Sales Fail: Moron Tours

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Ever tried to join a gym, rent an apartment or buy a house?

If so, at some point, you’ve probably been a victim of the dreaded moron tour.

In gyms, it follows a scripted greeting, then follows a standardized path through the gym revealing every section, every piece of equipment every, class and service and ends up with “should I put you down for month-to-month or would you rather save 25% with our annual membership?”

With rentals or home tours, it unfolds as a day of “oh look, new faucets,” followed by “well, ya know, I’ve been showing these quite a lot, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to act fast, which one are you thinking about bidding on?”

Tours or walk-thrus, themselves, are not bad things. Done right, they’re amazing selling vehicles.

But the way they’re most often done treats prospective clients like morons and wastes not only their time, but yours.

The value of a tour is not to show “everything we’ve got.” The value is to highlight the specific features that sync most closely with your prospect’s:

  • Buying triggers,
  • Driving emotions and
  • Desperately sought outcomes.

Which means, the walk-thru should never happen until you’ve spent a fair amount of time in conversation with your prospect asking:

  • What brought you here today?
  • What are you looking for in X?
  • What’s important to you about [features/outcomes answered in response to above question]?
  • What prior experiences have you had that you didn’t like?
  • What was it about those experiences that put you off?
  • Describe your dream [solution, experience, product, service]?

Ask, don’t talk. Listen. Reflect answers. See if there’s more. These are just primers, the deeper you go, the better.

Once you have that information, you’re in a position to create a tour experience that is highly tailored to the specific desires and aversions of your potential client.

It goes faster and your potential client feels a stronger connection to you and a better sense of confidence, trust and rapport, because you’re only highlighting things that are relevant. You heard them. You really, really heard them. You must care (and you should). You’re not wasting their time. And, if you’re really good, you’re also highlighting how your solutions avoids their aversions.

You waste a lot less time on auto-pilot pitches and close more sales. Win-win.

But, but…what if the person doesn’t really know what they’re looking for?

Bad excuse for lazy sales. People may not know the precise house, clubs, product or service they want. But, they DO know many of the elements, emotions and deeper desires and aversions. They may not be on the surface, so you’ve got to have a real conversation to get to them. But, having that conversation is mission critical in your ability to be an effective marketer and salesperson.

And there’s one more side-benefit of this approach. If you think you hate sales, it helps you love it a whole lot more. Because it turns the process into what it really should be. A genuine conversation about need and desire and your ability to deliver solutions or delights that resonate strongly with who your potential client is and what will serve them best.


Anyone ever been accosted by a moron tour?

How’d you respond?

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30 responses

30 responses to “Sales Fail: Moron Tours”

  1. Tim Brownson says:

    I couldn’t agree more on this. I once told the manager of my last gym I could increase his conversion rate by 25% if he gave me access to his sales staff.

    I said I’d do it for nothing, but if I met my promise we’d talk about rolling it out to the other 7 gyms.

    He wasn’t interested, because they had their way of doing things. It was a bad way that worked in spite of itself, not because of it.

    It reminds me of a salesperson once trying for 5 minutes to explain to me and Helen why yellow cars were really cool just after we’d said we hated the color. Just staggering.

  2. Bryan says:

    Some of the time sale tours really have the sales psychology down. Starwood and Hilton come to mind. It’s interesting to see these presentations and learn from them, plus I like the free gifts they give… though it is a pain to say “no” at the end =D

  3. Irene Ross says:

    This really made me think and laugh! I’ve been on both sides of this–one, as a potential customer, when I had to say to the moron tour leader, “I think I know what a locker room looks like!” When he argued that I needed to go in, I said “don’t waste my time!” and stormed out. Potential sale lost in a second!

    And I’ve been on the other side–I once moonlighted selling memberships at a gym while I got my business up and running. When they handed me the script, it was so dumb I felt embarrassed and squirmed for them– “I’m NOT saying this,” I said to the guy net to me. I followed my own prospecting and guess what–I made more sales than a lot of others!

  4. Deborah says:

    30 years ago My Father used to call this Digging the Well rather than praying for rain 😉 We were all great Dale Carnegie fans.. but recognized the buyers naiveté was a big component when using ‘formula’ sales. Besides, he genuinely loved making friends of clients.

    Our world is anything but naive today..your advice is smart & timeless. for worst Moron Tour on the planet.. Ever make the HUGE mistake of thinking 3 Free days in Colonial Williamsburg was totally worth a 3 Hour Timeshare Seminar?!?

    • TomC says:

      We went to Florida on our honeymoon. My wife’s boss had a timeshare and let us use it for what it cost him.

      Anyway, we were peppered the entire honeymoon with calls. “Please don’t bother us further, we are on our honeymoon”, didn’t seem to matter very much. Anyway, once we stopped answering the phone we would see the salespeople walk by our front window, some would just stare in and call us at the same time.

      I just watched a program on PBS talking about the size of the amygdala in relation to psychopathy. I would guess some salespeople have small or impaired amygdala’s that enable them to do WHATEVER it takes to make a sale because the customer’s welfare means nothing to them.

  5. Daniel Roach says:

    This took me back to my days selling cell phones. We’d be told to show them everything we had, hit the high notes, and then dive straight for the expensive smart phones and PDAs whether they needed it or not. Let me tell you just how often that plan worked… It didn’t take long to realize that I closed more sales and faster if I got interested in the customer first. 5 minutes of questions let me skip over 15 minutes of things they wouldn’t be interested in and help keep them from feeling overwhelmed by all their options. Not to mention they tended to like me better 😉

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, Tim Brownson, Rich LoPresti, Rob Modzelewski, Alisa Bowman and others. Alisa Bowman said: RT @JonathanFields Sales Fail: Moron Tours [blog post] […]

  7. This may surprise you (it surprised me) but apple stores have moron tours now. I go in to buy a computer and they won’t let me. They first have to try and up sell me. And usually the person upselling me knows less about the computers than I do. So I have to listen to a drone talk of something they don’t understand. And when I do have a question, he can’t answer it. As much as I love the apple store, I sometimes just want to go in there and get my own computer. Not listen to a pitch.

    • TomC says:

      Ugghh. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been to a Radio Shack, all because of their salespeople being trained to jump on the customer.

      I love Apple but if this happened to me my view of them would take a pretty hard hit.

  8. Delphine says:

    If I´m asking to see the new gym, I want to see it and I will know if I like it, if I would like to work out there. If the sales person starts by asking me what I like, what I am looking for, If I drink diet coke or regular coke, she has lost me. I just want a look at the gym, I can judge myself if it´s a good fit or not.

    The thing is, I know you are a salesperson, not a friend : if you ask me so much about me, it is to know me better and trick me into joining your gym. This is why I think in my cynical, cynical mind.

    Too much experience with young estate agents telling me “look, lots of light, exactly hat you are looking for !” in front of a window facing a wall.

  9. Bettiol says:

    Wonderful article!

  10. caitlyn says:

    Jonathan, today I have to disagree with your advice. Having recently gone through a couple of major purchase decisions every sales person who tried to “get to know me” on some level lost the sale.

    I am not there to reveal myself. I am not there to get to know anyone – at least not until I have decided that this is where I will do business. Like someone above described, I often know as much going in as the sales person. To not waste my time, let me look at what I want to look at. Don’t hover but be available. Don’t ask my name. Watch me stroke the fabric of the couch and pull out the swatch from my curtains, then ask if I would like to see the book of fabric choices and do I have any questions. By then I’ve either mostly sold to myself and it is the product that will clinch it or not.

    If what I see (so make your display accessible and have helpful info like dimensions, options, costs, etc.) is close to what I want I will be happy to engage in a conversation that helps us decide if the product also includes some invisibles that are on my list.

    • I think it really depends on the purchase. When I go to buy a video game, I can’t stand salespeople. I already know what I want. Leave me alone.

      But when I’m buying a car, I need some help. Just don’t be pushy.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Caitlyn – we don’t actually disagree. There are plenty of times where no tour is the right option. But, if you are invited to illuminate something, it should be something relevant to the person looking to buy, not to you.

  11. TomC says:

    It’s funny, we’re always told to sell the benefits, but we really should be “selling” the emotion. Just watched Simon Sinek on TED talk about “people buying WHY”.

  12. Blaz says:

    So I’m curious about what everyone things about the new rental car “tours,” where they take you to the car lot and allow you to choose the perfect car for you?

    Then they spend 10-20 minutes explaining why this is the perfect car down to the bells and whistles.

  13. My favorite topic – sales and selling! Anything other than asking, listening and then responding with products/services that meet the clients need is NOT selling.

    Selling always starts with the customer in mind. If they walked into the gym, house or auto dealership they’ve already raised their hand and said, Hey I’m interested.

    So, give them easy ways to say yes. By asking and listening first – so you know what they really want to say yes too.

    Selling is never about the product/service. It’s about the CUSTOMER and their reasons for buying. Their reasons for wanting. Their why.
    Figure that out, you’re the star sales person and no pushiness is ever necessary.

    If you have to get pushy – you’re doing it wrong!

  14. Karri Flatla says:

    Makes me think of the discount fashion chain here in Canada called Winners (I think it’s similar to TJ Max in the US?).
    Anyway, I shop there not just for the great deal but BECAUSE I’m in charge of my “tour.” No one bugging me or giving me lame, scripted fashion advice. Just me and the racks of goodies 🙂

    That said, the right advice at the right time is invaluable. But very few do it right. So as a customer I generally opt for what “appears to be” easier … as do most people.

  15. Niel Malan says:

    It is not impossible to get along without a car, but the freedom it brings is unmeasurable. I keep a car, but I do not use it for commuting. This keeps the miles and the consumption down, but allows me the freedom to move when I need to. This is only possible because I have a place I can keep it under cover.

  16. Bonnie says:

    When I went to buy a laptop at the Apple store I got a moronic talk from a saleswoman who knew zero about computers and admitted as much to me. She also told me how much she loved working at the Apple store and gave me all kinds of information on the user training I’d get from Apple once I bought my computer. Well, that was too much information because I figured, if I’m going to need that much training, hell I’ll stick to my PC! So I did, and I’m glad, I plugged in my new PC, no training required!

    I just dread having to go into the Apple store later this year to buy a new iPod. Will they give me a moron talk before they let me just buy the thing? Well if they do I’m just going to have to scream in the store.

  17. Yes, tours, when done right, can be an amazing sales vehicle, especially when the “customer” isn’t even aware that it is a tour, or even a demo, but more of a walking conversation (the old “walk and talk”!).

    Another vehicle I came across the other day is trailers for new books. Who would have thought it! A trailer for a book? Oh yeah, very interesting and thought-provoking and made me want to buy the book.
    Thanks, Jonathan!


  18. Mark Freddy Farrell says:

    Asking, Not Telling. Great Advice, excuse the pun.
    With a litle relevant information added by the Sales
    person is a nice recipe.
    But lets face it, most of what there selling is about selling more of whatever.
    If it was Totally about what is best for the customer,I dont think they could package it.
    But they can, Bring back the circuits I say, Cardio, Strength and conditioning, stretching, weight loss, all in a 1 hr class you say. Give me 3 a week anytime, no contracts, sold.

    Cheers Mark F.

  19. eKathy says:

    For some reason this reminds me of a visit to a car showroom. I told the salesperson I was interested in one model and he kept steering me to another. It was baffling. He then made a totally sexist remark about how girls like horses when they are young and when they grow up they like … the kind of car I was trying get him to show me. It was completely outrageous and it is amazing to me that I continue to buy that car brand.

  20. Phil says:

    I recently worked with a national fitness chain on their customer retention strategy. The dirty little secret for most firms is that their customer/member “churn” (ie: how many people don’t renew after a given membership cycle) is staggering. Most growth is driven by opening new locations and aggressive sales at existing. A remarkably low number of existing members entered the club monthly (I’m cynical and even i was surprised).

    In their defense, they really cared about health and fitness. This wasn’t an act. But their business model and practices weren’t ligned with their values. They came to realize that their aggressive sales-driven culture was driving them into the ground. So believe it or not, they changed.

    They developed a more customer focused view of not just the sales, but the membership process.

    The “moron tours” are a function of people being poorly hired and trained, by a company that doesn’t understand it’s customers very well and lacks a strategy. If I’m a sales rep and I only get paid on signed contracts, the moron tour makes perverse sense. I want to get you in, signed and out. Retention is someone else’s problem.

    So to end the moron tours: have a plan, genuinely care and train people well.

  21. If only salespeople would just ask instead of bombarding potential customers with a barrage of sales talk the moment they step in. “Can I help you?” will be very nice. If I need help, I’ll appreciate some relevant questions and recommendations. If not, I probably already know what I want so please leave me alone, thank you very much.

  22. […] may have noticed that in the blogosphere-internets recently, several respected writers like Jonathan Fields and Pam Slim have been writing about selling, specifically from the standpoint of doing it in a […]

  23. […] Fields posted an article called Sales Fail: Moron Tours. Ostensibly it’s about why we hate getting canned gym tours, but as he talks about the way […]

  24. mariosx69 says:

    most of them are semi psychologists , who like them ?