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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Good Listening Skills Mean Success

As the holidays come to a close, I’ve been spending my weekends around the house recooping from all the travel and excitement (which can be very wearing on a pregnant woman, eight months along). Yesterday I spent the majority of the evening doing a little sewing and watching television.

What I ended up watching was a marathon on TLC of a show called Say Yes to the Dress about Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. Basically, cameras follow sales clerks around as they try and sell that perfect dress to soon-to-be brides. A chic-show to be sure, but there was something in particular that caught my attention.

There is one “bridal consultant,” Claudia, who just can’t seem to meet her sales quota. At the time the shows in the marathon aired, she had been working for Kleinfelds over a span of 3-8 months. She just wasn’t getting it, and, despite many, many attempts by the owner and manager to work with her and help her be successful, Claudia continually asserted that there was nothing wrong with her or her sales style and she just kept happening to get clients who weren’t going to buy.

I found myself continually frustrated with Claudia because she just refused to see how she was harming the business. First and foremost, the owner and managers pointed out to her that she wasn’t taking the time to listen to the needs and desires of the client. Claudia insisted that she was a great listener and they just didn’t see the discussions she had with the brides. The viewer, however, knew better, and the owner and managers were right. Claudia continued to assert her opinions about certain dresses and why they would work for the bride, even when the bride disagreed.

I wanted to take the opportunity to make a couple of points from my critique of Claudia’s sales process that any business owner/employee should take into consideration:

Listen, Listen, Listen
Even if the customer is wrong about something, you still need to hear them out and allow them to express their opinion. Make the customer feel as though you really are listening by paraphrasing what they say back to them. If you feel they may be wrong, explain your position, allowing the customer to interject. Ultimately, the customer makes the final decision, regardless of whether it is the right one or not.

Humble Yourself
When it came to wedding gowns, Claudia needed to make suggestions rather than try and decide for her clients. She thought she knew best. She was very arrogant about her “skills” as a consultant and refused to back down from the fact that she knew what she was doing and the client did not. But the client is the one that had to wear the dress and feel stunning in it, not Claudia. Therefore, the clients preferences and needs trump any input Claudia may have, no matter how much she thinks she knows.

Put Yourself in the Client’s Shoes
One thing that Claudia would say over and over is “this is their fantasy, not mine,” implying that she didn’t have to try and see things from their perspective. WRONG. Any time you are trying to make a sale, you need to put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask yourself what you would want, how you would feel, etc. You’re not going to fully understand the client’s needs unless you try and see things from their perspective.

Receive Criticism
The owner and managers of Kleinfelds knew what it required to be a successful salesperson in the bridal gown business – each of them had been in the business for time frames in the double digits. They made suggestions to Claudia about listening to the client better, but Claudia constantly got defensive and ultimately blew them off as if they didn’t know what they were talking about. The key to being successful at anything is gratefully accepting constructive criticism and using it to better yourself and your skills. Claudia refused to even take her superiors’ suggestions into consideration – big mistake. All they were trying to do was help her to be succeed at her job, but Claudia’s arrogance made her believe she was successful, despite her poor record.

If they haven’t fired Claudia already (the show kind of left you hanging in that regard), they probably will. Frankly, I’m shocked they let her stay on as long as they did. But they were continually trying to better her as a saleswoman, because they saw her potential. Unfortunately, Claudia refused to grow and learn, so her potential could not fully be reached.


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Customer Service, Operations |