Who Is The Customer?

Every person who enters the business is a potential customer. Even though they may not purchase something today, they may purchase something tomorrow. What a salesperson needs is a better way of determining whothe customer really is. One way of doing this is by understanding the steps of the buying and selling process and then determining where the customer is in this process at the moment the salesperson greets him.

AIDA The selling process, originally conceived as a guide for the creator of good advertising copy, is called AIDA. AIDA is a memory device standing for:


A — Attention
I — Interest
D — Desire
A — Action 

If an advertisement follows these principles, then first it secures the reader’s attention, which arouses interest, creating a desire to take actionto purchase the advertised product. Shoppers are at some point in this selling process when they enter the store. Salespeople who can recognize at which step of the process the customer is when they meet him can accurately classify the customer and use the information to help make the sale.


Consider the three basic types of customers and at what step they are in the selling process.


Customers who know what they want.
Customers who do not know exactly what they want but have a need.
Customers who do not know if they want or need anything.

Action — Customers who know what they want are at the action step of the selling process. These customers have given some thought to what they want and can request a particular type of merchandise or service. The salesperson’s chief task is to get the merchandise to the customer or to supply the service along with some information.

Desire — Customers who know they have a need for merchandise show both an interest and a desire. This person is looking for something but is not sure what. It is up to the salesperson to help the customer toward the action step by turning the interest in merchandise to an actual desire to purchase the item. The salesperson should demonstrate the merchandise and explain the benefits and features. This person has many open options. The salesperson must discover them and fill the needs.

Attention — Customers who do not know if they want or need any merchandise are at the attention state of the selling process. This group of “lookers” or “shoppers” presents a real challenge to the salesperson. They need to be introduced to the selling process. Talking with these customers may trigger a momentarily forgotten need for merchandise.

Attention, interest, desire and action. Find out where the customer is in the selling process, then begin your job of selling from there.

Dealing with Customer Complaints (LEAR)

The customer is the key person in retailing. Everything in the store is directed toward making the customer’s contact with the store more pleasant and therefore more profitable. Although most customers are pleasant and appreciate friendly salespeople, some people . . . .

As a salesperson, handling a conflict with a customer with finesse and tact is the ultimate test of your sales and people skills. When you are involved in a conflict, you have two immediate challenges — keep your cool and calm the other person down.


The LEAR approach is a method for working with irate people.


L — Listening
E — Empathy
A — Asking questions
R — Responding

Think of the irate person (IP) as someone with a bad sunburn, a psychological sunburn. IP’s are very sensitive to anyone touching them; they don’t want any more pain than they already have. They need someone (you) to:


  • Listen
  • Empathize
  • Ask questions about the situation
  • Respond positively

Listening to the IP’s complaint calmly reduces the high tension level and makes it easier for them (and you) to search for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. As you develop empathy and get in tune with the IP’s feelings, you will be able to effectively assess the problem. Asking questions brings out details and focuses on the facts of the problem. Respond calmly while letting the IP know you care.

Conflict should be a win/win situation, not a win/lose situation. In other words, choose a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. Including the IP’s ideas and suggestions leads to a feeling of anticipation in and acceptance of the final solution. You, your employer and your best asset (the customer) will all be winners.

LEAR = Leads to Effective, Acceptable, Responsible solutions to conflict. LEAR will turn conflicts into win/win situations for both the store and the customer.

Using “What” Questions

One of the first steps toward successfully resolving a conflict is to move to a place where both parties can discuss the problem calmly. As someone who cares, your objective is to help the customers get what they want. How? Ask the customer “what” questions. “What could we do to bring you satisfaction?” “What is wrong with the product?”

“What” questions focus on facts that lead to pragmatic, practical solutions to the problem. Defensive postures or “why” questions let the customer focus on his emotions, frustrations, angers, etc.

Irate customers often direct anger at you, the salesperson. Why? Because they need some way to express their feelings. When you encounter angry customers, be aware that they are trying to relieve their inner turmoil. The customer’s feelings are not directly expressed at you; you just happen to be in the way.


What should you do? How about the following techniques?


Understand that it is not your personal problem.
Listen. Most of the time upset feelings just need to be heard.
Don’t defend, argue or react.
Ask what questions to start the customer thinking about the facts.

Following these steps will determine the customers’ needs and you do your best as a caring, effective salesperson.




AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action)
LEAR (listening, empathy, asking questions, responding)
Use “what” questions

This section has been a “crash” course in sales techniques. The following list of checkpoints will help you review the main ideas and will serve as a handy reminder. Remember, as the final link between the store and the customer, your actions leave lasting impressions on your customers.

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