Don’t “Clown” Around Selling Your Service

By: Joe Crisara

Scary Or Comforting?

Almost anyone would assume that the typical clown that we have seen so often at the circus, would bring smiles and joy to all they visit. As it turns out, the odds are that an unchecked assumption like this one we make about clowns is a pretty good bet to be wrong. Research is actually showing that clowns may be more scary than comforting to a young child.

Think about the times you may have visited a children’s ward or maternity section at most any hospital. Whimsical drawings of fun things to make kids feel happy often decorate the wallpaper. Some of this decorated wallpaper depicts drawings or illustrations of circus clowns.

Question All Assumptions

Research is actually showing that the hospital is trying to inspire “comfort” in the little ones by providing a fun theme like clowns. This raises the question of whether this motif actually produces the desired effect or not.

A recent article written by the Telegraph in the UK indicates that the idea that clowns create comfort for small children may be dead wrong. The article states, “Studies show that instead of creating the intended pick-me-up or “cheer” in the little ones, this motif inspires “fear” or a reaction of clowns as being a bit “creepy.”

Are You Creeping People Out?

This really got me thinking about how far off we may be when we present our options as sales professionals to our customers and the reaction that we inspire in them due to our misinterpretation of what we think they want.

What assumptions are we making that may be equally wrong? For instance, we may assume that customers want to spend as little as possible. Other research shows the exact opposite is true.  People tend to choose a higher quality solution when they are unfamiliar with the service they are purchasing, which actually results in spending more money for this premium.

In the case of the first study about clowns and children, the results were a landslide. The Telegraph article stated, “The survey of more than 250 children, aged four to 16, found that all 250 of them disliked the use of clowns in hospital decor, with the teenagers seeing them as even “scary.”

“Given that children and young people do not find hospitals frightening per se – and only express fear about those spaces associated with needles – this finding is somewhat ironic,” said Dr. Penny Curtis of The University of Sheffield.

“Researchers discovered that although children appreciated colorful walls and ceilings, many found the decor babyish. The fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia, can cause panic attacks, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and feelings of dread,” the article concluded.

You may want to think about the way the hospital’s displays its decorations before you check your child into a hospital.

Minimize Shock Value

What can you do as a sales professional to minimize your customer’s shock at your next presentation? You could do many things to minimize being so “off code” with what you are presenting.

However, one thing is obvious. The hospital could have simply asked their patients BEFORE putting the creepy clowns on the walls if they felt this made them happier or not. You must also ask your client not only what they want but how they want to buy it instead of mind-reading or guessing.

Stop Pretending To Know

Stop pretending to know what your customer wants and instead just ask them, “If you could have the solution that was perfect for you today, what would that be?” Furthermore, don’t use assumptive or leading questions that attempt to “sell” the buyer. Allow the buyers to sell themselves by asking them about the consequences of choosing higher quality and lower quality solutions.

You could ask, “How do you normally purchase things for your home? Do you buy higher quality that lasts longer, or more economical choices that are more temporary?”

The bottom line is to stop clowning around on your sales and service calls and ask your buyers what they want instead of assuming. You may be shocked to find out that your ideas on how you could help your customer are very different from theirs.

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