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Tips for Success in Retail Sales: The Basics

The core principle in every sales interaction is this: your customer needs to know that you care about them. 

Plain and simple. You may make some sales even if customers don’t trust you but you certainly will not be successful overall.

When a customer walks into your store they are usually not desiring to build a relationship with a salesperson. That is extremely rare and even a bit old-fashioned. Since most people are looking for fast, efficient service, how do you gain your customer’s trust with the limited time you have?

1. The Greeting. 

This is your customer’s first impression of you. A salesperson who walks right up to them upon entering the store, smiles and welcomes them confidently is one who is twice as likely to make the sale than a sullen, bored, unenthusiastic worker. Often this enthusiasm is not genuine. That’s normal; we’re all human. When you work on a sales floor all day you do get bored and tired. But the greeting has certainly still got to appear genuine. This is acting. You are playing the role of a person who is excited to see the customer walk through the door. Play it well.

2. Eye Contact. 

Your eyes are on your customer’s eyes as they are sharing with you the details of what they need, whatever the case may be. You shouldn’t stare – it’s not like the more intense your glare the better – but instead, try to think of this stranger as a friend sharing something very personal with you. As rude as it would be not to look attentively at your friend, it’s a bad idea to give your customer any impression that you don’t care about what they’re saying.

3. Active Listening. 

Closely related to eye contact, active listening means you are literally doing something to show the customer that you’re listening. Eye contact does nothing for you if you are an unblinking statue. You ought to be nodding from time to time, giving short verbal feedback (“Oh”, “I see”, “Wow”, etc.) and asking clarification questions (“So, you’re saying …” , “Okay, you mean …”, etc.). Customers can tell when your brain is asleep. Avoid letting your mind slip as best you can. Also, learn their name as early in the interaction as you can so you can use it from time to time. This also shows you’re listening.

4. Body Language. 

How do you picture yourself during this interaction? You clearly ought not to be greeting, making eye contact, listening actively … while sitting down, while casually leaning against a table, while being half turned away, right? You should be almost fully facing the customer (not totally squared off, since that posture is really only well-suited to a confrontation). Your hands should be in front of you, on your hips or maybe behind your back, but almost never in your pockets (for some really casual customers this might be appropriate, but to most people it looks very unprofessional). Your arms should never be crossed, because this creates a physical barrier between you that says, nonverbally, “Keep away.” You should also try to avoid putting other barriers between you and the customer whenever possible; discuss the product out in the open before you go behind the counter to carry out the actual transaction.

Once you have gained the customer’s trust, the door is open for you to use what you just heard to sell them something. 

They wanted to tell you about their needs because you showed immediate interest. They opened up more because you showed them you were paying attention, and with your clarification questions (“qualifying questions”) you determined what some of their needs are. Maybe they’ll take you up on the recommendations you now make, maybe they won’t, but your chances are much better because you got off on the right foot.


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