A colleague recently told me about an article he read that suggests touching people during a sales pitch helps close the deal. To reinforce his point he later sent me a copy of the article. It's interesting reading, but I really don't buy the idea at all. The article, which appeared in the October issue of Success magazine, carried the headline "Physical contact helps open customer wallets." It offers some findings from research conducted by Michael Lynn, an associate professor of consumer behavior and marketing at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. The data suggest that waiters who touch customers on the shoulder for the time it takes to say "one Mississippi, two Mississippi" usually end up receiving bigger tips-25% more than from those who weren't touched, according to the study. Age came into play in a big way. Younger diners tipped 18% when they were touched vs. 11% when they weren't, according to the study. The article also stated that shoppers linger longer and buy more when clerks touch them. Maybe this works in some settings, but I'll never believe touching someone in a sales situation is the right thing to do. I was taught you are violating someone's personal space when you move too close. Touching was unthinkable.
Some people will say that I have to remember this is the '90s and things have changed. They'll say we should do whatever it takes to gain an edge. But some things should never change. The importance of good manners, for instance, and showing respect for others. I know salespeople who have come in to make presentations and in the process touched me on the shoulder or arm. That always bothers me. I usually shrug it off, telling myself they just weren't trained properly. The same goes for telemarketers who start their pitches with, "Chuck, I've got a great offer for you." I have never met the people on the other end of the phone, so it rankles me when they think they can call me by my first name. That's bad manners. If they hope to make a few sales they could start by showing people a little respect.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to sound ultraconservative. I enjoy it when someone works hard to try to sell me something. Salespeople are probably the biggest suckers in the world when it comes to sales pitches. But rude and over-aggressive salespeople give the profession a bad name. Not too many years ago salespeople were stereotyped as hard-drinking, fun-loving glad-handers. There's no question that some of them fit the mold perfectly, but most salespeople I've known over the years are bigger than that. They act professionally because it's just good manners and good business to do so. None of them would have called customers by their first names without knowing them personally, and touching someone was out of the question.
Another stereotype salespeople had to overcome was that they were just a bunch of smooth talkers. Over the years, however, it became apparent that the most successful salespeople were those who listened to their customers and prospects about their wants and needs. Today the best skill a salesperson could have is the ability to listen well. That's also a sign of good manners, and it begins with proper training. Remember that most people still like to be addressed by sir or ma'am, mister or missis. Forget about gimmicks like the two-second touch. Instead, focus on the basics of good salesmanship.
Act like a pro,
Charles S. Lauer