too stupid or overwhelmed.”
Putting someone at ease by being friendly is obvious, but have you considered teaching a bit of the lingo of your particular business? For example, as an artist, I often hear people use the word “consignment” when they really mean “commission.” If Bob says he wants me to do a “consignment” job for him, I feel pretty certain he isn’t asking me to sell something on his behalf. If I teach him what “commission” means in my business, he feels more confident discussing his idea. And if I’m lucky, he might do a bit of bragging to his friends about the artist he just commissioned!
After Bob gets comfortable with the lingo, it is important to establish some trust. Commission work is about more than just making a sale; it is a short-term business partnership. You have to be able to trust your partners! (Ooh, ever notice how people who say “trust me” are often the least trustworthy?) The best way to establish trust with Bob is to return his phone calls and emails. If I skip this part, I’m sending the message that I might also skip town with his deposit!
Clear communication on both our parts is vital, nay, it is everything. Do I know exactly what Bob is expecting of me? Does he know how the process works? Lucky for me, as an artist, I can draw him a picture! Can you clearly explain or even draw a picture of the process? (You can always hire me!)
Another way that you give your potential customer clues about your trustworthiness is your ability to find stuff – answers, papers, photos, records. If I am being a fumblety-mumblety (where is that thing?), Bob might decide I am too disorganized and may even wonder if I’ll misplace his job before finishing the work! Being a loser in the true sense of the word will not help your credibility. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.)
Have you ever wanted to buy a custom product but felt like an idiot about the process? What made you go home to “think about it”? Hit the comments below and let us know.
10 thoughts on ““I’ll Think About It”, and Other Exit Strategies”
Having been “Bob” at some time, I can vouch for those points that Jana has so clearly explained.
And of course, I said “I’ll think about it.”
Oddly enough, this “Bob” was in a particular type of ethnic food establishment and received almost no helpful information about the posted menu. I left.
Customers really do count regardless of ones business and the less the customer knows, the more important is the attention (and comfort) he or she should get.
Good post Jana.
Good principle, Ralph – “the less the customer knows, the more important the attention”. Thanks! (Curious to know what sort of food that was!)
That is what all leaders and team members need to understand. Assume the customer is completely clueless about your product, and treat them with dignity. When you do that, you can move onto the next step. Great comment!
This is very true in my mortgage practice with first time home buyers. Many times, they are intimidated with the process and fearful of what the process, their credit score, debt ratio, etc. might be. If not handled properly, and with great care, these individuals can bolt for the door – thinking “this is just too much for me….” – before we even know we have intimidated or even embarrassed them.
Thanks for the post! Something we all should consider.
Thank you, Louise! I remember feeling completely like a fish out of water when my husband and I bought our first home. All those scary terms and papers – we had a completely sympathetic and helpful banker to lead us through.
Jana, I truly appreciate your empathy for us “Bobs” and “Bob-ettes”! It is obvious that you practice your advice, because you write so well about it.
If there is one thing that sends me packing, never to be seen again, is being “pounced” upon the moment I enter or followed around with suggestions because they assume they know what I am looking for. In a large department store, I can blend; I can be a “Waldo”. In a small shop or business that I am entering for the first or even 3rd time, I need time to browse with the clerk/owner saying in the background: “Please let me know if I can be of some help.”
That is so true! I actually talk about it in EntreLeadership. I tell owners and leaders that if that’s how your sales people are, you’re losing sales!! Great comment.
Excellent advice. Wish more businesses practiced these points. Love that bridge! Plan to go there in a few months and paint it myself.
haha…here’s hoping some of those businesses read this. 🙂
Barbara, I agree. It is awful to be pounced upon, and the worry of how to extract oneself often prevents folks from ever entering!
Candy, I’d advise either going to the bridge right now while the water is high and it isn’t hot or else waiting until September! And remember, there are rattlesnakes galore in that area. Looking forward to seeing your painting – stay in touch so I can hear how it goes!