Modern Day Selling: The Seven Simple Truths Truth #7: People’s perception is often based on their reality

As we close out this seven part series on “The Seven Simple Truths,” I would like to share some insight that has greatly benefited me in my retail sales career. It is the understanding that people’s perception is often their reality. How you handle it as a sales professional will define your relationship with that customer for life.

One of the greatest skills that I possess in being an elite sales professional is my ability to connect with my customers on a deeper level which creates a unique bond of trust and loyalty. I have been able to achieve this because I understand my customers, and their needs, by seeing the sales process through their eyes. How do I do this you may be asking? By using my own experiences as a customer throughout my life and gaining knowledge of the way people feel and think while shopping. I think every sales professional could use their own experiences in shopping to help them better understand their customers. Unfortunately many never take the time to explore the depths of this hidden truth.

Did you know that many of your customers have a perception of you before they ever step foot in the door or meet you? Their perception is based on the realities that they have had in life experiences. If a customer has been cheated, or taken advantage of in the past, their perception coming in most likely will be that you are going to take advantage of them as well. It is not anything that you have personally done that makes them feel this way, but that is their reality and it is up to you as a sales professional to help them change it. This is usually the classic, “just looking” customer, or the customer who is very abrasive at the beginning. Over the years I have shown you many ways to overcome this dilemma and establish a bond of trust with this customer. For the sake of this article we need to focus on the bottom line of their perception of you and how it became their reality.

Many people could look at this situation and say it is easy to fix. The customer simply does not trust you and all you have to do is establish trust and overcome their fear. Today I want to take you deeper into their reality and help you see this customer in a new light. Often the main reason for their insecurity is a lack of knowledge and understanding. The customer simply does not know much about the product and this makes them feel vulnerable and open to being taken advantage of. This is why a lot of men are harder to reach than women when it comes to jewelry. If you took these same men to a boat store, the experience would be totally different because they understand and know the product better.

A few years back I had a situation with my car where my tires were slipping while turning when it was raining. So I went to get it checked out at the tire store and I remembered walking in with the feeling that I was going to be ripped off. Clearly there was a problem that needed to be fixed and I was not knowledgeable or skilled enough to do it myself.

Later I reflected on why I felt that way? The answer was that these guys were experts and had a lot more knowledge than I did, so I was at a disadvantage walking in. So what was the first thing I did when I got to the tire store? I walked in acting like I knew exactly what was wrong and with my own reality in mind of what needed to be done. This is what many people do when they enter your store and are not familiar with the product you are selling.

The first sales associate who approached me went into great detail about the situation and explained that I needed to replace all four tires. He used terms that I had never heard before, like “popcorn in my tire.” In my mind I only needed the back tires replaced and clearly this guy was trying to rip me off and sell me two extra tires that I did not need to have replaced. I left that night with no repairs done and went home to talk to people who knew more about tires - my father and a friend. Neither of them had ever heard of the term popcorn in my tires. So guess what happened next? The next day it started raining and my tires began to slip again so something had to be done.

My second visit to the same tire store was totally different. I went in not explaining what was happening and asked another salesman to check my tires. He came back and told me that I had popcorn in my tires and that they would all need to replaced. I then revealed that I had previously been in and was told the same thing, but when I checked with people who knew about tires they had never heard of that before.

The salesman then took me out to my car and pointed at my tires. “If you look closely you will see those little wires starting to show through the thread. See the little bumps it forms in the rubber. That is popcorn in your tire and they need to be replaced!” He then followed it up with an important statement. He said, “I bet you are slipping all around when the roads are wet?” How did he know that? I did not share this insight with him. This assured me that he was telling the truth and knew what he was talking about. All four tires were replaced immediately and I have used them ever since for any other tire maintenance - with no doubts or insecurity.

So let’s examine my two experiences at the tire store. Two people told me the exact same thing, but one was able to relate to me and establish trust by showing me exactly what was wrong. The second salesman was able to change my perception and reality without skepticism. The first salesman was all about words and long-winded explanations that only increased my skepticism. The second was quick, efficient and effective in helping overcome my fears by pointing out the truth that I could see with my own eyes.

It’s not always about how much you know, but how you can relate to people and change their perception and reality. Take a moment and read that last sentence as it is a very powerful truth. This is also a great skill to use in conflict resolution as well as with the customer who is upset and demanding. 

In closing I encourage you to explore this new insight in greater depth and see your customer in a new light. Take the time to reflect upon your shopping experiences as a customer and use it to better understand your customers. Also reflect on the many skills I have shared with you in Modern Day Selling like serving while selling, creating a show-time experience and selling with passion and energy. Use these skills to make the sale all about the customer and meeting their needs and create a new perception and reality of your customer and your store. If you are able to master the skill of understanding people’s perception and reality, selling will become easy and almost effortless.

Brian Barfield is a two-time published author, worldwide, who specializes in offering fresh new insight in retail sales training. Modern Day Selling offers a unique perspective in teaching sales associates how to reconnect with their customers and how to achieve greater success in their sales career. For more information please visit his website Brian also offers in-store sales training and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..