By Jeff Shore
Don't Make Your Customer Cry
The story is true; I changed the names. The buyer is referred to as Judy; the salesperson Maria. Maria sells homes.

Maria: So tell me why you’re thinking about moving.

Judy: I’m looking for something that works better for my family.

Maria: Tell me more about that.

Judy: Well, I have three kids and the youngest is just turning 12. We need something that allows them their own space.  

Maria: Makes sense; I’ve been down that road. I don’t know about yours, but my kids argued a lot through their teen years. I know they loved each other, but there was a lot of bickering.

Judy: I’m right there now. It takes almost nothing to set them off.

Maria: I usually tell my husband to take care of it at that point.

Judy: Do you have something with a bonus room or a basement?

Maria: I can you show you both. Let’s take a look.

60 seconds later, Maria is escorting Judy into a home for sale.

Maria: This is our Jefferson plan. You know what this home says to me? It says “family” and it says “love.”

And just like that, Judy breaks down and begins to sob. Judy has a full-blown meltdown right then and there.
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What went wrong here?

Turns out Maria fell for one of the oldest stumbling blocks in the book: the dreaded assumption.

If you read through that vignette you’ll note something important: Judy never mentions a husband.

That is a particularly important insight, because in this case Judy is in the midst of an undesired divorce. She is not looking for a home because she wants to, but because she has to.

Why We Assume

The reality is that we tend to frame situations from our own perspective; it makes it far easier to make sense of the world. In this case, Maria was relating to her customer. Same life situation, right?

Assumptions are most appealing when they are familiar to our own thinking.

For example, if you asked me, “Jeff, you know what I hate most about traffic?”, I would immediately move to what I hate most about traffic.

What makes things worse is that we create these assumptions in an attempt to better relate to people or situations. We think we are doing something positive, and our intentions are actually quite noble.

Avoiding the Assumption Trap

There is really only one way to stay out of the assumption dilemma – remove yourself from the story.

Your customer has a story, and it is hers alone. You can join into the story once you are 100% certain you understand it, but jumping in early will lead you to nothing but trouble.

In Maria’s case, she needed to stay out of the story until she asked more clarifying questions.

  • “Who will be living in the home”?
  • “What are some of the must-have’s”?
  • “What are some of the want-to-have’s”?
  • “Does anyone else have a say in this decision”?

It’s a good thing to want to be a part of your customer’s journey. It’s not so good when you jump in with an entirely different story.

Seek to understand your customer. Only then can you change her world.