How to Kill the Sale in 7 Easy Steps


Winter is approaching so I decided to do something about my outrageous heating bills and get a new heating system. On Saturday morning, I toddled along to my favourite large appliance store in search of my good mate, Brent, who has sold me almost every large appliance I have purchased in the last five years. I had done my homework and knew the brand I wanted and an approximation of the size I needed. There was no doubt in my mind that I was leaving the store that day with a brand-spanking-new heating system in the boot of my car.


A salesperson approached me, “Can I help you?” he asked. Well that was his first mistake, because if you’ve done any of our training, you’d know that “Can I help you?” is just an invitation for the customer to say “No”. I asked for Brent and was told he wasn’t there. Saturday morning, their busiest time? No Brent? Was he sick? Grudgingly, the salesperson told me that Brent was no longer there. He left two weeks ago.


Naturally I asked where he had gone and the salesperson said Brent was no longer working for the company. End of. I found out later that this was mistake number two. I got the distinct impression that Brent had screwed up or was persona non grata in some way and I felt a bit disappointed because I had liked and trusted him. I always got a good deal from Brent, he was my friend in the business. I knew he’d never steer me wrong.


The salesperson registered my look of disappointment and that’s when he made mistake number three. He turned and walked away. I wandered over to the heating systems and started looking at them, occasionally glancing behind me to see what the salesperson was doing. He stood there in the middle of the selling floor with his back to me, gazing around aimlessly. At one point, he spotted a likely prospect and said something to them. They shook their head and walked away. I’d bet money he’d asked if he could help them. He kept on waiting for some other customer to approach his vicinity so he could give them an opportunity to say “No” to him. Mistake number four.


He was a nice looking young man, if a little timid, so I took pity on him. I walked up to him and said, “If you’d said, “What brings you into ‘Big Brand Appliance Store’ today?” you might have a better chance at making a sale.” He looked at me blankly. I said “I want to buy a heating system.” He cheered right up, or at least I think he did, because a ghost of a smile twitched fleetingly on his lips before being replaced with what I would come to know as his usual downcast expression. Mistake number five.


When we got to the heating systems display, he stood there waiting for me to tell him what I wanted. We stood there for at least a minute, saying nothing. A minute is a long, long time when nobody is speaking. It was definitely uncomfortable. Of course, this was mistake number six. I eventually gave in because I realised if I waited for this guy to ask me one single question about what I needed and why I needed it, I’d still be in that store right now.


I volunteered that I didn’t know much about heating systems, but knew that I wanted one. He didn’t take the bait and ask me why. Perhaps he just assumed that I, a fifty-plus woman with my elderly mother in tow, would know more about heating systems than he did. I asked him questions and he brought out a brochure and started pointing to a page on it and quoted meaningless numbers at me that sounded like a maths fractions test. 3.5 watts up to 6.8 and 20 square metres or perhaps 45 sq metres. I’m not sure exactly what he was talking about, but I confess, I gave up listening. It goes without saying that this was mistake number seven.


My ears pricked up when he mentioned that he could send around a technician who would measure up the house and tell me exactly what I needed. “How much will that cost?” I asked. “Oh, no charge,” he replied obliviously. Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?

I gave him my details and was just about to leave the shop when I was approached by another salesman who knew me. “Hi Jo, good to see you,” he said.

“What happened to Brent?” I asked worriedly.

“Packed up the wife and kids, moved to Christchurch and is going to University.”

“He’s gone back to school to become a property evaluator,” the salesperson who had been ‘helping’ me chimed in, indicating that he’d known all along what had become of Brent. Remember mistake number two?


I left without the heating system and with no intention of returning. I don’t even feel guilty about accepting the free quote from their technician, who gave me all the technical information I needed to get the right sized heating system at my second favourite large appliance store. Call it the cost of doing business with untrained or poorly trained salespeople.


If you have an aversion to killing the sale, here’s a list of steps to avoid mistakes.


1.) Make your greeting an invitation for information i.e. “What brings you into our store today?”

2.) Avoid deception, even over little things.

3.) Walk away only when the customer makes it apparent they don’t need your presence.

4.) Always look busy.

5.) Always look cheerful and approachable.

6.) Ask questions. Have a store of lots and lots of questions you could ask. There’ll be no time for any uncomfortable silences.

7.) Give little bits of information, just enough to better inform your customers, not enough to send them to sleep or running for the nearest exit.

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Copyright 2019 Jo-Anne Cole