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The Master’s Technique

Observations of a master salesperson

In every arena of retail, there are single location retailers, retailers that have multiple locations, and chain stores, each competing for the dollar of the consumer. Whenever the independents gather for a trade show, convention, or other industry event, the conversation often covers many points, one of which is traditionally competition between the various types of businesses.

How does an independent compete?  Rarely does the single location or multiple location independent have the best location, the larger business, or the support from a corporation that can provide many of the advertising and merchandising support and research that is crucial to a business. For most independent retailers, the opportunity to be the number one retailer within a trade area is not often found.

The chain store, whether they are a discount, warehouse, big box store, or simply a "known name" store, has taken that position in most markets. Too often, when visiting with these independent retailers, we hear comments that indicate acceptance of being an "also-ran", or being relegated to receiving sales that are leftover from the competition.  These "leftover" sales come from customers that are simply loyal, dislike a chain store, or find the independent business to be more convenient.

Recently, I had the occasion to travel through our city on one of the major downtown streets.  We had purchased a car that was equipped with a compact disc player.  I always kept a couple of favorite cassettes in the car that I previously drove, but now without a tape player in the new car, these tapes were relegated to the home.

Having a few minutes to spend, I remembered a single location store that in previous years had done quite a bit of advertising.  I went into the store and found my way to the type of music I was looking for.  I noticed there were two people that worked in the store, but I don't think they noticed me even though I was the only customer in the building.  Even when I had made my choice of one compact disc, I had to walk to the back of the store to get their attention.

"Do you want me to ring that up for you?” one of them asked. Other than telling me the amount of the purchase, that was my only conversation with either of the employees. As I drove down the same street, I saw a second store.  From the appearance of the exterior, you would strongly suspect that it was not a chain store.  I decided to stop and see what they had to offer.  As I walked through the small store, one person that was stocking the bins looked at me and said hello.

As I looked through the selection and wandered from aisle to aisle, I was approached by one of the employees.  "What type of music do you like?” was the question asked of me.  And upon giving an answer, I was engaged in a conversation about music. "You may not know that we have used compact discs and I have a group of your type of music that was just traded in.  Let me show them to you." 

And from there the conversation continued.  Within a few minutes, this salesperson showed a most rare, yet most powerful techniques for marketing a business:  "My name is Walt.  I own this shop, and that person over there is John.  He is my store manager." How many times has this ever happened to you?  If you are like most of us, having a person take the time to introduce himself or herself to you is quite rare.

Just as there are two types of stores; those that have the name, location, and image, and those that do not have the advantages, there are those that have the advantage of exceptional customer service and those that do not. Within the stores that have the customer service advantage, you can find sales help that give quality and friendly service.  Within those that have this rare and most desired customer service trait, you will find a manager or an owner that loves their job and their customers.

So, what is the secret?  The first part has already been mentioned:  loving the job.  As has been said, "Any job is great, when greatly pursued." The second aspect of the customer service formula is to find employees that share that same type of customer service enjoyment. The third ingredient required is that there is an ongoing training program so that all of the employees are able to offer knowledge and assistance to the customers.  The final ingredient is incentive.  Each successful business needs a system of rewarding their employees.  It can be through monetary means as well as recognition.  The key is that the business shows its' appreciation to those receiving the recognition in front of employees not receiving recognition, as well as letting the customers know superb salesmanship is rewarded.

This demonstrates that quality customer assistance is alive and well within this business.  The other payoff is that businesses that demonstrate this high level of customer service are likely to have fewer turnovers than their "self service" counterparts. Add this to the information stating the cost of training a new employee and getting them up to speed is equal to four to six months of pay, you now have many reasons for becoming one of these businesses.

Other than the numbers supporting what Walt is doing, my suspicion is that he just enjoys what he is doing.  And no favorable location, advertising, or image can ever match his efforts.

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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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