Canadian Pizza Magazine

Abide by the rules of engagement

By By Sam Allman   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

allmanMarch 19, 2009 – To survive turbulent economic times, we must be more
effective at closing the fewer customers who are looking for our product or
service. The game has changed, but the rules of engagement haven’t.

In war, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where
and how force shall be used. Such rules are both general and specific. In
selling, there are also rules of engagement.

The ROE in selling deal with four issues:  (1) When influence may be used, (2) Where
influence may be used, (3) Against whom influence should be used in the
circumstances described above, and (4) How selling influence should be used to
achieve the desired ends.


The ROE are extremely important because they provide a
consistent, understandable and repeatable standard on how salespeople act.
Typically they are carefully thought out in detail, well in advance of an
engagement, and may cover a number of scenarios, with different rules for each.

Following these rules of engagement will increase your
closing rate and win the war for customers when your competitors are using
ineffective strategies.

Greet the customer with a smile within 20 seconds of
entering your business.  Whether you are
busy or not, smile or wave, and acknowledge the customer as she enters the
store. Act like you are glad and appreciative that she is there. Remember why
customers leave: indifference.

Always make the customer feel in control.  Psychologically, this is critical.  Feeling manipulated, controlled or coerced,
she will leave. Help her feel in control by asking permission to do anything: “May
I ask you a few question?” “May I put you on hold?” “Is this a good time to

She will also feel in control if you give her choices,
though not too many: “Based on what you told me, I think there are 4 or 5
products that will work perfectly for you. 
May I show them to you?”

She will feel in control if you spend more time asking questions and listening
rather than telling her what she ought to buy.

Sell her what she wants – not what you want.  Be product neutral.  Research shows when salespeople have too few
favorite products, they will limit their sales. “The salespeople should be
selling you what you want, not what they think you should buy.”  Following this rule also makes the customer
feel in control.

Never talk longer than 30 seconds without asking a question.
Listening is hard.  The best salespeople
keep the customer talking by listening and asking questions. If you are talking
too much, the customer may not be engaged. A question will keep him focused and
talking. The customer feels more in control when he is talking and you are

Give the customer space if she desires it.  Be aware, watch the customer. If she wants
space, give it to her. Let her look. Watch her, she will tell you when she
feels safe enough to let you in. While she’s looking, every once in a while,
ask her a question, try to engage her. Letting her have space will help her
feel in control.  Salespeople need to be
helpful or suggestive, but not pushy or overpowering. They can’t be bothering
the customer too much.

Learn your customer’s goals and dreams. Most salespeople
don’t ask enough questions. Remember, the customers make three decisions: A
fashion decision, a performance decision and a price decision. Which is the
most important to them? It depends on the customer. Studies show the more
questions asked, the greater the chance of making the sale. It is the most
important tool in the salespersons’ toolbox. 

 Never make the presentation before the engaging enquiry.  Another big mistake salespeople make is to
start presenting the product or service before they understand what the
customer wants. The customer may say, “I’d like to see a particular item.”  Most salespeople would say, “Sure, come over
here and I’ll show you the ones we have on special.” Instead, the salesperson
should say, “To help me understand, tell me why that particular item is
important to you.”

Never answer an unasked question.  Many salespeople can’t resist telling the
customer everything they know about their product.  More times than not, this causes cognitive
dissonance or confusion.  Confused
customers can’t make decisions.  It will
cause them to postpone their purchase and leave.  Listen carefully and be aware.  Tell the customer only what she needs to know
in order to make her decision.

Ask the customer for her name and address.  What do you call a customer who walks in your
store? A qualified lead.  If you let her
leave the store without buying and without getting her name and address, you
have struck out. With her name and address, you have a way to maintain contact
and follow-up. Your business needs a systemized follow-up program for those
customers who aren’t ready to buy on the first visit. How do you get her name?
You ask. “Mrs. Smith, if I think of something that you might like or something
goes on special, may I let you know? Would it be okay if I got your name and

Make each customer
experience remarkable. And make sure it’s “good remarkable,” in a way that the
customer will want to tell others. The experience is everything. If you were
patient, you asked good questions, you focused on his needs, you built value,
you sold him the right product, and the experience hassle-free, and he feels
you really care, then he will want to tell his colleagues and friends. You’ve
made the experience remarkable. You don’t manage the sale, you manage the

 In selling and in war, it is winner-take-all. Yes, times are
tough; there are fewer customers. But what does that mean? It simply means we
have to get better; we have to close more. If you close just one more person
out of 10, and you are an average closer, that will give you a 33 per cent
increase in sales. If you follow the 10 Rules of Engagement, one more out of
10 is easy.  Will you let them work for


Sam Allman, CEO of Allman Consulting and Training, Inc. is
an internationally recognized consultant, speaker and author. For nearly two
decades, Sam has worked with companies such as Lowes, Home Depot, Lockheed and
Mohawk Industries, on leadership, customer service, management, and sales. His
new book, “Heart and Mind Selling,” has helped hundreds of sales professionals
build enduring relationships with their clients. Contact Bill for speaking,
training and consulting: or 770-425-2142.

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