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!

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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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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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