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Tips on Selling

Failing to keep appointments and ignoring calls are sure signs of a PWOT.
Failing to keep appointments and ignoring calls are sure signs of a PWOT.

Stop talking to PWOTs and use your sales time effectively

The art of maximising sales centres on weeding out those customers who are a PWOTs – a ‘potential waste of time’ – and instead identifying the shoppers who actually want to buy from you, writes BRIAN JEFFREY.

If you’re going to sell anything, you must deal with real customers, and your challenge as a salesperson is to separate the real from the unreal.

While it’s not difficult, too few salespeople do it – and end up wasting their time trying to sell to people who have no intention of buying.

Why do so many salespeople spend time on customers who are PWOTs – ‘potential waste of time’? In some cases, they haven’t learnt to recognise one. In other cases, they don’t have anyone else to talk to and would rather spend time with a PWOT than with no-one.

Another problem with spending time with PWOTs is the opportunity cost: you’re not spending your time with someone who might actually buy something from you.

And if you think a PWOT is bad, try dealing with his close cousin, the DWOT – a ‘definite waste of time’!

The attraction of the PWOT

A lot of sales staff are heavy-duty ‘people persons’; they really enjoy talking and socialising with others. Often, this means their focus is on developing the relationship and less on developing business. As a result, they spend too much time with other nice people persons who just want to have a chat.

Salespeople who have the ‘amiable’ personality type need to be particularly sensitive to this. People with an amiable personality are known as ‘shopkeepers’ and their strength is building relationships.

Unfortunately, sometimes they are so keen on being friendly that they forego the unpleasantness of actually having to ask someone to buy something for fear of upsetting the relationship.

Identifying time wasters

As mentioned previously, some sales staff fall into the PWOT trap because they simply don’t know how to recognise them.

Here are some clues to help you detect real customers from the unreal ones – aka PWOTs and DWOTs:

“PWOTs often try to create the impression that they wield more purchasing influence than they really do, and they will often evade questions regarding money.”

Disguising their lack of power – PWOTs and DWOTs often try to create the impression that they wield more purchasing influence than they really do, and they will often evade questions regarding money or funding.

Resenting you for asking questions – your questions put them in danger of exposure as time wasters, so they give vague or dissatisfying answers to your specific enquiries regarding their needs and intentions. They won’t make it easy for you to sell to them.

Showing little respect for your time and effort – these people will often fail to keep appointments, hide behind their voicemail, and don’t return your calls, emails, or texts.

Trying to get you to alter your standard operating procedures – PWOTs and DWOTs will try to muddy the waters to delay the ultimate non-decision; they will quibble on price, product, terms, and more.

PWOTs and DWOTs are not all bad or thoughtless people; often, they are fine individuals who simply can’t say no to a salesperson because they don’t want to hurt his or her feelings. On the other hand, sometimes they are ego-driven individuals who live in a make-believe world.

Focus on real customers

The opposite of PWOTs and DWOTs are real customers or potential customers.

These people are where you and your sales staff should focus your efforts in order to maximise results.

Here are some key characteristics:

Questions are welcome – these customers or shoppers know you need to get certain information if you are to help them make an informed buying decision.

Realistic about money – simply put, these people are not trying to buy two dollars’ worth of business for a dollar, and they understand the concept of cost versus value. For those bigger purchases, they have a budget in mind, and know the difference between wished-for money and money in the bank.

Clear decision-making process – these customers know what they want to buy, and they know that the sooner they make a decision, the sooner they will get that item or service.

Demonstrate value for their time and yours – interactions with real customers are respectful and professional, and they will hesitate to make an appointment if they feel it would be a mutual waste of time.

Cut your losses

Real salespeople want to spend their time with real customers, so make sure you find out who’s who and start qualifying your way to even greater sales success.

Learn to differentiate the real from the unreal and focus your efforts where it counts. You’ll find your sales going up and your frustration going down.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a PWOT, extradite yourself from the situation as quickly and courteously as possible and move along. You may end up keeping them as friends or acquaintances – just don’t let them eat up your valuable selling time!

Replace your PWOTs with real buyers and put more money in your pocket.


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Brian Jeffrey

Contributor • Quintarra Consulting

Brian Jeffrey has more than 40 years' experience in sales management, training and business consulting. Learn more: The Sales Wizard

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