It’s a brave new world in retail sales, and the situation almost reads like a movie trailer: (deep, James Earl Jones-y voice)
In a world where customers are more informed and less patient than ever, where online sales are moving at the speed of light, one industry stands poised to make a comeback: brick and mortar retail.
But seriously, we can joke all we want, but the simple truth is not going away: the retail sales landscape has changed for brick-and-mortar retailers. We are no longer the assumed end-all-be-all product experts. In fact, it’s possible we’ve been demoted to something more like enthusiastic fellow users and product advocates.
Our customers are better informed now than ever before, thanks to the wealth of product information, demo videos, recommendations and top 10 list-icles found on the Internet.
Before they entered the store, customers have likely researched the product category thoroughly. At that point, they have either selected the item they want, or have it narrowed down to a few options, and are looking for final confirmation or a recommendation between a few similar products.
Don’t try to wow customers with statistics. They probably know them already. The way you’ll win them over is through personal experience, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Now, if they’ve come to your store, you’ve already got a huge advantage: the power of instant gratification. The customer can take their purchase with them immediately, instead of waiting two days for Prime shipping. But even with that genuine leg up, there is still more our retail associates can do to tip the scales back into retail’s favor.
Want to know what you can do to get more out of your sales staff? Willing to put up with a few more mildly amusing pop culture references? Great, let’s get started: scroll down to see four ways you can use your staff’s own strengths to boost sales figures.
Four ways retail associates can harness their own skills and make more sales
1. Encourage extra sales through active listening and engaging demos
In order to build trust with potential customers and increase their comfort level to the point of making a purchase, it is important to encourage and reinforce a few key behaviors among sales staff. There is a ton of helpful information regarding both active listening and engaging product demos elsewhere, so we won’t do a deep dive in this post, but here are the basics:
- Active listening: This may seem obvious, but when speaking with a customer, it is crucially important to actually listen. Don’t just wait for your chance to speak. Active listening starts by truly taking in a customer’s words while they are talking. Then, once they have finished, prove you’ve comprehended what has been said by repeating it back to them. If you’ve understood fully, then formulate and deliver a response that sufficiently addresses their question or comment. This will build trust and improve your recommendations and upsells
- Engaging product demos: When introducing a customer to a product, focus on actually showing, not just pointing. Make the product come to life by picking it up off the shelf, explaining how it works and the features that will benefit the customer. If possible, take the item out of the box or utilize a demo version to let them see it in action. The goal here is simple: make the sales process a tactile, emotional experience that the customer can’t get from behind a computer or iPhone screen
2. Build relationships, not sales pressure
Remember the movie Glengarry Glen Ross? For some, the “Always Be Closing” speech (note: edited version) is one of the best monologues in cinema. It features Alec Baldwin as a New York real estate hotshot, touting his character’s machismo and winner-take-all attitude as the best—and only—way to close sales. He makes it seem as if the only thing that matters is signing on the dotted line. Period. However, when it comes to selling, the silver screen is exactly where this attitude should stay.
For most retailers, a successful sales strategy should rely on building relationships with customers, building a rapport with and delighting them with outstanding service every time they visit. This is the best way to entice repeat customers.
So for your own sake, leave the sell-at-all-costs, win the steak knives mentality out of your sales approach.
3. Have your associates complete training during slow times
Whether your retail associate has the closing rate of Gordon Gekko or the Geico Gecko, there is always, always room for improvement. Take the opportunity to invest in their potential by including sales training in their work routines, either pre-scheduled or impromptu during slow periods.Try to cater topics to your industry or the needs of individual staffers, but here are a few broad topics to get you started:
- Product training
- Shopper psychology
- Role-playing exercises
Once you start, make education and training a consistent part of their job description, not just a once-in-a-blue-moon effort. If possible, strive to have at least one sales-related training session each month.
4. Let staff be themselves & think outside of the box
One key to successfully managing a sales staff is understanding that different personality styles train and sell differently. Is your sales associate a Captain Kirk, or more of a Mr. Spock? Jerry or Kramer? Thelma or Louise? I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen that last movie, so I’m not even sure if that comparison even makes sense….
The point is, different personality types can all be successful on the sales floor. But, different personalities will need different training. For a deeper dive, check out this piece from Retaildoc to learn more.
Moreover, allow your staff to use their own personality and experience in the sales process. Encourage staff to share how the products and service offerings impact and improve their own lives. If a certain tent stood up to the strongest wind storm your associate has ever experienced, encourage them to share that experience with the customer.
If their never-ever-satisfied-because-you-stole-their-baby-boy mother-in-law actually complimented your staffer’s tie (that came from your shop), they should share that story!
If a certain variety of coffee helps your barista stay up all night studying for an exam, maybe encourage them to manage their time better, but allow them to share that, err, success story with the customer.
Side note: The best way to understand store conversion is to count the number of visitors who come to your brick & mortar location. It’s kind of like web analytics for your retail store – so you know which salespeople have the greatest opportunity to turn leads into customers (based on visitor traffic volume), and which associates need more training (see above).
Are you interested in learning more about visitor traffic analytics? Contact Flonomics.
Is there a strategy you use to help retail associates improve that isn’t on this list? Let us know in the comments!