What happened to finding out what the customer really needs?

By Chris Tisdale of AccuNet

Recently, I went to a major computer retail store in Columbus to look at a laptop for my nephew, who is currently in his second quarter at Ohio University.  What I heard while I was looking at the laptops they had in stock amazed and seriously disappointed me.  I realize that with the economy the way it is, everyone is trying to make money and get sales whenever they can, but at what cost? 

I arrived at this computer retail store around 7:00 PM on Saturday and was amazed at how many people were buying laptops.  In a 35-45 minute period, six laptops were sold by four different salespeople.  What I heard astonished me.

First Example – Salesman Not Listening to Customer Needs

A 40-45 year old woman was talking to a salesperson about the purchase of a laptop.  She wanted a laptop for her pictures and to do high resolution picture editing.  She also wanted to make presentations and slide shows using her pictures.  She was very adamant about getting a name brand laptop with a good warranty and that has years of reliable history to back up the warranty.  The salesperson took her over to the Acer laptops and sold her one for $499 with the retail store warranty.  The laptop she was sold has a 14” screen and a 256 MB video card.  This would be awful to look at when trying to edit pictures or put together a slide show.  Lastly, Acer does not have a very good track record when it comes to laptops.  You can check any online review for that.  I’m sure when that lady gets home and fires up that laptop, she’s going to be disappointed in the fact that she listened to that salesperson.

Second Example – Do Your Research, Or Else…

A 12-14 year old girl walked into the store with her mother to buy a laptop.  This girl explained to the salesperson that she edits videos, plays games, and makes movies on her laptop now and wants a more powerful laptop to do those activities.  The salesperson takes her over to a pink Dell laptop with a 512 MB video card, 14” screen, and 2 GB of memory and says “This laptop will do everything that you need it to.”  The mother looks at the girl without question and says “And it’s pink.”  The girl spoke up and put the salesperson in his place.  She said “One, the screen is too small.  Two, it does not have enough memory.  And three, don’t I need more video to edit movies?”  To that the salesperson replied that it should have plenty of power for a 13 year old.  To my amazement, the mother sided with the salesperson instead of her daughter.  The daughter got really upset and the last thing I heard her say is that she didn’t even want a laptop anymore because her laptop was good enough compared to the one that her mom and the salesperson were trying to sell her.

Why were the salespeople not listening?  Were they concentrating on reading how much the customer was willing to spend instead of what they really needed?  The crazy thing is, I thought that the little girl and mother would have purchased a higher end laptop if the salesperson would have recommended it.  Did he not think they could afford it?  I am of the opinion that whether or not you think you might miss a sale, you should always do right by the customer.  There have been countless times that I’ve told a customer that they need to spend more money for a better product or service and that customer bought something less.  But I guarantee that cost me less money than selling them something underpowered causing them to be angry with what I told them.  That’s a way to lose customers.  And most times, if they have that bad experience, then I hear “YOU WERE RIGHT” or “I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO YOU.”  Then, your relationship is that much stronger because you’ve earned their trust.

Would you want someone making recommendations to you just to make the sale?  Think about that next time that little 13 or 14 year old comes into your store asking for your advice.


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