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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 4
Issue 10

Be a Sales Chameleon

In the past two issues of Growing Possibilities I have discussed different topics regarding my recent trip to Africa. However, there was one part of my trip that was frustrating and worth mentioning. It was the experience I had shopping in tourist-centered open marketplaces. Competing vendors sold similar handmade wares.

When I browsed through their items, I was repeatedly overpowered by their aggressive sales style. The proprietor of a stall would select an item and rave about its quality while following me around and trying to lure me into his store. “Come and see what else I have,” he would say. Following me around while continually talking at me, he would not take no for an answer. Then, like clockwork, he would ask where I was from. When he learned I was from America, I knew the unspoken thoughts were, “I have a rich person in front of me.” I wish it were so.

The negotiation games followed. I would be asked how much I would pay for an item, then, no matter what I said, the vendor would try to haggle over the price. The truth is, I don’t mind a little bickering back and forth but I didn’t like this aggressive game. I walked away because I found it so annoying and overwhelming.

Then I met Ernie at a busy outdoor market in Livingstone, Zambia, outside of Victoria Falls. He started out like the rest of the vendors but changed his approach when he found out I was American. He said, “Why don’t you look around. American’s like to shop on their own. If you need any help, I’ll be right over here.”

Ernie and I had a great conversation and of course I ended up buying the most from his shop. We did some negotiating but he responded to my bottom line. It turns out Ernie had attended business school and understood the process of selling.

I talked to other vendors and suggested they change their tactics to suit the shoppers, they would make more sales. I advised them to be like a chameleon and change according to where the tourists were from.

My advice is applicable to all people involved in sales. Know your market segments and accommodate to their shopping style. Here are some examples of how it works:

  • Adjust your approach when selling to large versus small companies. Owners or presidents of small companies usually make major purchases themselves. They need a more personal approach. Large companies often require the people who propose a large investment to write a business case to justify their purchase. It is more complicated because it may be decided by a committee or by a project sponsor, who brings the information to the decision maker.
  • Know the buying patterns of different age segments. Retirement-age people are cautious and price-driven in their shopping. Younger working age people are motivated more by convenience and cool trends. Baby Boomers are attracted to items that help them look and feel younger. Your marketing message and sales strategy will need to be different for each age group.
  • Look at how you engage female versus male shoppers. Men like to buy everything at one place and at one stop. Women tend to look around more and compare. They like a different type of salesperson. Car salespeople have learned this lesson. When dealing with female customers they now tend to ask more questions and do less talking themselves. Now they generally use a softer, more pleasant approach.
  • Be aware of your prospect’s personality. Some people need lots of data to make decisions while others are overwhelmed by too much information. Watch the buyer’s reaction to what you say and adjust. Notice what kind of questions they ask and take clues from that.

Success in selling requires you to be more responsive to the individual buyer. You don’t need to change who you are but you do need to alter your approach. Become more in tuned with your potential customer. The chameleon adjusts its colors to that of its environment to blend in and for safety. If you adjust to your approach to your prospects, you will gain more sales.

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