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Customers might not always be logical

People buy when they’re ready to buy . . . not when we’re ready to sell. That doesn’t mean they won’t buy, of course. Many will. But, for the successful salesperson, the goal is to be there — even later — when they do.

There can be many reasons a prospect won’t close. They might not be financially ready. Perhaps, in spite of your best sales presentation, they’re not convinced your boat or service is as good as you say it is. And even when you think you’ve made all the logical arguments for buying now, it’s important to remember consumers don’t always act rationally.

In fact, according to behavioral economist, speaker and author Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions,” consumers don’t act logically. Moreover, savvy marketers can take advantage of the prospect’s irrational bent.

Perhaps the one word that tops the list of consumers’ illogical weaknesses is free. When the price of something is perceived to be zero, customers get excited and they don’t want to see that they’ll end up paying in some way.

For example, Ariely describes a Halloween when he handed a bunch of trick-or-treaters two Hershey’s Kisses. Then, he told the ghosts and goblins they could also have a small Snickers bar for free or a very large Snickers bar for the just one little Hershey’s Kiss. Clearly, the big Snickers was the real deal — an 8-to-1 return on chocolate. But most chose the small Snickers, drawn in by the idea that they were getting something for nothing.

Obviously, whether there is anything free being offered or any other incentive for that matter, if closing doesn’t happen it’s imperative to maintain contact with the prospect. We never know when a prospect or current customer is going to suddenly decide to move and we want to be there. In these times when sales don’t come easy — and take more time than ever to complete — steady contact remains a key.

In that regard, the secret of success, according to renowned management guru Tom Peters, is writing thank-you notes. Every time there is a meaningful encounter with a prospect, taking time to write out a personal note of thanks is a salesperson’s best weapon.

What about a phone call? That’s good, too, of course. But think about this: Lifting the phone is pretty easy. But sitting down and writing out a note demonstrates a higher level of effort, respect and appreciation. In these days of speedy, but impersonal, e-mails or tweets, we tend to ignore the handwritten note. But even if it’s just a two-line scrawl, it will beat out a page viewed on the screen or a smartphone.

If we’ve learned nothing else in the Great Recession, we have seen how it now takes, on average, 3-plus months of work and nurturing with a prospect before a sale is closed. The sales person who has built up a relationship with the prospect will be the master of the moment when the decision is finally made to buy.

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