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Solving Problems and Making Sales

Solving a customer's problem can increase sales

This writer remembers the Christmas when his parents gave him a starter set of a Lionel 027 train. And probably like most, the set was played with and packed away several times. Over the years, the set came out of the box less and less often.

However, there came a time when the train set came out of the box as the little boy was now the father. And the idea of a train set and building the track became much more than a two or three day interest.

As you might expect with this renewed interest, and after a long stay in the box, certain items did not function. Items that were previously put back in the box when they did not work were now examined with the intent of getting them to perform as they did originally.

As an adult, this renewed hobbyist sought out stores to help him fix these items as well as introduce him to new engines, transformers, track, cars, and accessories.

Probably your business does not sell model railroads, but the ideas we are about to discuss still apply to all in the nursery industry. Regardless of who your customer is, it is the manner in which we handle the customer with problem solving and new product purchases that really matters.

Hopefully, with each customer visiting your store, the person initially speaking to the customer is using a statement which is more original than, "Can I help you?"

We are talking to people who likely have a hobby of working in their yard or people that are landscapers. If they are passionate about their lawn, hopefully we can help them to more so enjoy the products we sell. A sentence or two which invites the customer to talk about their interests goes a long way to creating a relationship. If we are selling products and services based upon a relationship, then we are very different from any competitor. On the other hand, if we are selling based on price, then we are just like the majority of stores out there; who has the lowest price?

Looking at the customer coming into your business, they may wander about the chemicals and fertilizers if they are solving a problem. Or they may wander about the grounds if this is a landscaping job or if they are looking to add to the attractiveness of the yard.

In the chemical or fertilizer section, our customer is probably going to look for materials so that he can solve a problem or ensure that their landscaping continues to look its best.

If the job is too complicated, too expensive, too time consuming, or if the salesperson is discouraging in his remarks about the task at hand, the customer's attention will be turned.

You may think this is a good idea because you have a better than usual margin with your live goods. If the customer decides to think about his options and then visits a second garden center for another opinion, we may lose that customer if the salesperson provides a reassuring comment like, "There is no reason to dig up and throw those plants away. Give a little bit of time and effort, and I will be glad to show you how to get them back to as beautiful as ever."

Customers hearing comments like that are not too likely to return to the first shop. But, let's look at that initial visit from a different prospective. In addition to utilizing a dialogue similar to the one just given, let's look at what we could be selling our customer. He will need to start with a set of garden tools, and of course we will want to show him a brochure on plant care.

There is also any number of other products which a person would utilize to beautify a lawn. Add to this the likelihood that we are now developing a customer who sees our store as being "his garden center", and we can expect to see this customer return time and again. There is also a follow up touch we can offer which can cement the relationship. We have seen the occasional good sales person who will hand to the customer his business card with a statement of, "If you have any questions, don't hesitate to give me a call."

The extraordinary salesperson is the one who will follow that statement with a, "While we are at it, why don't you give me your address and phone number so I can keep an eye out for any of those other plants that would look good in your lawn. This salesperson will then make a point to call the customer within a couple of weeks just to see how he is doing with the fertilizers and chemicals we sold them.

There is some research material that shows a business taking the time to call customers that have not been in the store for a six month time period. After having called 100 customers to check up on them, the research showed that 16% would actually visit the store within two weeks because of the call.

Making the sale is great, and is a very important part of the success of a garden center. And making a point to solve the problem first can go a long way to giving that customer enough reasons to do all of his shopping in your store.

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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