Don’t keep selling if your customer is ready to buy.

A large part of marketing is selling. When you are selling, you need to find out where your customer is in the buying process – and why she is buying. Ask questions to learn about her. In the beginning of the conversation, let her do most of the talking. If you start selling right away, you might turn away a customer who is ready to buy but is tired of sales pitches.

Soon our bathroom will look something like this.

Soon our bathroom will look something like this.

Here’s an unusual example:

This week started out with a ruined bathroom. My husband and I own a beautiful, 100-year-old home in a historic neighborhood of Cincinnati, but the bathroom plumbing finally showed its age and crumbled. We’re taking this opportunity to completely remodel and enlarge the bathroom, which might take several weeks.

Problem: This bathroom contains the only shower in our house.

Solution: Join a local gym to take showers (and maybe get some exercise.)

When we walked into the gym in our street clothes, salespeople beset upon us. The first question our salesman asked was, “Are you interested in cardio or weights?” How could we respond that we were interested in neither? Weary and desperate for a shower, we just wanted to buy a membership. It’s the closest gym to us, so we weren’t going to comparison shop. The salesman proceeded to show us every piece of equipment and describe all the classes before we were finally able to give him a credit card.

With a few questions at the beginning of his sales pitch, he could have saved himself a lot of time and made money faster. Instead, he treated us like every other person walking into that gym- with a polite, very well-rehearsed sales pitch. I’m certain he treated us exactly how the gym trained him to sell to us, and he will probably be recognized for sales excellence at the next quarterly meeting. But following a script doesn’t best help the customer, especially when faced with unusual customers like my husband and me.

Is your small business set up like this gym, to put impediments in the way of customers buying? If you train your salespeople to sell without considering the customer’s situation, then you are. Salespeople shouldn’t know exactly what they are going to say before they encounter an actual customer – they might miss a customer who is ready to buy.