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For Sales Associates #3

August 31, 2012

In this series, I will try to identify 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.

Getting Them Back

The retail furniture business was very different decades ago, before the advent of mega-furniture retailers (Levitz, Mangurians, etc.). In cities and towns across the land there existed a certain loyalty between customers and retailers. People bought furniture from their favorite store. Often, their parents and grandparents did as well. Frequently, people did business with a favorite salesperson in the store. There was a symbiotic, trusting and comfortable relationship between the customer, the store and the salesperson.

This in my opinion has all changed, especially, at the promotional and moderate price levels. Today's furniture buyer shops the competition on-line and in store in a quest to find the absolute lowest price and best value. Store loyalty has been greatly diminished; perhaps not totally but in my view, consumer allegiance has been greatly reduced.

A sales associate might ask: So?...What has that got to do with me? Answer: Everything. In the bygone era, the question from the owner/manager to the sales person was, "did you close them?" referring to the customer the seller waited on. Today, the question should be, "How are you going to get the customer back into the store?" Customers, today shop till they drop. The likelihood that they will buy on their first visit has been greatly reduced. Now, I hope the reader doesn't misunderstand my point. If a customer can be closed on the first call that is great. Write them up. However, this is frequently not going to happen. The message to the sales associate with respect to this changed phenomenon is simple. The objective has subtly changed from closing the customer to getting the customer to make the store the last place they visit, not necessarily the first.

This requires substantially more skill, technique, and knowledge on the part of the sales associate. When the customer leaves the store, she should have an in-depth understanding of why she should buy that merchandise from this retailer. The goal should be to provide enough information to the consumer so that when she does shop the competition which is probably inevitable, she will have at her disposal dangerous knowledge with which to compare the store and the merchandise. Some old guard sales people use to expound that one ‘should not give the customer too much only confuses her'. Bunk. In today's retail environment, give the customer as much useful information as possible (but only information that somehow will benefit the buyer). More on ‘features, advantages and benefits' in the next post. This will create questions about the suitability of the competition if the competing sales associate does not do the same. Add to this other activities such as obtaining contact info, subsequent communication, etc. and the numbers of customers returning to the store may just increase and sales may rise.