DALLAS, TEXAS, APRIL 20, 2009/ It’s infuriating! Having to endlessly wait─ or clear
your throat melodramatically─ to get the attention of a salesperson is the norm at
some stores. That inattention can drive sales to competitors.
Psychologist, Dr. Bill Gordon, wanted a new, top-of-the-line Lexus. When he visited
his local Lexus dealership the salesperson tried to make Gordon feel like “a little
lad from the country.” “I drove down the street and bought an Infiniti,” Gordon said.
CEO and bestselling author, Shannon L. Goodson had a similar experience. Goodson
was shopping for several high-end desktop computers systems. Responding to newspaper
advertising, she visited a computer retailer only to have the sales staff ignore
her as they pecked away on their desktops. Goodson did buy her computer systems─
somewhere else. “Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, I don’t know. But I do know I don’t
have the time to shop at retailers like that. ”
Historically, retailers haven’t placed as much emphasis on responsive customer engagement
as their direct sales counterparts. After all, good products and services sell themselves.
Not according to a research study just presented at the April, 2009 annual convention
of the Southwestern Psychological Association in San Antonio, Texas. Researchers
George W. Dudley and Trelitha R. Bryant, scientists at Behavioral Sciences Research
Press in Dallas, examined the customer engagement behavior of 1,160 retail salespeople
in the U.S. A smaller sample of 209 non-U.S. salespeople was also examined for comparison
purposes. The researchers investigated how many times the retail salespeople actually
initiated conversation with “walk-in” prospective buyers during the previous work
week. The results were unexpected. During the measurement period, 43.3% (502) engaged
prospective walk-in customers only 1-5 times.
To find out why so many failed to engage walk-ins, the sample was further divided
into groups based on the number of contacts made. Then, contacts made were correlated
with scores the salespeople obtained on a diagnostic psychological test specifically
designed to detect emotional discomfort associated with initiating contact with prospective
buyers. “Salespeople with under-average customer contacts had significantly higher
levels of Sales Call Reluctance,” Bryant said. “The low customer engagement group
had higher scores on ten of twelve known Call Reluctance types, plus an additional
overall measure. Clearly, something is limiting the effectiveness of this group.”
The results obtained by Bryant and Dudley are consistent with their recently reported
multi-nation study of 199,000 salespeople scattered across companies, industries
and sales settings. “That study uncovered a formerly unknown behavioral self-contradiction:
People currently working in sales who don’t want to talk to anyone,” Bryant said.
How many? “Our data suggests 7-9% worldwide,” Bryant estimated. Among additional
results, the researchers reported:
Copyright 2009 Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc.