Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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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. You will probably remember seeing one or more of the good guys riding up to a building, 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 title, "They went that a-way".  And with that bit of information, the good guys 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.

From numerous shopping trips, it is easy to believe that many of the sales help we experience in stores have watched the same movies. Why? Because as we go into the stores and ask about the availability of a product, we often experience the same 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 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 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.

In a computer, the situation is referred to as "multi-tasking". The same is true in retailing. One is stocking a shelf as the phone rings. The person quickly makes sure no products are sitting in the aisle way, and then moves 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."

The 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. In our second scenario, 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 questions. The customer tells why they selected the item they have asked for. Our sales person explains to the customer that while the item they asked for is popular, the sales person would like to suggest a different item that could better suit the customer’s needs. With that, the sales person hands the customer the suggested item. The customer says, "I'll take it".

Our sales person responds with, "Is one enough, or would two be better?"

What we have just witnessed is a customer who walked in the door wanting to spend a few dollars, and instead leaves with multiple items that better suit their needs. The great point of this exchange is that the customer is going to tell his friends about this great person working at the local business. And after they hear about the great experience, we know where everyone who heard the story went; they went that a-way!

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

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