BrainTrust Query: How to Deal With Survivor Guilt in Your Salesperson
Through a special arrangement,
presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail
I received this email. "Bob, my staff is going through your
Sales Rx training. During one of the training sessions, we revealed a barrier
that we need to address — guilt — of
all things! As we discussed barriers, one employee admitted that she sometimes
feels guilty selling high-end items when she doesn’t think the customer
can afford it. Yikes!!"
Traditionally, "survivor guilt" is the
term used to describe the feelings of those who, fortunately, emerge from a
disaster that mortally engulfs others. It could be as a result of an airplane
crash like Nando Prado in the Andes, a downsizing of a company like GM or even
the closing of a competitor on Main Street.
This business owner is from Michigan
where The Associated Press recently
reported unemployment rates ranged from a low of 10.6 percent in Ann Arbor
to a high of 17.4 percent in Flint. Of course people are scared.
guilt plays out by projecting our worries onto our customers. It’s like
the salesperson adopts a loser’s limp. On an irrational level, these individuals
wince at their privileged escape from death’s clutches
or worry they are next. The most insidious impact is on their self-image.
you remember the film "Ruthless People" where Judge Reinhold
was trying to take advantage of a customer? He reneges when he sees the guy’s
wife is pregnant. He felt sales was a win-lose situation; that he was getting
a whole pile of money for the little value customers received. It is a common
trait in retail if we were all to be honest, but even more so in places like
Michigan and Vegas.
The heart of the problem is how they feel like a sham selling
at retail. Clerking is what they are comfortable with because their self-image
doesn’t allow them to put themselves out there to risk rejection.
is to show how selling is a win-win situation — that we are helping the customer
buy what they already want. But you’re not manipulating
people, taking advantage or making them into some kind of sucker for purchasing
the premium items — that we are all grownups and no one knows what another
can afford. Maybe they’ve switched to generics in all of their grocery staples
to afford the $100 LEGO Death Star for their daughter’s birthday. There’s
no way of knowing.
You need to show them how their own preconceived ideas, biases
and fears could very easily be pouring a bucket of water on a customer’s
interest in the higher-priced items and causing the customer to question the
If they can’t get past this, you have to ask yourself, "How
much do I want to be their psychologist and deal with their self image?" and "Is
there anybody else out there who can help me sell at a profit?" If not,
it may be time to move on without them.
Discussion Questions: How common do you think it is to find guilt among store associates over high prices at retail? How should stores deal with any such issues among staff?