Neem Pillai from the IACT19 Committee sat down with Awais Bhattee, IACT15 alumnus and small business consultant, to discuss ‘how to win customers and influence people’.
Music is an exchange between the musician and the audience, and painting is an exchange between the artist and the viewer. If we analyse both at the most basic level, it is made up of notes, rhythm, colour and shape, but great music and great art cannot be created without the skillful manipulation of the artist. In the same way, the act of selling is, at its core, an exchange between the salesperson and the customer. However, the creation of a convincing sales argument requires an understanding of the psychology of the customer, without which, the sales pitch is simply a collection of techniques that will inevitably fail to compel the customer to buy.
As someone who studied Commerce and Teaching, Awais Bhattee is very experienced in the domain of sales and marketing. Along with the fact that he was an IACT grant recipient, Awais has also had experience in managing a co-working space and is heavily involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. More recently, he has started freelance consulting and is currently helping restaurants create new revenue streams, including through the sale of retail goods.
Awais shares that it is because of his experience working in various types of industries that he appreciates the different sales strategies needed in each. For example, a boardgame restaurant would require a different strategy compared to a board game store, even if they are selling the same product. Awais reflects that the part time jobs he picked up while at university created an understanding of “how different places interact with their customers has influenced my career more than I thought it would”. IACT participants and other up-and-coming entrepreneurs should also reflect on their existing experience in the way they approach their ventures and customers.
Based on his experience, Awais emphasises his belief that “sales is about convincing someone to do something that they may not have done otherwise”. In other words, all sales pitches should be targeted at changing the behaviour of your customer, which he believes can be done if “we find out what their needs are, make them feel that we can help them, and match them with the solution they didn’t know existed.”
In order to achieve this, the first thing to note, according to Awais, is to understand that any strategy used in persuading your customer is a tool, and “it is important to know the emotional impact of the tool you are using”. It really comes down to understanding what influences the customers behaviour and how to use it effectively while preserving the customer’s trust. For example, Awais shares that “people are more likely to buy something they are touching”. This is a technique he implements when selling board games, where he lets customers hold the box as he talks about the game. Not only does this make the interaction more personal, but it creates a level of trust between the customer and the salesperson.
Further, Awais recommends that you present more than one, but still a limited number of options to your customers to help them overcome the paradox of choice. He suggests that providing too many options to a customer might create a complex decision-making process for them where he or she is forced to invest time, energy, anxiety and sometimes self-doubt, thereby creating a negative impact. In other words, there are barriers involved in making decisions, and the salesperson’s job is to reduce them. When asked whether customers would make a choice based only on the price associated with the product, Awais was of the opinion that price is the last consideration, and “if you can address their needs, then they are generally willing to pay the price that comes with it”. There is more to value than just the tangible good or service they are receiving.
During this conversation, Awais also shared his insights on the importance of building customer habits to reduce ‘customer attrition’. The simple reason for this being that “there is a cost to getting the attention of a customer, and another cost of turning them into a regular” says Awais.
However, the question is ‘how do we reduce customer attrition rates in a business’? According to Awais, one of the simplest ways is for the business to actively communicate with existing customers in a personalised manner. “If they are not coming to you, you have to go to them” using effective channels like email newsletters and in a frequency, which suits each individual customer. According to Awais, “emails are more effective than social media because it is something that people choose to subscribe to. In fact, a distribution list of 500 emails can be more powerful than 2500 followers on Facebook”.
Overall, the customer craves to be understood and given a product that fits his/her mindset. Thus, as a salesperson, it should be the number one priority to satisfy these needs whilst making the experience as convenient as possible. The techniques Awais prescribes are based on his personal experience and this only shows that practice makes perfect because as he says, “you will only get better at selling the more you do it”.