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Making the Extra Effort for Sales

Keeping the customer in the fold

This past winter, our family had the opportunity to take a vacation and travel to the north. And, as has been my experience on many of our trips to visit family, there is a relative waiting to talk. As they know that I work with retailers every day, there are usually questions in regards to being able to find a product, or a comment about shopping experiences with sales people within a particular store.

The last experience was an uncle telling about their experience in locating a jacket that was mentioned during a television program. As is often the case with these situations, the relative is not sure if they have correctly written down the necessary information. But, regardless of the information on hand, the customer is expecting that they have enough information to make a purchase.

After being enlisted to perform this shopping excursion, I always begin my search by checking the yellow pages to see which stores promote themselves. I also examine the stack of newspapers that everyone has at their home to see which stores have advertised in the paper or with a direct mail piece.

I always want to have the chance to look at the stores that promote. Experience has shown that the more progressive stores in advertising and promotion are most likely to have the newest products.

It seems that there are many stores that fall into one of two categories. The first group does a good job of taking care of the business in their community. Their sales people make the necessary effort to sell the merchandise that the customer needs. When you come into their store, someone is polite, asks what you need help with, will walk you to where the item you want is located, answer questions and finally, will direct you to the register. These stores know their stock. And when most people have experienced these stores, the customers have been pleased with the service. The sales help will even be very helpful to steer you to another store that may stock the item that they do not have. There just is not a whole lot to complain about in this type of store. Or, at least from the standpoint of being a customer. My concern from this type of experience is for the position of the owner.

Perhaps in many episodes as a customer, I was asking for an item that is rarely asked for. But without a solution to my request, most definitely the money and the customer goes somewhere else.

Unfortunately, I have found that these stores are not too creative in their efforts to make a sale. Experience has shown that the answer in this type of store is a polite but short, "No, we don't have that item. Try the store down the street." The lesson that I have learned from these experiences deals with the need to make the extra effort to get the sale. And this is where the second group of merchants demonstrate their superiority.

There are two basic questions that you can ask a customer when they come into your store looking for an item. And regardless of the circumstances, you will have an opportunity to complete a sale. Let's take for example the person that knows the correct maker and the name of model of the jacket.

Instead of sending the customer down the street when you do not have that particular jacket, you can ask the customer what it was that attracted them to the jacket. The customer will probably explain that the jacket was mentioned on a television or radio program and they want it for the opening of hunting season next month.

The response that opens the door for a sale is one in which your sales person explains that the buyer for your store has selected another jacket for the same purpose. Giving further details of the jacket that is stocked in your store, allows the customer the opportunity to examine the jacket, try it on, and make a decision towards making a purchase.

One important point is that the jacket that was originally requested should never have any negative comments made about it. Your store has simply decided to stock a different jacket and you are showing it to the customer. The second question comes into usage when the customer is unable to give the identifying information about the jacket. And when your sales person is unable to determine the answer, the best open ended question is to ask, "What is it about the jacket that got your attention?"

As the customer explains when and where they are going hunting, your sales person can begin to determine what you stock that would be of value to this customer. This surely beats the traditional approach of telling the customer to go home, watch the program next week, and then return with the correct information.

The customer is ready to make a purchase today, and will probably ignore these instructions and travel to another store that will assist him.

The last idea is to show the customer something else. Some of our employees used to say that we were "introducing him to a new item" as compared to saying that we were trying to sell him something else.

Customers come into your store to buy. Today they may be looking, but they are planning to eventually make a purchase. It is up to you to decide if you want your store to be a member of the first group of stores, or one of the leading stores in this exclusive second group.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179