New research:  shy salespeople?

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. Right?


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.  

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