Those who know me well also know that shopping in general does not fall into my favorite activity category. When the rare desire strikes, I am a pretty speedy shopper because everything tends to land into one of three categories: love it, could live with it, detest it. I am swiftly either in the checkout line or out the door. I believe that makes me an easy customer to deal with because a salesperson knows quickly where I stand on a product.
Reflecting on my own leasing career, I wonder how this trait served me? Did how I personally categorized my own product leak on my customers? While we don’t always vocalize it to the customer, our self-talk often ‘speaks’ about the things we like or dislike about the product we represent. We can try to hide it, but it is always there lurking in our thoughts. The fact is that if you spend any time in this industry, you are going to work on a variety of product types, in various locations, and you will not love them all.
Here are three ways to sell a product you wouldn’t buy.
1. Realize Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our product that we forget who we are selling to. In most cases, our customer is a stranger, and the entirety of their situation is one that we cannot begin to understand during our brief time with them despite our efforts to do so. We tend to focus more on our product than our customer because it is more familiar and comfortable to us. In some cases, our opinions overpower the conversation and we end up doing more talking than listening.
It took many years on the leasing floor, attending a multitude of leasing classes, and receiving a few subpar mystery shopping reports for me to finally understand this fact: My opinion does not matter. It’s a harsh statement, but it is true. It doesn’t really matter how much I love or hate an apartment. The ugly duckling just might be the perfect match for the next person walking through the door. In fact, in a blog I wrote several years ago, I shared my own leasing story about how an apartment with peach-colored carpet which faced the local landfill was the perfect fit for one particular customer. I learned that the customer does not care about the same things I might, and as crazy as it seems, that awful apartment represented some aspects that met my customer’s needs.
The lesson in this is that our focus should be on how our product can and will make the customer’s life better. What does better mean? If we don’t know where they are now, how will we know what better looks like to them? We must place all our focus on the customer. What will work best for them? Me, my, and I should not be part of the conversation. By focusing on the customer, you can easily sell a product you wouldn’t buy.
2. Forget You Are a Leasing Professional
You heard that right. When you are interacting with a customer with the goal of ultimately leasing an apartment, you need to forget that you are a leasing professional. In my experience, if leasing or not leasing an apartment is anywhere in our thoughts, then consciously or subconsciously we will be trying to manipulate the customer’s decision to meet our agenda. Instead, we need to become their trusted advisor. When we stop bombarding the customer with our opinions, we are better able to gather information while engaging in a conversation with them. This is not a scripted process; it is natural and free-flowing.
Dr. Theodore Zeldin, author of Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives, suggested, “The salesperson is not just an instrument of commerce but also an expert in human relations, and their function is to make the customer feel better and understand better and feel more satisfied. They are an outsider who can expand another person’s world.” This is accomplished through a two-way conversation. But, where do we begin? During my research, I ran across a great article in Fast Company titled, “Six Habits of the Best Conversationalists”. There are many golden nuggets in the post, but one point in particular stood out to me: It takes skill. Learning how to engage in fruitful conversations with your customer takes time and practice. Good conversationalists don’t interject themselves into the topic when it’s not needed. It is not about you or your product; it is about your customer and their wants and needs. Your conversation with your customer is not a promotional opportunity for you but rather a time for you to listen to them. There is a reward for toning down your “sell talk” too. Another interesting article in Sales Hacker revealed metrics which suggest that when your likely customer talks for at least 30% of the time, sales conversion rates improve dramatically. Silence truly is golden.
3. Ask Revealing Questions and Never Assume
This was the big error I made and shared in my blog post Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’. I assumed that no human being with any sense of smell would ever have leased that apartment. What I didn’t realize was that the things I cared about, my customer did not. And the things he cared about were unfamiliar to me. I injected my opinion into his solution. My questions were scripted and not sincere. I had not yet learned how to sell a product I wouldn’t buy.
Revealing questions are often open-ended. Open-ended questions are also called discovery questions because they are designed to get to know the customer and their needs better. They usually involve who, what, where, when, why and how. They don’t have a set order and they are more focused on feelings than facts. They are designed to facilitate a natural dialogue between the leasing professional and the customer so that rapport and trust can grow.
The open-ended questions you choose should result in an exchange that is both personal and revealing. Here are a few examples:
- What do you love about your current kitchen (bathroom, bedroom, etc.)? What would you change, if you could?
- What other communities have you visited? What did you like or dislike?
- What has motivated you to move?
- Tell me more about…
- Do you enjoy eating out? If so, where are your favorite restaurants located?
At the end of the day, selling something you wouldn’t buy comes down to this: It’s not about you or your product. It’s not about apartment features, amenities, pricing, location, etc. It’s not about the number of awards you have received or how many promotions are ahead of you. It is about your customer. They are the main characters in their story, and they are going to take out their checkbook if they believe that your product is going to improve their life. If they don’t, they won’t!
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions
Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.