Thursday, December 28, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Women, the Softer Side of Retail

It's a well-known fact that women make up to 85% of the buying decisions in most households. However, most retailers have been slow to catch on to this.

An article in USa Today examines the approach Best Buy is starting to incorporate into to their stores to capitalize on sales opportunities. If your store is staffed primarily by men or you sell items typically purchased by men you should read this. Check it out here.

If you want to learn how to improve your results when selling to the opposite sex check out my first book.


Retail Sales Training - Dealing with Refunds

It's the post-Christmas season and more likely than not, your store is dealing with it's share of refunds. Although this is an undesirable aspect of retailing, it comes with the territory. Here are few tips that can make this less stressful and challenging.

1. Be proactive. Instead of ignoring people who are returning an item, take the the initiative and approach your customers with the intent of helping them. This will help you stand out and differentiate yourself from your competition .

2. Listen to them. Many refunds are caused because the customer has no need for the product or item that was given to them. Or, in some cases, it's because they can't figure out how to use it. Listen carefully to your customer's reason because it leads us to the next point.

3. Try for a different sale. Many people are looking for a solution to their probelm, not getting their money back. When you listen to the primary reason behind the refund you can often identify other items that may be of use or value to that customer. Don't be afraid to suggest an alternative solution.

These points are particularly important if your store has a designated area for refunds such as a customer service desk or counter. Far too often, the individual's working this area act like robots instead of human beings, and as a result, lose the personal touch and the opportunity to make an additional sales.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Small Mistakes Cost You Big Money

My wife and I are currently looking for a new lighting fixture to hang above our dining room table. We want something relatively contemporary, and so far, have visited approximately 10-15 stores in search of the perfect light.

This quest has uncovered some incredible mistakes that are costing store owners big money in the form of lost sales. Here's an example of some of the situations we have encountered.

1. We walked into one store early in the evening and were greeted with a heavy rock station blasting over the speakers. Although I like rock music, it is definitely NOT appropriate for a retail environment unless you are selling music, extreme sporting goods, or cater directly to a demographic that appreciates this type of music. Based on the selection of product on display, I suspect this lighting store's target market is people between the ages of 35-70 which means their music choice was a significant mistake. I certainly can't picture my mother feeling comfortable making a purchase in this store. In fact, when I mentioned this scenario to her, she immediately said, "I wouldn't shop there!"

2. Another store promised the region's largest selection of lighting fixtures which definitely intriqued us. We dropped by the store, and indeed, they did have a fantastic selection of lights, including several that appealed to our individual tastes. However, very few of the lights were operable which meant we couldn't see what they looked like when lit. Call me silly but when I buy a light I expect to be able to see exactly how it will look when it's turned on.

3. We ventured into another store that had a very good selection of lighting fixtures. We were looking at one in particular and there was a salesperson nearby. She mumbled something to us about the light--I guess to help us--but what she said was incomprehensible and immediately left us to retreat behind the sales counter.

4. Store #4 had a website that appealed to my wife for a variety of reasons and it sounded like this might be the place we find our ideal dining room light. However, the first thing that struck us as we entered the store was the smell of stale cigarette smoke, and as non-smokers, this definitely turned us off. This store had given us the impression on their website that they had an extremely large selection of contemporary fixtures but we didn't see anything that caught out eye. Although there were a few wall hangings and paintings that were attractive we did not want to bring home the smell of stale smoke, so we left. Oh, did I mention that we were greeted by a small dog who barking at us until we left. What a great way to make your customers feel comfortable!

5. We went into another store and noticed several employees standing behind the sales counter, chatting with each other. We looked at lighting fixtures for several minutes (approximately 7-10) but at no time, did any of them make an attempt to assist us. I guess they figured if we needed help that we would ask. Too bad for them.

I could keep going but I think you get the picture. Each of these retailers made some serious blunders that cost them potential sales and profits. What is very unfortunate, is the fact that they probably don't even know it.

Take a good hard look at your business from a customer's perspective and start looking at the mistakes you might be making that are costing you money.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Be Kind to Your Team

I came across this article in the Globe and Mail (A national newspaper in Canada).

Retailers better watch out, because they could find themselves crying if they alienate their staff this holiday season, a survey warns. Santa could find even his most loyal elves walking out of the workroom when he needs them most unless he cuts them some slack in this high-stress time of year, according to the poll of 1,000 hourly retail employees conducted by Harris Interactive for employee management software developer Kronos Systems Inc.

It found that 46 per cent of retail employees said the way they are treated could cause them to quit over the holidays. But the findings speak to the stresses facing employees in the holiday season in all industries, from factories to offices, says Toronto-based Spiros Paleologos, vice-president of operations for Kronos in Canada.

This trend has become more pronounced in the past few years, he says. "Companies need to understand that the drive to create more efficiency, lower expenses and raise shareholder value has not been accompanied by taking the needs of employees into account."

That is especially true for younger workers, who have different priorities than their parents, Mr. Paleologos says. "They rate their personal lives and preferences as at least as important if not more so than their professional priorities." In previous generations, there were always more young people looking for work around the holidays than there were jobs. "An employer could just post a schedule and people were expected to accept what you got. If you turned it down, the employer had no problem filling the slot with someone else."

But there are fewer young people in the work force today and that means companies are competing for workers more than in the past, he says. When retail employees were asked what would cause them to quit their job over the holidays, 32 per cent said they'd bail out if the boss wasn't treating them with respect, 19 per cent said it would be the result of being overworked because there are not enough employees to do the job, and 14 per cent said they'd leave if their request for time off was rejected.

The survey also found that 43 per cent of retail employees said that, if they ask for a day off but are scheduled anyway, it has a negative effect on their job performance. Nearly all of them selected three ways an employer's lack of empathy with their needs would affect them: They are likely to be less motivated at work; they may call in sick; and they may arrive late or leave early.

Employers who ignore these findings could see customer service suffer, Mr. Paleologos says.
The survey also found a troubling number of employees willing to take revenge for alleged slights: 29 per cent said they have witnessed a disgruntled fellow employee stealing from their current or past employer. So what can managers do about it?

Mr. Paleologos says the following tips for keeping employees happy during the holiday crunch will go a long way toward keep them loyal year-round:

- Maintain appropriate staffing levels and mix of skills to reduce the stress that comes with being overworked.
- Identify training needs and provide the right opportunities for staff to develop effectiveness. The investment will benefit employees' careers and improve the operation in the process.
- Ensure you have the right employee at the right place at the right time to supply staff with the resources they need.
- Measure performance and productivity and identify areas that need improvement as well as acknowledging strengths.
- Allow employees to provide input on work preferences and availability, as well as vacation and leave time. This encourages them to plan for time off rather than having to fake an illness to get a needed day away.
- Set up an online system to make it easy for tech-savvy young employees to review their scheduling.
- Provide rewards -- a little thanks goes a long way for employee morale.

"Managers who don't understand their employees' preferences and work with their abilities will end up finding the workshop is empty when the elves are needed the most," Mr. Paleologos suggests. But keeping those employees happy throughout the year, he says, means they will be more prone to go that extra mile when required.

The lesson here is obvious. Take care of your staff and they will take care your business.


Retail Sales Training - Service is Slipping

An article in the Edmonton Journal recently stated that customer service has slipped during this Christmas season. While some customers accept this, I beleive it gives specialty retailers a HUGE opportunity.

Adding one or two people to the sales floor and making sure that you process a customer's sale quickly can help you demonstrate the value of buying from you versus from a department store or big box retailer. This may cost you a few extra dollars but this investment can pay huge dividends later in the year.

Remember, with increased traffic counts, you have the opportunity to impress many more people than normal. And, if you market this properly, it can help you increase your competitive advantage against the retail giants.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Retail Training Tip - Watch the Heat

I was shopping in a few retail stores this past weekend, and noticed that in most cases, they had the temperature cranked up high.

I realize that your staff need to feel comfortable while they're working but it's important to realize that your revenue comes from your customers. And, if they are uncomfortable in your store, which I was by the way, they will leave and give their money to one of your competitors.

I'm not suggesting that you drop the temperature by 10 degrees but it is critical to recognize that most customers (at least in the northern hemisphere) wear coats because it is cold outside. That extra layer of heavy clothing adds heat to their body and if the temperature in the store is set at high, it becomes unbearable for most people.

Seperate yourself from you competition by making it comfortable for your customer to shop in your store.



Saturday, December 09, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Retail Horror Stories

I was reading an article in the local newspaper today about extremely difficult customers that some home builders have faced and some of the stories blew me away.

For example, one new homeowner complained that her floors were discoloring and after some research, the builder discovered that the owner's cat had been urinating on the floor and the lady had been so slow to clean afterwards that the urine was staining the floor.

In another situation, a man complained about leaks from his kitchen counter, which was being flooded with water. Later, he admitted that he cleaned his countertop by tossing bucket of water on it.

These stories got me thinking. I have heard some pretty wild retail-related stories over the years including one about an ex-military person who complained that the corners on the box that contained his VCR weren't sharp and crisp enough so he demanded a replacement. (The company refunded his money and told him buy another brand.)

I have decided to compile some of the wildest retail stories and I need your help.

If you have a story about a nightmare customer, the person from hell, or horrifying experience, I'd love to hear from you. If I use your story in this compilation, I will state your name, store (or company) as well as your URL. Plus, I will send you a free copy of the book when it is completed--I'm not sure if this will be an e-book or paperback yet. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation--that's what editors are for. Send your story to me via email to and please put Horror Story in the subject line. I will also post some of the more entertaining stories on this blog from time-to-time.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Competing Against the Giants

Specialty retailers are facing more competition from the giants than ever before. I get calls and emails on a regular basis asking for advice on competing against these big-box stores. Unfortunately, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution. However, that does not mean that it isn't possible. Here's an example of what one health food retailer did when a giant moved into town.

Living Seed Health Foods, based in Toronto, had been in operation for over 20 years when a major health food chain announced they were opening just one block away. The two owners of Living Seed (a husband and wife team) decided to wait before making any major changes. However, shortly after the giant retailer opened, they found their sales dropping so they knew they had to take action.

At the time most of their business came from food sales and they knew they couldn't compete with their new competition so they gradually changed their product selection. Eventually, their product mix became 80 percent supplements and 10 percent food compared to 60 percent food and 30 percent supplement before the change. They were patient--helping customers learn more about the products they bought even when the products were purchased from the giant down the street. However, they didn't stop there. They gave their store a makeover that included designing a new logo, painting the interior, and introducing new shelving. Over time, customer counts started to climb and business began to return.

The entire process took about four years and there were times the owners felt they weren't going to make it. But persistence paid off and they are happily co-existing with the giant retailer.

It's not easy to compete against the big-box stores and giant retailers but it is possible.

I came across this story in the Sept/Oct issue of Canadian Health Food Retailer. I hope it has been helpful. As always, I welcome your comments.



Retail Sales Training - Are You Unique?

An article in the Nov/Dec issue of Sales & Marketing Management highlighted a small bank who completely changed the appearance of their branches in order to compete with their large competitors. As we all know, most banks have pretty much the samem utilitarian look.

This company (Umqua Bank) has comfortable lounging chairs, Internet access, and areas where people can listen to music. They have also started referring to their branches as stores. And they tend to hire people with a retail background instead of financial expertise. Plus, they sell CD's of local musicans and hold concerts from time-to-time to attract younger clientele.

Their strategy seems to be working. Wwhen they embarked on this strategy, they had 6 locations and $150 million in deposits. Twelve years later they boast 130 stores and over $7 billion in deposits. This is remarkable!

They have managed to accomplish what most retailers dream of. Become completely unique in their niche.

What can you do to create your own uniqueness in your niche?


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Selling Extended Warranties

If your retail store sells extended warranties you already know how challenging it can be to capture sales. could get even more difficult.

A recent Internet article published by stated that Consumer Reports has announced that shoppers should stay away from these programs. They state that profit margins are high (without reporting the costs associated) on these programs. That could make your job that much harder.

Here are a few tips that can improve your results:

1. Rather than present the extended warranty as a separate presentation, integrate it into your overall product discussion. Mention just one feature and benefit at a time instead of rattling off everything that your program offers.

2. Be prepared for objections. Plan responses for the most common objections you hear and practise these rebuttals until they flow smoothly and comfortably.

3. Mention the program to EVERY customer. Most front-line retail staff make assumptions about their customers and do not present the information about their extended warranty program to all of their customers. Instead, they pick and choose who they think will be interested and present the info to those customers.

4. Ask for the sale. If you have taken the time to present and discuss your extended warranty program to your customer in a professional manner, you have earned the right to ask them for the sale.

We know that most consumers either love or hate extended warranty programs. The key to successfully selling them is to believe in them yourself.

Check out my book, Stop, Ask & Listen for more information on selling extended warranties.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Retail Sales Training-Dealing with Refunds

A national newspaper (Globe and Mail) recently reported that refunds in the retail industry on are the rise, citing that 5-30% of all purchases end up being returned to the store. The article also went on to say that refunds are increasing by as much 50% in some categories.

One of the way you can reduce the number of returns is to invest more time uncovering your customers' needs and wants. When you learn more about how the customer will be using the product they are planning to purchase, you can make recommendations. And these recommendations often help your customer see how one particular product would be more appropriate for their situation. If you sell electronics or computers, it is critical to help people understand how to use their new toy, due to the complexity of newer technology.

However, you can still turn a refund into a sales opportunity. Instead of simply processing the refund find out why the customer is returning the item. And when appropriate, make suggestions for different items or products that may be more suitable for that particular customer.

Plus, your refund policy can make a difference whether people buy from your store versus a competitor. My youngest daughter once asked a particular store if they would refund her money if the blouse she was buying did not match her pants. Unfortunately, the store said 'no' and my daughter took her business to a competitor because she didn't want to be stuck with a blouse that she wouldn't wear.

Refunds are a fact of life in retail. How you deal with them makes a difference.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Don't Fall Short

I received this advice from a retail consultant and thought you would appreciate it.

The demands of the holiday season can occasionally keep us from performing some of the services and elements of the customer experience that are standard operating procedure during the rest of the year. Maybe the store traffic is too high or the holiday customer just isn’t interested in a particular element. Take serving warm cider. A store that serves its customers warm cider throughout the winter may choose to not do so on last two weekends before Christmas. The store may find that the especially heavy traffic resulted in too many spilled drinks.

But there could be even a more important reason to stop offering the free cider. If the store was unable to keep up with the demand for the cider, the empty cider container would result in disappointed customers. Remember: Failing to fully execute a key element of your customer experience is worse than not offering it all. It’s true. Falling short is worse than not offering it all.

Here’s an example. I recently brought my car to one of those speedy oil change places. In the corner of the waiting room was a nice fixture with a sign above it that read “Complimentary gourmet coffee.” Unfortunately the fixture was bare except for some cups. Having a cup of coffee wouldn’t have even crossed my mind if the sign and fixture wasn’t there. But because there were visual cues that I should have gotten a free cup of coffee, I felt that I hadn’t received the full value of doing business with this company. And if they couldn’t keep up with a coffeepot, might they also be missing a few steps while working on my car? Falling short of executing a key element of your customer experience is worse than not offering it all.

A greeter who ignores customers is worse than no greeter at all. Having big rolls of wrapping paper in full view of the customer but not offering to gift wrap a customer’s purchase is worse than not offering gift wrapping at all. An empty candy dish is worse than never giving out candy. I think one could most definitely make a case that under-trained sales associates are worse than leaving customers on their own and just having cashiers to ring up purchases. Falling short of executing a key element of your customer experience is worse than not offering it all.

This isn’t just a seasonal issue, either. You see it in stores all of the time. You’ll see an empty brochure rack, or signs that read “No tipping for carryout service” but no one offers to carry out your purchase. Falling short of executing a key element of your customer experience is worse than not offering it all.

So let me ask, are there any changes you need to make to your store this holiday or going forward to ensure that you’re delivering on all of the elements of the customer experience?

Source: Doug Fleener


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Types of Shoppers

In this weekends newspaper, I read an interesting article about 6 different types of shoppers. Here is a quick overview of them:

The Return Artist
This person buys things to feel good. When she gets home she realizes she doesn't need the items so she brings them back.

The Ditherer
This individual has a difficult time making up his mind for a variety of reasons. Sometimes he is concerned he is paying too much, or he is afraid of making a poor buying decision.

The Impulsive
As the name suggests, this person makes impulse buying decisions, and not only for minor purchases. They may not need the item but they have a difficult time saying no.

The Tire Kicker
We've all experienced this person. Shopping is the hobby for this person, not the act of buying. She will try on designer clothes and test drive a luxury vehicle but have no intention of making a buying decision.

The Anti-Shopper
This person thinks shopping is trivial, frivolous and a waste of time. They typically enter a store with the intent to buy a specific item(s) and will not usually buy additional products.

The Junk Junkie
This individual is obsessed with sales and love the art of the deal. . They often shop in secondhand stores, seldoming pay full price for items.

As retailers, it is important to recognize each type of shopper and adapt your approach accordingly in order to get the most from each shopper. I haven't done much research in this area yet, but I have learned a thing or two about selling to different genders and have outlined these strategies in my book.

Source: Toronto Star, Saturday November 11, 2006


Friday, October 27, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Ask for the Sale

A national business magazine recently conducted a test of airline call centres. Among other things, they rated;

- the length of time spent on hold
- the friendliness of the agent
- how quickly the transaction was processed
- if the agent tried to close the sale

Not surprisingly, most agents did NOT make an attempt to close the sale after they had provided the information to the caller. This is a common mistake that many retailers fall prey to as well.

Most front-line staff are not taught how to ask a customer for their business. The majority of retail sales staff I talk to, tell me that they don't want to come across as pushy or that they don't want to upset the customer. Yet, if they were taught how to ask for a sale in a professional manner, the store's sales will increase--instantly!

Asking for the sale does not mean you have be aggressive, rude or pushy. If you have followed the rest of the sales process properly, you have earned the right to ask for the sale. And many of your customers expect it.

Learn how to do this by reading my book. Read the first two chapter for free here.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Are Policies Hurting Your Business?

A customer’s purchase is overcharged by $10.00. The store policy is clear… “No cash refunds” so the sales associate refuses to issue the refund even though the mistake was hers. The customer was told he would have to accept a store credit or wait for a cheque to be issued by head office.

A customer wants to exchange a sale item she bought three hours earlier but the store policy states, “All sales are final.” The employee adamantly refuses to exchange the item for the customer.

What is the likelihood that these customers will buy from those stores again? As a customer, do you like being told, “That’s our policy?” I highly doubt it.

We all know that policies are instituted for a reason – to protect the company and reduce their liability. However, in many situations, policies are put into place to manage a tiny portion of the business – people who look for ways to exploit your business or who try to get something for nothing. Unfortunately, these policies are designed to control the minority rather than the majority.

There is no question that some people will take advantage of liberal and flexibly policies. However, my experience has taught me that these individuals are far and few between. Case in point; when I published my first book, I offered an unconditional money-back guarantee to anyone who did not feel the concepts would help them improve their business. My publisher was distraught about this decision, telling me that I was setting myself to be taken advantage of. Later, I extended this policy to the products I started selling on-line. In the last 4 years I have sold over 7000 copies of my book and many thousand of dollars of other products but I have only issued 2 refunds. Was the risk worth the reward? Absolutely!

Here is another example. One of my first clients expressed concern about doing business with an unknown vendor (me). When she asked what would happen if she wasn’t satisfied with the program I was going to develop for her, I told her that she wouldn’t pay. I even agreed to include this in my contract with her. Her company is still a client, almost four years later.
Here is something else to consider. When your policies change – which is not uncommon in today’s business world – don’t force existing customers to adhere to the new policy. At the very least give them an grace period to help them adjust to the new procedures.

The easier you make it for someone to do business with you, the more business they will generate, providing of course, you offer a good product at a fair price. I firmly believe that flexible policies can help a business gain more market share.

Many people are hesitant to do business with someone they have not purchased from in the past. And for good reason, they have been sold goods and services that have not lived up to their expectations. Reduce their concern and hesitation by making it easy and risk-free to buy from you. Evaluate the policies you have implemented over the years and look at them from a customer’s perspective. They may be costing you business.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Make the Most of Christmas

I know Christmas is still 2 1/2 months aways but for most retailers, this is the make or break season of their year. If you are a specialty retailer who experiences a huge upswing in business during this time of year, here is a tip to increase your sales even more.

Contact your regular customers now and invite them to make their Christmas purchase(s) early. You can tell them that you will be able to spend more time with them before the December crunch hits. You can also remind them that inventory levels are better during late October and early November which means they are more likely to find the items they need. Some customers might express concern about Christmas sales and specials. Consider making these specials available to them--if they come in early.

This approach not only shows your customers that you are thinking about them, it gets them in your store BEFORE the real Christmas crunch. This also means that you can increase your October and November sales and free up your time in December to deal with all the walk-in traffic.

While you're thinking about Christmas, consider buying your employees a copy of my book, "Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to turn Browsers into Buyers". You can read the first two chapters here.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Avoid the Under Sell

Long-time subscribers of my weekly newsletter may know that I used to be an avid runner, having completed a couple of marathons and several other running events. I am now getting back into the sport and need a new watch with a few specific features.

I ventured into one store and briefly explained what I was looking for. Much to my surprise, the first—and only question—the sales associate asked was, “How much do you want to spend?” Until that point, I hadn’t thought too much about my budget—I was more concerned with finding something to meet my specific needs. However, without thinking, I blurted out “As little as possible” and she immediately showed me a basic watch with the features I wanted.

After leaving the store, I couldn’t help but think that she short-changed the sale by focusing strictly on price. If she had asked me a couple of questions about my running regime, habits, goals and objectives, it is very possible that she could have recommended a more expensive watch. While I never recommend that you sell people goods and services that they don’t need or want, I believe it’s important not to under-sell either. Most people will spend more if they are given the opportunity.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Be Quick!

As I wandered through a local farmers market last weekend I noticed 2 different approaches used by the vendors. In some cases, the farmer simply stood behind his display and waited for people to approach his/her stand to make a purchase. However, other vendors, were very active in generating attention AND sales.

Two vendors stood out among the dozens of stands selling everything from fruits and vegetables to fresh bread to clothing. In both cases, the people working the stand was actively seeking people out. They were quick to acknowledge customers and extremely upbeat and energetic. Plus, they actual sold their goods, each in their own manner.

One person had a well-rehearsed infomercial developed that he recited as he demonstrated his product. Another used descriptive words to tell people how fresh his produce was and he created a sense of urgency. In both cases, the vendors kep their eyes open and continually watched the people at their stand so they could process every sale fast.

They didn't make people wait. They didn't wait for customer to approach them. They didn't waste any time capitalizing on every sales opportunity. They had a constant flow of people and I'm sure they both generated significant sales during the day.

How does this apply to a typical retail environment?

Don't wait for your customers to approach you with a question. Take the initiative and be proactive. Talk to your customers. Ask them questions. find out what they're looking and help them make a buying decision.

Read the first two chapters of my retail sales book.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Invest in Your People

Running a retail operation is extremely challenging. Increase competition. Margins that get smaller and smaller every year. And dealing with employee turnover.

One of the best investments you can make is to make the time and effort to properly train your staff. I am constantly surprised how many well-known retailers DO NOT invest time or resources in the development of their staff. Yet, this is often one of the most commonly-cited reasons people leave their job in favour of another.

Some retailers state that the primary reason they DON'T provide adequate training is because they'll just lose thay employee to a competitor. While that may be true, you stand a greater chance of keeping that employee longer, when you invest in their development.

Most retailer want to improve their average sale per transaction but are not willing to invest anything to achieve this goal. I guess they think it will just happen on its own. I won't dispute that training takes time AND money. But so does recruiting new employees every several weeks or couple of months.

Whe you invest time and resources into the training and development of your staff, you show them that you value them. And when people know that you care about them, they'll start to care about you.

Got an opinion about this? I'd love to hear it (even if you disagree with me!!).


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Retail Sales Training- What Happened to Respect?

Most grocery stores have an express lane; in fact, some stores now have two different express lanes (1-8 items and 1-16 items). However, when was the last time they actually enforced this guideline?

I get tired of standing in line behind someone who decided to use one of these checkout lanes even though they were well over the number of items. But what really frustrates me, is that no one in the grocery store EVER says anything to these individual's which means the stores actually condition people to ignore the restriction. I usually make it a point to mention the item restriction to people who abuse the system, and more often than not, I'm told to mind my own business.

The same holds true for handicapped or invalid parking spots. I think it's intolerable that healthy and fit people use these spots because they're too lazy to walk the extra steps. Yet, I have NEVER seen anyone get a ticket for parking in one of these spots. I wish retailers AND mall landlords would monitor the use of these spots and IMMEDIATELY ticket and tag, or better yet, tow unauthorized vehicles. But, they're too concerned about possible repercussions. they feel that by making these spaces available--which is required by law anyway--that they have done their duty.

It's time for everyone to speak up. When you see someone disregarding laws and rules like this, you need to stand up and say something to that person. Teach them that their disrespect for other people isn't going un-noticed.

Just once, I'd like to see a cashier or a supervisor tell a customer to pack up their shopping cart and move to the proper line. As a retail employee, manager, or owner, you can improve your business by refusing to allow people to take advantage of these restrictions. Will you take some heat for it? Perhaps. And it will also take courage. But you will also gain a tremendous amount of respect from your other customers.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Retail Sales Training- Be Proactive

Most retailers tend to be reactive versus proactive., especially when it comes to selling. Even though their existence depends on increasing their revenue, very few take a proactive approach to selling. The exceptions tend to be stores that pay strictly on commission where you end up with aggressive sales people who care only about closing the sale. There is a better way...

A proactive approach does not mean you need to be aggressive. It doesn't mean you try and sell people products and services that you don't need or want. And it doesn't mean you have to pay only on commission.

The key is to help your team realize that when they take the initiative and approach customers in the store they are actually being helpful. They don't have to pounce on customers; in fact, allowing people time to become comfortable in the store is important. Being proactive means taking the initiative to find out what customers are looking for. In certain stores--department, general merchandise, drug stores, etc. this approach isn't necessary. However, in the majority of other retail environments, it can speed up the sales process and improve the level of service your customer's receive.

When you or your team approaches someone, your primary objective is to find out what they are looking for, what they need, and why they want/need that particular item/product. This means asking them a couple of questions, preferably open-ended and listening to their response. The challenge with this approach is that most retail sales associates don't want to appear rude or pushy. Providing they approach the customer with a freindly smile and a genuine interest in helping them, this won't be an issue.

This simple step can make a signifigant difference in your sales because it will give you the opportunity to make recommendations and suggestions. This is another topic which I will address in a future post.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Retail Sales Training - How Long is the Line?

One of my pet peeves in a retail store is waiting in line to pay for my purchase, especially if there are several cash lanes that are unattended.

A new drug store was built close to my home a couple of years ago. They installed 4 cash counters which I thought was great. However, it is rare that they have more than one or two people working these cash lanes. Today, for example, at 4:00 P.M. on a Saturday, they had one cash open while the line up continued to build. At one point there were more than 8 people in line waiting to pay for their purchases.

As a I left the store--without making a purchase--I expressed my frustration to the cashier only to be told that they were in the middle of a shift change and if I would just wait a few minutes someone would eventually help me. I took my business to their competiton across the street!

I can accept a line up when all the cash counters are open and I know that scheduling is challenging in retail. However, if this is a reoccurence in your store then you need to take a serious look at it because many people will eventually take their business elsewhere.


Retail Sales Training- The Discounting Game

Listen to this tip here:

Virtually everyone who sells for a living is faced the dilemma of discounting from time-to-time in order to close a deal. However, it is critical to look at this wisely.

I once spoke to retail owner who sold her products at cost to one customer just to prevent him from going to the competition. She mistakenly believed that this person would eventually pay full price for her products down the road. My perspective is that it would be more profitable for her to let that customer go and take his business to the competitor.

A friend of mine was asked to do a presentation for much less than his standard fee. Even though he did not have anything booked on that particular day, and given the short notice, it was unlikely his calendar would fill up on the day in question, he resisted the temptation to discount his fee because he knew the value of his presentation to the company who had contacted him.

You won’t do business with everyone that contacts you. And severe discounting is seldom the best long- term answer. Here is the best rule of thumb to follow: if you don’t feel comfortable with the discount learn to let go of the sale.

If you face constant requests to discount your products or services then you should attend my upcoming tele-seminar series, Negotiate Like a Pro.

This 4-module series offers practical advice that will help you manage these requests much more effectively. You will feel more confident negotiating with price buyers. You will sell your products/services for a higher price. And you will feel better about yourself.

If you want to win more of your negotiations, then check it out right now. This program starts in less than 10 days so you have to act quickly. Don't wait. Register today.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Service is King

You can listen to this tip here...

Some friends of mine are in the process of creating a garden in their backyard so they visited a local garden centre to buy some plants and shrubs. They approached an employee and asked where they could find a particular plant and the employee gestured vaguely to a section of the store. My friend asked about a shrub and received this exasperated reply when the employee noticed her list, “You want me to help you find everything? That will take me all day.” Needless to say, my friends decided NOT to spend their money at the particular store.

They drove a few blocks to a competitor and were greeted by a friendly employee who gave them all the information they needed to make an educated buying decision. Even though the plants were more expensive, they chose to buy everything at this particular store and ended up spending about $2,000.

People in my workshops often believe that price is the primary motivating factor in someone’s buying decision. However, more often than not, it’s the service you, your employees, or your company provides to your customers that influences their decision to buy from you rather a competitor. This is applicable for both retailers and people who sell B2B.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Never Do This!

I came across this tip in another newsletter ( and thought it delivered a great message.

“My wife and I were out shopping for a graduation gift for our niece. We found an attractive ladies sport watch and decided to buy it. After I told the clerk that we wanted to take the watch, the clerk violated one of the never-do principles of selling... he volunteered a discount! Please note: I did not ask for a discount. But, without blinking, he gave us 30% off of the retail price. This prompted my curiosity. I wanted to see how much more I could get if I did a little bit of work. So, I went into the role of the recalcitrant customer who is having second thoughts.

“I told the salesman that we wanted to look at some other stores in the mall before we made our final decision. He responded by taking another 20% off. That's a 50% discount in less than 30 seconds! Now, I was really curious to see how far I could get him to go before he threw up his hands and asked us to leave the store.

“I continued to press the sales rep and, every time I stalled, offered an objection or gave him some indication that I may not be ready to make the decision, he responded with a discount. I finally walked out of the store with the watch in my hand, having paid only 35% of the listed price!”

What is the lesson for business-to-business salespeople? Never, ever, under any circumstances, volunteer a discount before a prospect has indicated a real hardship associated with paying the price that you are asking. Written by Gil Cargill –

My comments: This reinforces the issue that sales people are often guilty of bringing up price objections. I remember talking to a sales person years ago after he had presented an idea to me. When I told him I planned to use another vendor he asked, "Was it my price?" I found this particularly interesting because we had NEVER discussed the price of his product!

Avoid this mistake and don't assume that price is the only reason make a buying decision.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Retail Sales Training - The Power of Positive Contact

Imagine walking into a business and upon asking the employee working behind the counter how his day has been, you hear, “Do you really want to know?” delivered in a sarcastic manner. Now picture this same person complaining about the amount of paperwork he has to complete.

Would you be inclined to do business with this company? Highly unlikely.

As a business owner or manager, you are probably shaking your head and thinking this could never happen in your company. Think again! I experienced this situation a few months ago when I was looking for a replacement battery for my cordless telephone.

These types of situations happen in an instant. And in those few moments of time a customer is potentially lost. Every moment of contact you and your team have with your customers either reinforces their loyalty and confirms their decision to do business with you or causes them to consider taking their business to one of your competitors.

Obviously, you cannot monitor every comment made by your employees every moment of every business day. However, you can reduce the possibility of this happening by following a few strategies.

First, you must lead by example. Your employees pay careful attention to how you treat customers, suppliers, and their coworkers. Actions always speak louder than words. You can tell your team to treat customers with respect and dignity but if you occasionally snap at a customer or show your frustration on a regular basis, your behaviour will ultimately influence the way your employees interact with your customers. This is particularly challenging because owners and managers must wear so many hats and deal with a variety of situations at any given time.

The second strategy is to hire the right people. We tend to hire people based on technical ability, yet we frequently let them go because of their inability to interact well with our customers or other employees. You can teach almost anyone “how” to do something providing they possess the desire to learn. However, it is extremely difficult to teach customer service skills to individuals who do not possess interpersonal skills.

Rather than focus on their job experience during an interview, direct your attention to how they have handled specific situations in the past. Ask behavioural style questions to determine their ability to manage challenging customers or deal with stressful situations. Here are a few examples;

“Describe a situation when you had to deal with a challenging customer.”
“Tell me how you manage several tasks at a time.”
“Explain what customer service means to you? How do you ensure that you deliver good service?”

Questions such as these will help you determine if the individual you are considering for the position possesses the necessary skills to represent your business in a positive manner.

The third strategy is to create a positive work environment. My wife and I generally buy our groceries at two or three different stores. At one store, a manager or supervisor is constantly “prowls” in front of the cash terminals taking notes on a clipboard. They seldom smile or talk to the cashiers unless they are giving instructions. In fact, based on their facial expressions, it appears that the managers always seem to be dealing with some crisis or problem. The employees in the store rarely speak to their customers and most give the appearance that they would rather be someplace else.

Compare that environment to the other two stores where all the employees smile and talk to the customers. Cashiers willingly help each other when they are not busy or do not have customers in line. Other employees in the store make eye contact and smile as well. There is a good feeling in the store and the shopping experience is enjoyable. The impact of the management team’s approach is visible - the first store is constantly advertising for staff while the other two stores have very little turnover.

The final strategy is to help your team understand the impact their actions have on the well-being of the business. It is not uncommon for employees to discuss their personal problems with each other at work. However, more often than not, this is done within earshot of customers. Customers have enough problems of their own – they don’t want to hear employees griping about their concerns.

The most effective way to get this point across is to ask your team members when they have experienced negative behaviour by an employee of a business. There is a strong chance that everyone will be able to recall a situation. Ask them to share how this experience influenced their decision to do business with that particular company. Then ask them to think of a time when a similar situation may have occurred in your business. Finally, ask them to brainstorm ideas how they can prevent these situations from arising again. This will help them fully understand the impact of their actions.

Every contact with a customer affects your business. Help your team learn the impact of positive contact.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Retail Sales Training - "Just Looking"

This is an exerpt from Kelley'r best-selling book, "Stop, Ask & Listen." Read the first two chapter free at Stop, Ask, & Listen.

Regardless of your work in retail, what type of store you manage, or operate, you’ve no doubt heard these two words more times that you care to remember. Over the years, I have come to understand just how much these words annoy, frustrate, and aggravate sales people. This frustration is magnified when situations like this occur: A customer enters your store, you greet them, and they respond with the standard “just looking”. Two or three seconds later they ask, “Do you have…?” You check yourself, containing your potentially caustic, sarcastic reply. Why is it that consumers say this?

First, it is a conditioned response. Years of shopping and dealing with sales people has caused consumers to say blurt out this phrase reflexively. We know from our experience that buyer will respond with this even when they’ve been asked a question such as “How’s the weather today?” We must understand and accept that this response is simply a conditioned response.

The second reason people say this is that until they actually buy something, they are just looking. They have not yet made a decision, they haven’t agreed to purchase anything, nor have they taken out their wallets and handed over their cash or credit card. They are just looking!

Here are two tips on how you can overcome the “just looking” response.

1. Use humor. When people enter our stores they are often apprehensive. If we can create an opportunity for them to smile or laugh we will help them become comfortable. It is physiologically impossible for someone to remain tense when they are smiling or laughing. Responses such as:

“You picked a great day to look. It’s 50% cheaper today than it was yesterday.”
“Feel free. It’s one of the few things that the government hasn’t been able to tax yet.”

When stated in a positive, non-condescending manner, these replies can disarm the customer’s natural tendency to be defensive. Using a humorous response can be the perfect icebreaker to help get the sale moving without making the customer feel threatened.

2. Vary your greeting. Let’s take a moment and view the shopping from the customer’s perspective for a moment. We’ve been in a busy mall shopping for several. We’ve been into countless stores and in most of them have been greeted in a similar fashion:

“Hi, how are you today?”
“Hi, how’s it going?”

Is it any wonder we receive a conditioned response? Vary your greetings with all of your customers, differentiate yourself from all the others stores in your mall, separate yourself from the competition.

“You look like you’re on a mission. What can I do to help?”
“That’s an amazing picture on that TV isn’t it?”
“These beds are great for having pillow fights!”

By varying your greeting when you first approach the customer you can give them reason not to respond with the conditioned response.

These two techniques are simple and easy to use. Yet, they are also very effective. They will help you to break out of the habitual greetings you generally use. Try them, work them into your natural style, and incorporate them into your presentation. And don’t allow that conditioned response to distract you from the real issue at hand…taking care of your customer!

Learn more retail sales strategies by going here

Find out how to create a world class retail team at


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Get the Sale, Lose the Customer

Click on the link to listen to this sales tip...

I find it fascinating that some companies think that it is more important to take advantage of every sales opportunity without thinking of the consequence of their actions. Here’s an example,
A few weeks after returning my leased car to the dealership, I received a bill that included an “excessive wear and tear” charge for a very minor scrape on the bumper. I paid the $425 charge but vowed to never, ever buy or lease a vehicle from that manufacturer again. Considering that I lease two new vehicles every four years, this translates into at least 14 vehicles I will lease or buy over the next 30 years. This means the company sacrificed $324,000 in potential revenue in order to capture a $425 sale.

In a retail environment, it is not uncommon for a store to ‘push’ a particular product because they have an excess of inventory or because it will soon be discontinued. Too many sales people focus on the short-term sale without considering the long-term impact of their actions and this short-sightedness costs them market share. Don’t nickel and dime your customers, it will only cost you money.

Read the first two chapters of my retail sales book at...


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Would You Like Fries With That?

In today’s competitive retail environment, sales and profitability are on-going concerns with many, if not most, retailers. Shareholder and/or corporate expectations of a healthy return on investment and consumer demands for lower prices appear to be diametrically opposed. There is, however, a way to survive the pressure from these demands.

Sell more add-ons or accessories.

This may appear to be a simplistic approach, but the truth is that most retailers leave thousands of dollars lying on the counter because their employees neglect to actively sell additional high margin items. These items contribute immediately to top end sales and bottom line profitability.
Both employees and managers have excuses why they don’t capitalize on this sales opportunity:

Employees say...
“I don’t have time.”
“Customers will tell me if they want anything else.”
“I’m concerned customers will think I’m being pushy.”
“I’m afraid of losing the sale.” (Particularly for commissioned sales people)
“I don’t get paid commissions so why bother?”

Managers tell me...
“Most of my employees are teenagers and they don’t care.”
“My store is too busy.”
“I’m constantly short-staffed so everyone is overworked.”
“I don’t have time to train my staff.”

I’ll reference McDonald’s, the burger giant, to address some of these excuses:

“I don’t have time.”
When the counter person states “Would you like fries with that?” it takes exactly 1.4 seconds. Suggesting add-ons does NOT take much extra time particularly when you consider the potential payoff.

“I don’t get paid commissions…”
You or your employee(s) may not make commission; neither does the counter person at McDonalds.

“Most of my employees are teenagers and they don’t care.”
What is the average age of a counter person at McDonald’s? Sixteen? Seventeen? If they can do why can’t you?
“My store is too busy.”
See response to “I don’t have time.”

“I’m constantly short-staffed so everyone is overworked.”
See response to “I don’t have time.”

Now, let me deal with the remaining objections by relating some personal experiences.

“Customers will tell me if they want anything else.”
When my wife and I bought our first computer we could hardly wait to get home and set it up. However, when I went to plug in the last power cord I was lacking a receptacle. I needed a power bar. This didn’t even cross my mind when I was in the computer store but if the salesperson had suggested it I would have bought one.

“I’m concerned customers will think I’m being pushy.”
Several years ago I was shopping for new suits. The sales staff brought me shirts, ties and socks to compliment my suits. When I left the store I was excited because I knew I had several combinations of suits, shirts and ties to wear. Not once did I feel that the sales people were pushing me into buying something I didn’t want or need.

“I’m afraid of losing the sale.”
In the example above, I didn’t even consider NOT buying the suits because the sale people were assertively accessorizing. I wanted and needed the suits and I had already invested a significant amount of time in the process.

“I don’t have time to train my staff.”
Training does take time and time is a critical issue in the retail environment. Neglecting your team’s development however, means that you are exposing yourself to higher turnover, loss of revenue, and increased stress.

Do yourself a favor, teach your staff the importance of upselling and incorporate suggestive selling into the routine of everyone on your team. Execute consistently and watch your sales and profitability increase!

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Read the first two chapters of my retail sales book at:


Monday, April 17, 2006

Retail Sales Tip - Are Policies Killing Your Business?

I'm constantly underwhelmed by retailers who make it difficult to do business with them. Here's an example;

A lady buys a sweater and shortly after leaving the store she notices that the sales associate had over-charged her for it. She immediately returned to the store to ask for a refund only to be told that all refunds had to be issued by check by their head office. Even though the employee made the mistake, she refered to the company policy and refused to give the customer the amount she had been overcharged!

Here's another example...

My teenage daughter was looking for a new top to wear with a specific pair of pants. Unfortunately, she did not bring the pants with her when she went shopping. After venturing into several stores, she eventually came across two tops she really liked. Her only concern was whether or not they would match and fit well with her pants. When she asked about the store's return policy she was told that a refund could not be given - instead they would issue a credit note. My daughter is a university student which means that money is pretty tight so she was reluctant to spend her hard-earned cash if she couldn't bring the items back. It's not like she planned to wear the tops once or twice and return them - which is known to happen in retail. She was a serious buyer. However, because of the store's policy she chose to continue shopping. That particular store lost at least $100 in revenue that day because of their policy.

I recognize that retailers face a multitude of challenges and that consumers are more difficult to please than ever before. But let's face it, sometimes policies need to be bent because of the situation or circumstances. Far too often, companies create policies to protect themselves from the minority of customer rather than making it easy for the majority of people to buy from them.

Examine your policies and make sure they're not costing YOU business.


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