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Presentation is (almost) Everything

For most of my adult life, I’ve held jobs that are in the retail industry, and have spent countless hours working with customers.

With so much experience under my belt, I’ve made quite a few observations that can help one be a more successful salesperson over the years.

A big no-brainer is learning and mastering the art of customer service, which I wrote about a few months ago.

Being a pro at giving good customer service is something that requires constant work, as each customer interaction can vary, so different approaches are necessary to take with different types of people and in different situations.

An area I missed in my earlier thoughts on customer service was the importance of giving a good presentation.

A recent experience at a salon while getting my hair cut brought to mind just how important the presentation of certain products or ideas can be.

I’ve learned that part of the duties of hair stylists now includes trying to up-sell products and additional services, and because of the years I’ve spent as a salesperson myself, I can quickly pick up when a stylist is making the transition from performing the requested services to a sales pitch.

Even when I’m really not interested in whatever it is they are trying to sell, I’ll still play along and listen to the reasons of why they think I should buy X,Y, Z product. Sometimes, I’ve been suckered into making the impulse purchase, but most of the time, the stylist doesn’t do a good enough job of giving me reasons for why I need this new product.

The few times I’ve been interested in enough to purchase something extra (or really even consider it), the biggest selling point is the presentation.

When you’re sitting in that chair, covered with the smock, and pretty much at the mercy of a stylist wielding a sharp pair of scissors and the fate of your precious locks, they have all of the power. And they are supposed to be the expert.

The successful ones seem to present new offerings with the attitude of “hey, check this new thing out, it’s really cool,” and instead of being pushy, have adopted the attitude of an eager friend. This style really works for me, because they use rapport that has been built to sound like they genuinely care and want to just show me something without feeling pressure to buy.

The ones I think are less successful are like the lady who cut my hair most recently. Instead of presenting her wares in a friendly manner, she started criticizing my hair for being overly dry (it was a little dry, since it was my day off and knowing I was headed to the salon for a haircut which includes someone else washing my hair, I went the lazy route of a ponytail and didn’t take the time to wash the previous day’s product out beforehand) and it felt like she was interrogating me about what kind of shampoo and conditioner I use.

When I answered with a brand sold at high end salons that my close friend– who is a master hairstylist– recommended, she started listing negative things about that specific brand/type, and trying to push her recommendation. Already feeling insulted by her criticism of my hair, hearing more negative things just put me even more on the defensive than I normally would be in such a situation.

Tearing down the opponent is never a good idea (from my point of view), regardless of what is being sold or compared. Negative statements automatically put people on the defense and can break down any rapport or relationship that has been built.

If the stylist had presented her suggestion in a more friendly manner, or offered a demonstration, I may have been more willing to listen to her pitch, but instead, I answered with as short of responses as possible, and picked up my phone to surf the web for the duration of the visit. This move worked to effectively stop the sales pitch, and made me feel like I had regained some control in the situation, even if it was a very anti-social tactic.

Presentation in a physical sense (product displays, packaging, etc.) is also very important, because a messy or careless design isn’t going to get it deserves, and a poorly designed display can turn someone off just as much as saying negative things about a competitor to that item/idea.

Not giving a good presentation or adequately displaying something just does a disservice to you and the customer, so whatever it is you may be presenting, I say take a little extra time to be more thoughtful in the presentation to show the best features and benefits of your product to your audience.

I could be wrong about presentation being such an integral part of giving good customer service or becoming a better salesperson, so if you have experiences you’d like to share that prove otherwise (or experiences that support my stance) feel free to leave comments with any feedback.

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