Magazine Article | January 2, 2018

Two Habits Your Customers Want You To Give Up

By Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Professor of Management Practice, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Why superficial judgment and lack of passion will hurt sales

Whether through coaching top executives or working with line managers or sales and service reps, I have come to the seemingly irrefutable conclusion that many of the habits that have brought you this far will no longer serve you going forward.

Following are two habits that are specific to retail and retail executives that often go unchecked and thus hurt sales and opportunities.

It is a common practice across retail: Sometimes we’re guilty of knowing all we need to know about someone simply by watching them “step over the curb” on their way in. They are still 40 feet away and haven’t spoken a word, yet we make quick surface assumptions and act on them (or more often don’t act). Many a sale has been stalled or broken by leading with incorrect assumptions based on what someone is wearing, what they’re driving, the dirt under the fingernails, or the need to pass a comb through their hair. In most cases, the downside lies in underestimating the prospect based on appearance.

Remember the movie “Pretty Woman” in which Julia Roberts goes shopping on Rodeo Drive? She even tells the first store clerk “I have money, really,” but it doesn’t matter. She isn’t dressed appropriately. She doesn’t look like she should be shopping there. She is asked to leave. Later in the movie she walks past the same store loaded down with packages from up the street, stops in and asks the same clerk, “Are you on commission?” When the clerk replies — “Yes, I am” — Julia, barely able to contain herself, gets in the last word: “Big mistake!”

The solution is simple — even when we can’t resist forming fi rst impressions, we don’t have to act based upon them.

You believe in what you represent, right? Your product or service offering is very much a part of your personal identity. As a matter of fact, you probably live it — and you love it. With this kind of visceral commitment to the value that you bring to the lives of your customers, why is it that some customers fi nd your presentation of self to be fl at — seemingly mechanical, uninterested, or even indifferent?

There are countless reasons why we might tend to withhold passion in our interactions with customers or prospects. It might be that our prospects come to us, for example at retail, in such a way that sometimes we’re overwhelmed. It might be that we’ve sold the same items or services to the same kinds of people for a long, long time. It might even be that certain individuals might not only drain your passion but also suck the very life out of you!

That’s why it’s called work — physical or mental effort or activity directed toward production or accomplishment; labor, or toil. There are a million things that can draw down our reserves, and it’s often a lot easier to fi x what’s wrong than it is to figure out how things got screwed up in the first place. In fact, let’s put a stake in the ground — it doesn’t matter why we withhold passion in our interactions with others.

What matters is the understanding that about 80 percent of the time people make decisions based on their emotions; logic might be the tipping point in only about 20 percent of purchase decisions. And let’s take it one step further; one Harvard scholar posits that not only are the purchase decisions emotionally based, but also they are caused by subconscious motivation 95 percent of the time. Given that theory, in only 5 percent of purchase decisions is a prospect’s behavior based on rational thought.

Passion — a powerful emotion or appetite; boundless enthusiasm; an abandoned display of emotion, fervor, zeal, or ardor. Of course, unbridled displays of passion don’t always work within a sales setting, nor are they always appropriate — but passion is a catalyst for rapport and empathy. Can you afford to withhold passion at work? You decide.