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Jim Green's blog

For Sales Associates # 4

September 20, 2012

In this series, I have been identifying a few tricks, tips and truths which retail sales people might use to achieve the sometimes elusive ‘increase in sales'. My hope is that managers will use these as topics for group discussions with their associates. I would love to hear back from readers for feedback.


In ‘For Sales Associates #3', I spoke of the need on the part of sales people to understand that their objective is not necessarily to close the sale on the customer's initial visit but to recognize that the customer will likely aggressively shop the competition in their quest to find the best values. As I said, if the consumer can be sold the first time, that is great. The reality, though in today's furniture retailing environment is that this happens far less frequently than ever before. The objective then, in the event that the customer does leave the showroom without purchasing is to entice the potential buyer to come back after she/he has compared what the competition has to offer with what the store has to offer. This requires a sales strategy. In my view, to bring the customer back the sales person really has two avenues to explore with the potential buyer before she leaves the showroom.

First, without sounding like a canned speech, the consumer should leave the store with a complete understanding of why he or she should buy from this company. Things like longevity in the market, standing behind product, free or inexpensive services offered, in-stock merchandise, rapid delivery, etc. should be enthusiastically presented. I know the response of SOME readers will be: people only want to buy at the cheapest price and they don't care from whom. This may be, but discussions of the added value of buying from this store may just be the tie-breaker. After all, many stores sell $$399 sofas or $899 packages. From there a customer may just buy from the company that has the most to offer in other areas, that offers more added value by doing business there. (Message to management: you might want to help this along a bit by defining for your sales associates the reasons YOU feel a customer would benefit by buying from your company; and if you can't come up with any, you might want to do a little rethinking.

Secondly, the sales associate must provide enough information about the merchandise; information that somehow benefits the customer to lure them back. The FAB approach to selling has been around for a very long time. It is certainly nothing new. Many sales people have learned the techniques in this type of selling and it can help accomplish the goal of bringing the customer back.

Simply described, the approach is as follows. First, the merchandise being presented may have certain features that distinguish it from other like merchandise. A sofa may have a different type of springing, for example. Now some features may not provide an advantage. That type of springing could just be another way to do the same thing which provides no advantage. If this is the case, there is no reason to bring it up. However, the feature may have an advantage over another way of doing the same thing. Now that advantage may only be a manufacturing advantage that only benefits the vendor. If so, there is no reason to pitch it to the consumer. But, if the feature provides some advantage over the competition that in some way provides benefit to the buyer, then there is really something to talk about. Sales people should understand that the more knowledge you provide to the customer that is relatable to benefit and added value, the more dangerous knowledge you are equipping the shopper with when they go into a competitors' store; the more questions they will ask. If the competitor's offerings don't measure up or even better if the competing sales person doesn't know the answers, these are tickets back to your store. If the competition is comparable, no harm no foul.

If I were a sales person on a selling floor today, I would do two things. One, I would learn everything and anything about every product and vendor I could that relates to customer benefit. Two, when any manufacturers' rep visits the showroom, I would respectfully pose this question: "So that I can be more effective, would you please tell me why a customer should buy your merchandise instead of a competitors." If he/she has no answers, this might be a problem for both of you.