Last month, we discussed four potential outcomes of any sales situation. To recap:

Win-win: Both the business and the customer are happy.

Win-lose: The business is happy, but not the customer.

Lose-win: The customer is happy; however, ultimately the business lost.

Lose-lose: Everyone suffers.

In any business, the optimal win-win outcome happens when a salesperson helps the customer select exactly what's right for them — the right color, equipment, look, feel and, of course, the right price.

This requires a different mind set for most sales people, one that starts with the premise that their job is to help customers select the right product or service; the one that fills their needs, wants and desires. It's not simply to close a sale.

People love to buy, but hate being sold to. Most customers enter a business having already done their homework. They are ready to buy, so a salesperson doesn't have to persuade them; he needs to help them make the right selections.

Buyers rate the helpful attitude of the salesperson as one of the major reasons for their purchasing a product.

They don't talk about sales skills, but they do describe how a salesperson created a positive buying experience.

When this happens, sales go up and satisfied customers not only become repeat customers but also people willing to offer referrals.

This is a true measure of value. When sales people understand this, price becomes a secondary issue.

Setting up a win-win process requires commitment from every person who works in a business.

Every step of the process must be designed to deliver the win-win. It starts with the greeting customers get when they first contact the business (phone, online or in person). It extends through the sales, finance, service and marketing during the life cycle of the product. Even the store set-up can impact the outcome.

Preparing for a win-win starts with the internal processes and systems the business puts in place.

We find that almost every time a transaction ends up as a lose-lose, it's because these processes weren't followed properly. A good process and system encompasses all parts of the business, from recruiting and hiring, to education, training and career progression of its people.

As a first step, management must do an honest assessment:

Do you have a SMART (Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) plan?

Do your sales people understand the plan?

Does your plan include a means of measuring traffic?

Does it include training and education?

If the answer to any of these questions is, “No,” the plan will fail. Reevaluate and change the plan to ensure it will lead to a win-win. As you do, emphasize training and education. Without this, even the best plan won't work.

Training, education and evaluation provide insights into the inner workings of a business, identify areas for improvement and ensure that every employee is involved with and committed to creating a positive customer experience. This results in a win-win.

No one can win every time. But 100% of everyone's effort can be devoted to improving the win percentages and lowering the losses. By following a plan, evaluating and adjusting, everyone can increase the number of times they achieve a win-win.

If you are properly geared to win-win, then every time that does not happen, ask “Why?” and “Who stopped the sale?”

Richard F. Libin, author of “Who Stopped the Sale?” (www.whostoppedthesale.com) is president of Automotive Profit Builders, with more than 42 years experience of fostering customer satisfaction and maximizing profits through personnel development and technology. He is at rlibin@apb.cc and 508-626-9200.