You know the basics of retail sales. Gain the customer’s trust. Greet warmly, maintain good eye contact, practice active listening, use open body language. Make recommendations based on what you hear. But what about that clinched feeling in your chest? As the customer is speaking to you, your throat seems to be closing up. Your heart is racing. Why? Because you know you’re supposed to sell them something when all this chatting is over. You’re (probably) not making a friend here. You’re brokering a business deal. And that ties your stomach up in knots.
Two Sides Of One Personality
If this describes you, then you are probably a highly relational person. Good news – that’s a strength in retail sales! The bad news is that you have some obstacles to overcome before you can be really successful.
Some of your strengths are:
- You are eager to please people.
- You are a natural servant (not subservient, just professional).
- You are keenly aware of what others are feeling.
- You care about the impression you make.
These strengths are great because they will eventually give you a reputation for being a hard worker and a compassionate helper. Customer service is as important as ever in retail sales, and you naturally understand that. You want to leave the customer with the impression that you will do everything you can to make sure their needs are satisfied.
The flipside: Your weaknesses include:
- You have a hard time saying no and setting limits.
- You will spend far too long serving and not enough time closing the sale.
- You are so aware of your customer’s feelings that you fear their reaction when you bring up the idea of buying something.
- You will hurt yourself before you damage the customer’s impression of you.
Strategic retail sales goals typically focus on the customer
Let’s take these on one at a time. First, customers will sometimes want things that you cannot provide. You must accept this as quickly as possible. When you say “no,” you can expect them to be upset, but remember that you can then be their advocate and steer the conversation toward what you can provide.
Second, you must learn to be brief. Your instinct may be to keep the conversation as warm and genuine as it would be with a friend, but you must draw the line when it’s taking you too far from the goals you and your customer share. Practice repeating mental scripts that you can snap back to in a hurry to get the discussion back on track.
Third, don’t take it personally if the customer thinks the price is too high. That’s not a reflection on you, and the customer knows that as long as you don’t act like it. Try your best not to act apologetic about the cost of your product because the customer will think you really do have something to apologize for. They will think they are being screwed if you act like it. They’re not – so don’t!
Retailers should not forget that business is business
Fourth, remember that you are doing this to make money. It’s called retail sales after all. You’re not doing it because you’re greedy; you’re doing it because you have bills to pay and a savings account that sorely needs building up for those important purchases and emergencies down the road. That has to be at least as important as your customer’s impression of you. Don’t discount your products more than necessary or spend hours with a customer just to make sure they feel warm and fuzzy leaving your store. In the end, it is business. They will exchange money for a product, and while you have some influence, their ultimate happiness with that product is up to them.
All this amounts to a single word: confidence. Be confident in your expertise, your sense of what can and cannot be done, and your ability to make the customer as satisfied with your service as can be reasonably expected. You will never be perfect – no one will – but you can and will be successful.