Just because you like ketchup, doesn't mean your customers do

Immediately after setting down our breakfast plates, the waitress serving me and my brother was suddenly overcome with sheer excitement. It was as if she had remembered something incredibly important, or maybe had just a few too many cups of coffee. She leaned in and exclaimed, "I'll be right back with some ketchup for you!"
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A SNEWS® Training Center article brought to you by SNEWS® and TrainActive/Tom Richard Sales Education



Immediately after setting down our breakfast plates, the waitress serving me and my brother was suddenly overcome with sheer excitement. It was as if she had remembered something incredibly important, or maybe had just a few too many cups of coffee. She leaned in and exclaimed, "I'll be right back with some ketchup for you!"

The waitress scurried away, returning a few seconds later with a bottle of ketchup, which she proudly placed square in the middle of the table. With her hands grabbing the edges of her apron, she admired her job well done.

Puzzled, my brother and I looked at each other. Did anyone actually ask for ketchup? No. We hate ketchup with breakfast. Even the thought of ketchup with breakfast makes my brother sick. Yet, because the waitress liked ketchup, she obviously thought we would like ketchup. So, we were stuck sitting there staring at a bottle of ketchup throughout the entire breakfast.

Like the waitress, salespeople often act with best intentions, but fail to realize that customers may not be as excited about some product features as they are. Jumping the gun and acting as if everybody is as excited about one product or feature may leave you with just a blank, confused stare from your customer.

Take the fitness salesperson who rushes over to tell a customer browsing near the weight machines about a new product feature that is revolutionizing the Smith -- when all the customer wanted was a bench with dumbbells and has no idea what a Smith is. Or the shoe salesperson that excitedly tells the customer looking at trail running footwear that this line of shoes is made with Agion -- when all the customer wanted was a pair of trail running shoes to jog in, not odor control to fight smelly feet. Or the paddling salesperson that is practically giddy while talking about a new carbon fiber blade for competitive paddling to a customer looking at fishing kayaks.

If these scenarios sound all too familiar, it's time to take a step back and remember where your customers are coming from. They do not spend up to 40 hours a week thinking about your store's products like you do. They know what they know and like; you know what you know and like. Don't assume it's the same thing. Remember, your job is to find out what they like, not tell them what thrills you.

Don't lose that excitement for your products by any means, but do make sure that the excitement is well placed and is easy to decipher. Don't make your customers buy the "Salesperson's Dictionary of Jargon" just to understand you either. Moderate how you deliver that excitement; convert your product knowledge into simple-speak. Ask good questions to find out what products and features your customers might be needing, and then find the match with what you are excited about and what they need.

Only talk about the product features you know your customers need and will be interested in. That way, you'll guarantee that your customers won't be staring at you wondering, "Who asked for the ketchup?"

Tom Richard is the President of Tom Richard Marketing and specializes in both marketing and sales education. Visit his website at www.tomrichard.com.

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