I'd never gotten a chance to sell to people, apart from family and close friends who were kind enough to buy my banana cakes and crema de fruita. And so I was quite worried before the day began. I remembered how the sales reps in movies were treated. People would usually close the door on their face. They would avoid these persistent vacuum cleaner, makeup or furniture sellers at all costs. That's probably why there is such a sales concept called "foot in the door." Before a potential customer locks you out the door, put your foot in and ask a very simple question. You may build up the conversation from there.
Anyway, just to let you know, nobody closed their doors on us. (Whew!:D) Most of the people we visited were old clients who stopped ordering from us. We entered one of the stores. It was selling various processed foods (i.e. canned goods, evaporated milk, vinegar, soy sauce, etc.). We smiled at them. We introduced ourselves. There were no smiles from the owners still. We told them we were from 5 star. Then they smiled and eagerly told us, "Oh I remember your grandpa! He would sit here and talk with us before. It has been so long since then!" Then, my aunt and I asked how business is going. They shared with us many of the ups and downs and even told us why they stopped ordering. Most of the businesses in the area were not doing well. After some time, they even shared with us pictures of their grand children and great grand children.
I learned a number of things during my sales visits today.
First, selling is a humbling experience. Whenever I entered a new store, I had to smile and greet them even if they had not proved yet to be deserving. We had to excuse ourselves and say sorry for the time that was taken off them. I realized, if we only consider everyone we meet as customer (not the "king" who has everything, but one who has needs that we can help address) we will be able to consider others better or more important than ourselves, and therefore, learn humility.
Second, in order to influence, a relationship must be built; in order for a relationship to be built, start listening. Most of the people that bought noodles were those that had known my grandpa for twenty or more years. They had built sturdy relationship of trust from the many weeks and months and years and decades of sharing and listening. I got a taste of that when we asked "how is business going?" They went on and on telling us about the new market trends, new competitors and even some problems that they were facing. There seemed to be a shift from seeing us as sellers to partners or even as friends. This is also true in real life. In order to influence people (to buy, to believe or to do), we have to listen to them and let them know that we care.
Third, customers do not need products, they need benefits. By listening to them, we will be able to understand what is the real benefit they're looking for. The customers (retailers) awhile ago, did not buy noodles for the sake of having products for display, they bought them so that they may earn a living by selling them to customers at a mark-up price. But since some were not able to sell at a good price or some customers had transfered to different outlets already, then the product held no more benefit. And when they saw no benefit, they did not order any more.
One of my professors advised us that we should treat everyone as a customer. This includes the security guard in our offices/school, our neighbors, our maids, janitors, people selling squid balls on the streets, etc. The world will become a better place when there is humility.
Let me take this opportunity to challenge you to TREAT EVERYONE AS A CUSTOMER as well. There's no harm in smiling at someone, greeting her good morning, and asking her how she is. Time starts... now.
God bless you!:)