MANY PEOPLE HAVE, at some stage in their lives, made a major purchase. Casting our minds back to the acquisition of a big-ticket item may provide us with some guidelines for effective selling skills and behaviors. A few weeks ago, I decided to replace my laptop. My old unit has served me faithfully for nearly five years and I am certainly not averse to buying from the same company. A former client of mine now works for a computer company and is pressing me to buy from him.
I’m going to be spending around P50,000; no small amount! And so it is a decision I need to get right. I cannot afford to replace it if it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I don’t have an unlimited budget; I have to buy the best within my price range. I have to consider factors like the operating system, software, applications, peripherals, etc. Touch screen or not? Windows 8 or 10? Small, lightweight and compact or large enough to act as a replacement for my desktop system too?
I am amazed by the range of models, technical specifications and designs, and the wide price differential between “top of the range” and “budget” models. Even sticking with branded models, I am faced with choosing between 20 or so different models in my price range. My problems with choosing the right model is further exacerbated by the fact that I am not a computer expert. Half of the quoted specifications mean absolutely nothing to me. And yet, I cannot rely on salesmen in computer stores who appear to make recommendations simply on the basis of “higher price = better computer!”
Fortunately, my friend has proved to be very helpful taking time to establish what I actually need and what I want. At least now I know the key specifications to look for. I know which operating system to choose, which key software to have pre-loaded, and other issues such as on-board memory and hard drive storage.
One of my frustrations in shopping in supermarkets is trying to compare prices. Of the eight products on the shelf, two might be sold in 1kg packs, two more might be in 2lb boxes. Another might be 750 grams, another as a 12 fluid ounces bottle and the last two items in smaller tetrapaks of 330ml and 500ml respectively! Almost impossible to work out which product represents the best value for money and this is before considering quality, packaging, taste, nutritional value, and the thousand and one other factors which may influence price and the decision to buy.
So it is with the computer specifications. Nothing is simple and to compare apples with apples proves next to impossible! Nonetheless, I am closer now to deciding which model to go for and I would like to believe that it is an informed and sensible decision. I won’t buy the cheapest; I’m certainly not willing to go beyond my budget. In truth, three or four models will all meet requirements so the brand of my last computer might just be the deciding factor.
When customers make major decisions, it is right and proper that they have sufficient time to study alternatives. Clients want to make informed and sensible decisions and it is the role of a salesperson to help them. Yet one might also argue that the more time a client has to think about a decision, the more chance there is of him veering away from an initial preference and moving towards something that may have seemed wholly inappropriate at an earlier date.
Consider for a moment, my decision to purchase a computer. The one thing lacking in this purchase is a capable salesperson who exudes trust and competence such that he could lead me through the process of choosing an appropriate model. The cynic may say there is no such thing; every salesperson is driven by self-interest, by a desire to sell his own products. What one is perhaps overlooking is that a large computer store probably sells a wide selection of computers. So shopping for another brand will not have an impact on the store’s sale. And the competence of a salesperson, even when driven by self-interest, will still allow the customer to make the right purchase.
Terence A. Hockenhull is a long-term resident of the Philippines. He is an accomplished sales consultant who currently holds an executive sales position with an Italian geotechnical company.