Want the Sale? Offer a 'Test Drive' Give customers a chance to fall in love by offering samples or demonstrations.

By Sydney Barrows

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A very close friend of mine was looking to replace his old flat screen TV, one of the first ever manufactured, for a state-of-the-art plasma TV. After doing some research, he figured it was going to cost him anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000 because his heart was set on a 60 inch screen.

We all know that stores that sell products that we might really want but don't particularly need aren't doing so well these days. Even major companies that seemed near-permanent have filed bankruptcy or gone out of business completely, take Circuit City for example.

Back to my friend--so he settled on an ultra thin model from a popular manufacturer, and headed off to Best Buy to check it out. Imagine his surprise when the salesperson at Best Buy tells him that not only do they not have one for him to see in person, but that the manufacturer only sells these really high-end models on-line; they don't ship floor models to stores.

Are You Kidding Me?
Once home he called manufacturer because he just cannot believe this could possibly be true, but yep--it is. Here's a customer in the market for a new plasma television, is extremely interested in this top-of-the-line model, but the company expects him to fork over the better part of three grand without even seeing one in person? So long to comparing the picture to other models of comparable size--are they nuts?

Better still, why doesn't the company realize it's sending a message that maybe they don't want people to see it in person because the picture quality doesn't compare well to the competition?

Test Drive, It's Good for Sales
It's extremely unlikely that any of you would even consider doing something so dumb. Affluent customers--heck, any customers--aren't likely to spend their money on a multi-thousand dollar product, especially a television, without seeing it first.

And a knowledgeable sales person can point out features the customer might overlook perusing a spec sheet online, features that would probably make the product even more appealing.

Give customers the opportunity to spend time with the product, understanding that the longer they interact with it, the stronger the feeling that "this is how it feels to own it" grows. Depending on the product--stores that sell rugs often do this--allowing them to take it home for a few days so they can really experience how it feels to own it, is almost a guaranteed sale; think of the classic pet store-puppy example.

Make it Personal
The business owner who gives prospects and customers the opportunity to experience what it might be like to actually own the product or experience the service is the one who is going to get the sale. Customers aren't parting with their money so easily these days, and they're making extra sure that when they do, they are getting exactly what they want, need or expect.

Maybe you've heard the saying, "People buy from those they know, like and trust." Well, the corollary is that people buy products and services they feel they're knowledgeable about because this instills trust that they're getting what they expect. Be generous with samples and live demonstrations, particularly for high-end items. Let prospects experience how much they like the product and, if possible, point out features in terms of a benefit customers will receive when they actually own the product.

People love to buy, but they hate to be sold. Creating a positive, firsthand experience with your product causes people to want to own it, makes them want to buy it, which frees you from having to "sell" them anything.

Wavy Line

Sydney Biddle Barrows is a New York based business consultant and recognized expert on the customer experience. You can find out more about her coaching programs, consulting practice and her newest book, Uncensored Sales Strategies, at http://www.sydneybarrows.com.

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