No matter how much customer buying behavior changes we still at some point have conversations with most people who buy from us. Many will seem resistant or distant when we first engage them. You might call these initial responses a stall. Something like "we're just looking" or "not much time - not buying today".
They give a stall that makes it seem that they want to stop before we even get started. As a sales professional, it is helpful to think about the layers of communication beyond the "text" of what they say. Within these layers is much more than the text - here we find the meaning and what we need to do so they will accept our professional service and guidance. What are the other layers beyond the text of what they say?
Text: "We're just looking"
Emotion: "I'm uncomfortable and a little afraid of being rushed by a pushy salesperson"
Intent: "I'm going to keep you at a distance to see if I like and trust you before I engage"
Relationship: "I don't know this salesperson at all"
Goal: "I really want that car"
The mistake people make when presented with a stall like this from a customer is that they respond immediately (and only) to the text of what was said. They respond with something like: "Ok my name is John. I'll leave you to look; so just ask for me inside if you have any questions"
A response like this does nothing to help the customer with the emotion or intent behind the text. They still don't know you or have any evidence of the kind of salesperson you will be. In fact, they may now have a different worry: "he doesn't seem pushy but he doesn't really seem to want to help either".
Other salespeople ignore the emotional aspect and try to steamroll their way to a suggestion of the next step: "Well that's great you're just looking. I'm the one who's going to help you find what you're looking for. Come with me."
Either way the onus on the customer to get over their emotion so they can get on with their goal of getting that car.
Instead, we need to understand what's going on in the other layers and make sure our response is not just about the text. Unless we can reassure them on the emotional layer, they have a hard time accepting our suggestions of a logical next step toward their goal and we remain stalled. So let's make our response reassuring. Try something along these lines:
"Well there sure is a lot to look at. Shopping for a car is probably not your favorite thing to do. I get that. So, my name is John Smith. I can help you get whatever information you need before you go today. Was there a specific one that you saw online that you wanted to look at?"
What happened here? We understood the emotion and intent. We reassured them on an emotional level that they have not run into a pushy salesperson. "Before you go..." gives them an impression of moving at their speed. When our response addresses the emotional layer, they are much more likely to take our guidance when we ask about specifics of the vehicle they are interested in.
Communicating in this way doesn't necessarily come naturally. We need to think about all the common stalls and practice to create a positive response to the underlying emotion not just the text of what is said.
With today's customer only visiting 1-2 locations before purchase, we don't have the luxury of waiting for the next customer who doesn't give us a challenge. Let’s put this one at ease so we can help them!