The following is taken from Bob Janet’s book, Bad Business Assumptions That Cost You Sales and Profits.

I was doing a five-day sales training program for a company located in a very small town in South Carolina.

It was one of those quaint towns with a population of just over 10,000, one road that ran through the town with only a half-dozen traffic lights. I was staying at the only hotel in the town.

Each evening, as I had my dinner on a very lovely deck attached to the side of the hotel and facing the main shopping area, I watched a dozen or so children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old ride their bikes into town and go into a candy store on the right side of the street. There was also a candy store on the left side, but they never went into that store.

Each evening it was the same routine. They would ride up to the front of the candy store on the right side, park their bikes, go into the candy store and a few minutes later emerge with a white bag of candy.

On my third evening of observing them, I got curious as to why they never shopped at the candy store on the left side of the street. Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and on my final evening at the hotel I went across the street and asked one of them, “Why do you guys always buy your candy from this candy store and not the one across the street?”

Taking candy

The young boy replied as he pointed to the candy store across the street, “They take our candy away from us.”

Now my curiosity was at an all-time high, so I went into the candy store in front of me and ordered a half pound of dark chocolate. The lady behind the counter put on one of those plastic gloves and took a small scoop, and she scooped candy onto the scale until the dial went up to a half pound. She then lifted the scale dish and put my candy into a white bag.

I then went across the street to the candy store the young boy said takes their candy away. As I went up to the counter a nice lady asked if she could help me. I said, “Please give me a half pound of dark chocolate.” I noticed her price was a cent lower than the other store. She put on her plastic glove and took a large scoop, and she put a large amount of candy on the scale. Then, with her gloved hand, she began to take candy off the scale, taking candy away until the weight got down to half a pound.

Do your customers perceive you as the one who adds to the value of their purchase or the one who takes the candy away?

Here is an exercise to determine how you are perceived. First, have everyone in your business write down how you want to be perceived by your customers. Have everyone do it, because you want to make sure you are all perceived the same way.

Then, survey your customers to discover how you are perceived. Hire others to do the survey, because your customers will tell you what you want to hear. Have your customers and non-customers surveyed. If you are not being perceived the way you want, do things to change the customers’ and prospects’ perceptions.

Customers react positively to:

1. Businesses that look successful. People like to work with - and for - successful businesses. No one wants to take the chance of buying from a business that may not be there tomorrow.

2. Businesses that look busy. People like to buy from them. When we had sales in our retail businesses, we hired people (usually college students) to walk around the showroom to give the perception something really big was going on.

3. Businesses that look clean. People would rather buy from stores and workers who look neat. We gave customers the perception of quality in our retread tires by making sure our manufacturing plant was clean enough to eat off the floor.

4. Businesses that look like they care about their customers. Everything you say and do is about your customer, not you or the business: Answer the telephone on the first or second ring, return telephone calls and messages quickly, greet everyone that comes into the business immediately and solve problems, even if it creates more work for you.

5. Businesses that stay in touch. It is estimated that your customers are inundated with 2,500 to 3,500 advertising messages a day. They become confused. If you are the seller that has been the constant in staying in touch with them, you will be their seller of choice. Stay in touch with your customers through advertisements, thank-you cards, holiday cards, personal cards and letters, information that will improve their lives and/or businesses.

6. Businesses that take the fear out of buying. One of the four biggest fears customers have that cause them not to make a purchase is fear of losing their money. And it is so simple to fix. Give your buyers a money-back guarantee, not just the manufacturer’s guarantee on the products you sell. Your competitors are offering that. Be different, be aggressive, be the one who gets the sale by giving your personal and your business guarantee.

Bob Janet is a motivational speaker who specializes in delivering key selling and marketing skills and techniques. He uses his 40-plus years of selling and marketing as owner and operator of his retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses combined with his presentation style, including audience participation and real-life business stories and examples.

Contact him at (800) 286-1203; fax (704) 882-4148; e-mail; seewww.BobJanet.comon the Internet.