I was talking to a pool builder who had just put in a new pool.
His client lived in a very expensive neighborhood, drove a Bentley, and practiced on his own tennis court; you get the picture.
A few months later, the client’s neighbor installed a pool using a different builder.
The client went to his neighbor’s party and saw the pool; it had all the bells and whistles that his own pool didn't have, including a saltwater chlorinator, fiber optic lights, and an automatic pool cover.
He called his builder and asked why he wasn't shown all the possibilities.
The builder replied that he was afraid to price himself out of the sale.
It’s what keeps people stuck, particularly in selling. Fear is a reaction to a perceived threat; in this case, the possibility that the sale could have blown up in his face.
That fear blindsided him to the upside potential.
So many retail salespeople power through the rote features of their luxury watches, their gee-wiz electronics, or their energy-efficient appliances that they can appear brain-dead.
I know when I first started working retail, a customer was only something I had to close; they were not a person, they were just a sale to be made.
That approach to sales is the antithesis of what is needed to overcome fear. And that’s not just the salesperson’s fear of rejection but also the customer’s.
One of the best ways to overcome fear is to be creative
The death of creativity and imagination are at the heart of low sales in retail shops around the world. Some think technology is the answer ... not me. We have to find a way to creatively open our hearts to another person to combat our fear of not being liked, not being taken seriously, or not making the sale.
When we do that, we retain our most personal link ...our link to humanity.
As John Guare says in his play Six Degrees of Separation, “The imagination has been so debased that imagination - being imaginative - rather than being the linchpin of our existence now stands as a synonym for something outside ourselves like science fiction or some new use for tangerine slices on raw pork chops - what an imaginative summer recipe.”
Imagination is the passport we create to take us into the real world; it is what is most uniquely us.
President Kennedy’s creative aspiration back in 1962 to “go to the moon in this decade” motivated a nation to unprecedented levels of innovation.
A far-reaching vision can compel employees to tap into their own creativity as long as it becomes part of the DNA of a business.
To make more sales, we must challenge ourselves to connect with our creativity.
Here are 3 ways to help employees overcome fear during a sale:
Provide retail sales training to give them a process to hang their sales presentation on rather than “winging it.” Nothing knocks down fear better than knowing where objections might surface and how to handle them. And sales training is a skill set you constantly develop over time, not like training how to make a rose out of a radish.
Hold a daily contest. Create a daily sales contest for your employees. Choose an affordable item and show them all you can about it. Ask them to find other creative uses for the same item and highlight those with their customers. This process creates creative pathways in your employees' minds as they show how the item is used. It puts learning and creativity at top of the mind.
Play. Rejection is expected in selling. Learn to welcome it. Role-play a sale with an individual on your crew. Have them role-play a stellar selling job, but when they try to close the sale, say, “No.” Let them figure out what their next moves are without telling them. The goal when coaching them is for those salespeople to keep the conversation going and then unpack what went right and what could have been done better. This way, you will train their brains to look for alternatives and not shut down for fear their customer will walk.
Customers who come to your brick-and-mortar store are looking to spend their money. If you’ve avoided hiring creative people, it will be up to you to devise creative ways to get employees over their fear of sales and engage customers.
But you must do it!
Otherwise, your store ends up uninspiring, dated, and quiet. Your employees are afraid of selling anything more than what a customer asks to buy. In short, they are warehouse workers who have switched off their brains.
Turning off fear when selling comes from turning on creativity. It must be nurtured and played with to open the window to possibilities.
If the pool builder had not been afraid, not only would he have made the sale he did, but he also would have upsold even more upscale items. His customer would have been happier and not jealous of his neighbor.
Instead, this pool builder probably lost an entire neighborhood’s future business ...and all because of his own...needless... fear.