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Buyers Avoid Pushy Salespeople

Buyers Avoid Pushy Salespeople

Samantha Maziarz Christmann | The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Dave Wedzina detests pushy salespeople. Like many of today’s shoppers, the Lackawanna man likes to do his own research and make his own purchasing choices. Sure, he wants a sales associate to be around if he has questions, but he doesn’t like feeling “sold to.”

“I want them to say, ‘If you need any assistance, my name is Fred,’ not ’I’ve got something right over here you will like,’ " he said. “You just met me two minutes ago! You don’t know what I like!”

His daughter Kori feels the same.

“Nobody can push me into [buying] anything,” she said.

They steer clear of merchants who have a reputation for the hard sell, such as some cell phone kiosks as well as certain jewelers and men’s clothing retailers. For them, preparing to shop is like preparing for battle.

It’s that reaction that has caused a tide to turn in the sales profession, according to marketing experts.

Good salespeople have found that being pushy doesn’t result in sales-it results in pushing paying customers out the door. So they’re taking a different tack: While the goal is still to make the sale, it’s about making the sale in a way that meets the customer’s wants and needs. That builds long-term sales relationships and repeat business in a way pushing customers into regrettable purchases does not.

“There used to be this idea that a good salesman could sell ice to Eskimos. Now it has to be a win-win,” said Charles Lindsey, associate professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo. “Nowadays consumers are so savvy, there has to be true value for both parties.”

But the recession is putting all that positive progress at risk.

“[The stores] seem emptier. I think because they’re not making [as many sales], they’re getting pushier,” said Jody Malesky of Amherst.

Some commissioned salespeople, who have seen their incomes plummet as squeezed consumers drastically cut back on discretionary spending, are doing whatever they can to make the quick sale.

“I suspect, given the [state of] the economy, there are a lot of desperate salespeople and companies out there just doing what they can to survive,” said Lindsey.

Tricks of the Trade

Even sellers who aren’t succumbing to high-pressure or underhanded tactics to get ahead are coming up with astute techniques to get price-conscious consumers spending again.

The Wall Street Journal sat in with some clever salespeople as they attempted to sell luxury watches to newly thrifty (but still affluent) shoppers in Beverly Hills.

Tactics included distracting wives to keep men in stores longer, replacing the word “price” with the word “value,” and pouring on the flattery. Salesmen placed shoppers’ beat-up watches next to sleek new ones, using the contrast to convince them of the need to buy a replacement. They soothed buyer’s remorse by talking customers into additional gift purchases meant to appease cost-conscious spouses.

Salesmen have lots of perfectly legitimate skills up their sleeves when it comes to making the sale. Being aware of them helps keep consumers from being persuaded in a direction they don’t want to go.

Next: SKILLS THAT STILL SELL