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They Went That a-way

Basics of helping customers in your business

The title of this article is also a line that was repeated in many western movies as well as shows such as Gunsmoke. You will probably remember seeing one or more of the good guys riding up to a house or way station, and asking the locals about their having seen the bad guys and the direction they were going. The local would think for a moment, point to a certain direction and then say the famous line. Hence the title, "They went that a-way". And with that bit of information, someone like Marshall Dillon went on their way in the direction they had just been pointed toward, looking for the bad guys. The locals would watch the good guys as they went in that direction as they continued their effort and search.

Because this writer spent many an evening sitting on the couch at his Grandmother's house watching westerns, he remembers hearing this line over and over - sometimes several times in the same show.

From numerous shopping trips in recent times, it is easy to believe that many of the sales help we experience in stores have watched the same shows. Why? Because as we go into the stores and ask a sales person about the availability of a product, we often witness the same type of scenario. The store staff will think a moment, and then say something like, "Yeah, we should have that."

And as they point in the appropriate direction, they will continue, "You might try over on aisle 14, and if not there try over on aisle 5."

The sales person will wait for your nod of approval, watch as you head into one of the two suggested destinations, and then return to whatever they were previously doing, thinking they had done their job and anticipating that you will get what you are looking for.

While this is repeated so often, in so many stores, there are two major problems with this type of experience. The most obvious is that the sales person, perhaps more appropriately referred to as a tour guide, does not have the opportunity to expose the customer to other products. The second problem is that the customer will most definitely not see this store as being any different from most of the other stores in the community; perhaps not any worse, but definitely not any better.

If this is a situation you have witnessed as you have shopped, or worse yet this is a situation that you know is occurring too often in your store, let's talk about the alternatives.

In a computer, the situation is referred to as "multi- tasking". In the early years of computers, you could work in one, and only one, software application. When you wanted to go from one to another, the first program had to be completely closed before the second program could be started.

Today, we all know those extra steps are unnecessary. The same is true in retailing. Those who are good at retailing know how to be stocking a shelf, and then hear the phone ring. They quickly make sure no products are sitting in the aisle way, and then move to answer the phone within the first couple of rings.

Of course, that is about the time the salesperson hears that distinctive sound of the front door opening, and a customer begins walking in. While still on the phone, the sales person gives a smile and wave to the customer. They probably even place their hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and say something to the customer like, "Good Morning. I will be right with you."

In retailing, this is multi-tasking. But, the key difference in our two examples is that this salesperson then spends quality time with the customer. If we have a salesperson performing in this manner, they are probably aware of several things. The first is that nearly 85% of consumers believe there is no difference between one store and another. So this unique behavior by our multi-tasking sales person is going a long way toward placing the business in that distinctive 15% of stores.

While stores go to great length to have unique logos, spend thousands of dollars for signs and displays, they still cannot break out of the 85% group. With an expense that is substantially less (the cost of having sales education classes for your staff), our example store and sales person have moved into that small and unique group. While we are not watching the conversation as the sales person and customer visit the appropriate displays of inventory, there are probably a couple of other things that are going to happen.

The first is that our salesperson is going to pick up an item and hold it out for the customer to take into their own hands. The second occurs when the customer decides to make the purchase, and the sales person asks this question, "Is one enough, or would two be better?"

The importance of these two occurrences? Each has been shown to make a double digit difference in sales. More than one in ten customers will take the suggestion and purchase the second product. And by having the customer hold the product, there is that double digit increase in sales of that product to the customer.

Probably our sales person is using another of those unique tactics; asking the question "Why?" Imagine a customer walking into this shop and asking for a can of WD-40. Our multi-tasking, in the 15% group, double digit sales increasing sales person asks what the can of WD-40 is going to be used for.

The answer is that the customer, new to the hobby of RC cars, wants the WD-40 to "fix" his car. And of course, our sales person invites the customer to talk about what kind of car they have as they walk to the appropriate shelf. With many stores, that can of WD-40 is one that has a very low margin because so many competitors are selling it at a discounted price.

Our sales person explains to the customer what will happen when the WD-40 gets on the electrical contacts. "So what should I use?", asks the customer. With that, the sales person hands the customer a can of electrical contact cleaner. The customer says, "I'll take it".

Our sales person responds with, "Is one enough, or would two be better?" And as the customer is handed a second can of electrical contact cleaner, our sales person follows up with the invitation to see cars that are of a quality better than what our customer currently owns.

What we have just witnessed is a customer who walked in the door wanting to spend something less than $2, and instead leaves with a new car and a couple of cans of spray. The great point of this exchange is that the customer is going to tell his friends about this great person working at the local hobby shop. And after they hear about the great experience, we know where everyone who heard the story went; they went that a-way!

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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