F. W. Woolworth and how to understand your customer’s real needs

You may know that F. W. Woolworth was the original king of the 5 and 10, or dime store merchandising approach, and that after creating his empire, passed away at the age of 67 in 1919.  But do you know how he died?

Because people nickeled and dimed him to death, that’s how.

Okay, bad joke.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedBut I wanted to use the phrase “nickel and dime you to death” as an example of a concept that requires your attention when you are selling.  This is a follow-up to my newsletter from earlier this week when I advised you to speak like a gangster, which you can read here to refresh your memory.

Let us say you are talking to a prospect and you ask what is important to him in choosing a provider of your services or products, and the prospect says, “One thing I don’t like is dealing with a company that nickels and dimes me to death,” or he is an existing customer and he accuses you of doing this to him.

Remember the lesson:  this phrase is conceptual, not specific. No one is actually charging the customer a nickel here and dime there. It has a negative connotation of cheapness and greed, always looking to make a little extra profit at the expense of the customer. It’s bad for you when you are accused of it, no doubt.

So once again, make sure you don’t let the comment pass.  You don’t know whether the customer is right or wrong, but his feelings on any subject are reality to him. So by all means slow down and get this phrase out on the table and discussed.

If it’s your customer and he accuses your company of this behavior, make a statement of understanding:  “I’m sorry if you’ve been treated this way…”  or “I’m sorry you are unhappy with any of our fees or charges.”

Then say, “Can we discuss this? I’m interested in knowing which charges were objectionable to you.  Please tell me what happened.”  Then let the customer talk. The idea is to get rid of this negative concept of cheapness and have the customer talk it through, confirm you understand, and then explain or justify any fees or charges the customer may have paid, showing the benefits of the service delivered and the value the customer received.

Here are some other negative phrases you may hear from customers, all of which should tell you “STOP!”  Get the customer to talk them through in behavioral language:

“Your admin gave me the runaround when I called last time!”  Response:  “I’m sorry. Please tell me what happened.’

In negotiations:  “Well, that idea is a non-starter” or “that dog won’t hunt.”  Response:  I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s talk it through and see where your concerns lie.”

“I don’t want to do business with some ‘ivory tower’ company that just dictates what the policy is.”  Response:  “I completely understand. Neither would I. What’s been your experience in the way the company communicates with you?”

“The design you created for our new branch looks tired and old-fashioned.”  Response:  “Thank you for the feedback. Let’s look at it in detail so I can get a sense of your view of old-fashioned.  That way we can focus on the right changes.”

The obstacle for you in sales is that some of these clichés have some negative associations for people, and if left alone will leave the customer with that negative image for you to overcome.  The solution is to get it out on the table and pick it through for specifics.

That’s how you…

Think Like Your Customer