In sales, and in my sales training workshops, I have always reminded people of this one simple fact of sales: When a buyer seeks to buy something, they will make the purchase when the value of whatever the solution (thing, object, service, etc.) that they are buying, exceeds the cost. Simply stated: When the perceived value of a product exceeds the cost, a buyer will make the purchase.
The challenge that sales people face is that they must help the buyer see that the value exceeds the cost. Which means, that the buyer must be certain, and maybe not even fully certain, that the price of the product is justified in the pleasure or results they will get from the purchase.
Recently, I was in the market to buy a couch. This couch purchase has been something that has been in the works for about a year now. Which means, I told my wife that we would buy one, and she kept reminding me that I said that, but I kept putting it off.
Last weekend, we took the next steps to purchase the couch. So, I actually found myself in the stores looking at couches and determining what we wanted. My wife and I very rarely agree on things of this nature, but in this case, after three or four stores, we both laid our eyes on a couch that we both liked.
We went back and forth about it, and then we ultimately got the sales person over to discuss our options. The couch we were looking to buy is not a regular couch. We wanted a sectional. A sectional comes in various shapes and we both liked one with a chaise at one end of it. A chaise is a chair that is like a mini little lounge on one end of the couch. I have never had one of these, and I was excited about getting this feature.
To get the couch the way we wanted cost $3,100 dollars out the door. Personally, I have never paid more than four or five hundred dollars for a couch. My wife had spent more than that in her past, but never as much as this couch cost.
For this purchase, we had already determined that we would spend $1,000 on a couch, but after looking at a few places and now understanding the market a little bit better, I learned that this dollar figure was way off. To get a bigger sectional couch, with the features we liked and desired it would cost us at least double that. And I knew this, but I always start low and once I find something I like, price goes out the door usually. As this couch purchase illustrates.
But now we found ourselves looking at a $3,100 dollar couch. So after an hour or so, my wife and I decided that we were done couch shopping for the day, and that we really liked the $3,100 dollar couch, but we would look at a few more places before we made our purchase.
Fast forward to the next day. My wife and I went into two more places and looked at other couches. By now, we have been to about six to seven stores. We decided to go back and look at the couch that we both liked the day before. The $3,100 dollar couch.
We spent another forty-five minutes or so looking at the couch. My wife starts putting some pillows on the couch and was really trying to get a feel for the couch. The sales person from the day before joined us once again. And she wasn’t necessarily pressuring us, but was adding in some commentary to my wife and I’s conversation as necessary, hoping to push our decision forward.
Once again, we decided not to buy the couch and that we would look a few more places. My wife really wanted to sleep on this buying decision again.
The next day we decided to go to the same store, but a different location. Lets be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see anything different in this store versus the other one that we have been going to the last two days, but I thought, why not give it a try. And guess what? The couch that we had been looking at the previous two days, the $3,100 dollar coach was in there as well. And we looked at it again.
We also walked around the show room and looked at other couches. We found a few new ones that we liked as well. Now, I am not sure if we had looked at these exact same new couches at the other location. The chances are we had, but one couch jumped out at us that we really liked, and by this time my wife wasn’t that interested in the $3,100 dollar couch anymore.
This new couch that we both liked was $2,000 or so dollars. And this Saturday that couch will be delivered to our home. We made the purchase in less than forty-five minutes or so.
I am in sales and have trained sales people for a very long time. Through any buying process I am constantly watching and listening to the sales person to see the techniques and processes they use to help me make a purchase. I am also considering and thinking about the decision-making that I, or my wife, are using during this buying process.
So why was it that we couldn’t make the decision to purchase the $3,100 dollar couch for two days, but on the third day we bought the $2,000 dollar couch so quickly?
To me this was a classic example of something all sales people deal with. As I mentioned before, my wife and I both had never purchased a couch for the amount of money that we were considering spending. So this would have been a purchase that was against both of our buying patterns. Since this was the case, there was a lot of uncertainty on whether the couch was worth it or not. Also, as I mentioned we looked at this couch three different times, so there was a lot of uncertainty on whether this couch would look the way my wife wanted it to.
Both times we looked at the couch at the first store, my wife couldn’t get an idea on what it would look like in our house. No matter how many pillows she put on the couch or pictures she took, it was just really difficult to see how it would look at our place.
When we moved on to the other couch, and the one we ultimately purchased. My wife was able to get a feel for what this couch would look like in our place. She was able to more clearly see how it would fit in the decor that she was looking to have in our home.
The lesson here for sales people is this. In any sales situation, or a lot of sales situations, especially when someone is buying a product for the first time, or spending more on a product than they have before, your number one challenge will always be to figure how to eliminate the buyers uncertainty.
If it is a first time purchase for a buyer of this product. They are usually uncertain if it will work for them. Since they don’t know how it works, they are uncertain if it will work, and will they use it and get the benefits out of it. It doesn’t matter if it is a couch or a new software system for a business.
When it is spending more money than they usually pay for similar products, then it is the uncertainty of whether or not the additional money they are spending on this product is worth it.
In my case of the $3,100 dollar couch versus the $2,000 dollar couch. If the sales person could have provided us a guarantee that if the couch didn’t look the way we wanted it to. Lets be honest here. The way my wife wanted it to look. Then we could return the couch. We would have even been willing to pay a fee of some kind if we returned the couch, because the fear of uncertainty would have been eliminated. Unfortunately, no such option was available. Once the couch was purchased and delivered it was yours.
The fear of uncertainty is real in all buying situations. A sales person must create ways to over come and eliminate that fear of uncertainty. In our case, a simple guarantee that we could return it, could have increased their sales by $1,100 dollars.
Why do you think car lots allow you to take the car home overnight and think about it? How many more cars do you think they sell because of this one little easy thing to do? A lot. Because those buyers get a feel for what that car feels and looks like when they are driving it. They get to see it in their driveway. And since it is a new car, or new to them, it feels and looks good and those emotions are usually confirmed by others in their life during those 24 hours that they have the car.
Eliminate the uncertainty and you will make more sales. Use return guarantees, let them try the product out, or whatever else you can do to eliminate that fear of uncertainty and you will make more sales.
To your success and your future.