10 Commandments of Retail Sales

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales training commandmentsAs one who writes exclusively about retail sales and  sales training in particular, I was curious when a potential client mentioned he’d read an article by Grant Cardone entitled 10 Commandments of Retail Sales.

I thought I would give my opinion because frankly selling in a store environment isn’t like selling houses or cars. I encourage you to adopt some of them and break several of his commandments.

Here's why...

1. Thou shalt not believe anyone is just looking. This first point is spot-on about attitude in a store. We want to believe everyone is in your store to buy something. He goes on to say that it’s good to ask a question aimed at pinning each customer to a purchase. His favorite question to ask, and I quote is, “90 percent of the people that come here start off by having a look. Why did you come in today?”

If you want to send customers out the door, ask them that.

Why? Because you are aggressively trying to pin down why the customer is there. Maybe they don’t want to tell you. Especially at the front door when they are still trying to get their bearings.

You might as well say, “What the hell are you doing here?”

You need to give your customers space to look around, to adjust and to take in your various areas of display. And if you’re still greeting customers with a simple “Can I help you?” stop. You’re making them answer, “Just looking.” Instead, have your employees greet customers throughout the store with a simple, “Good (time of day.)” Then give them their space to browse before returning and building rapport.

2. Never ignore the customer. Again, right idea. However the admonition that “It’s better to pester a customer with offers of help than it is to ignore,” is, again, way off for retail. No one wants to be pestered. Develop a selling system or use my SalesRX.com program so your intention is to connect with the customer as a human being first, and secondly as a customer.

3. Aggressively sell. Having received South Coast Plaza's Greatest Increase in Store Sales Award during my tenure there, I know his intent to sell is right. But that adjective aggressively will still spook all but the most hardened old-school retailers. Millennials, in particular, will feel you want them to be a caricature of the hard sell, always-be-closing salesman. One who reaches out and aggressively shakes a customer’s hand while asking their name. That went out of fashion a long time ago.

4 and 5 are both right. Never letting a customer wait and treating every buyer like they came to spend money are spot-on. What's missing from most shopping experiences is the appreciation that your shoppers could have gone anywhere else but chose to walk in your brick and mortar store. You honor each customer when you build rapport before trying to sell.

6. Have a greeter at the door. Wrong. If nothing else, the sheer volume of foot traffic means a greeter can rarely get little more out than, “Hi” as customers actively try to avoid them. And I'll bet your employees would rather clean up a used diaper than have to be stationed up front as a greeter.

7. Management shall engage with every customer. Wrong. Not only is this impractical in a store but also ineffective. The most important thing management can do is work with their staff to keep them motivated, trained and able to excel at creating an exceptional experience for their customers.

Having managers help customers is a waste of valuable money as they can only influence that one sale – it’s even worse if they are relegated to ringing up customers. You pay a manager to manage the process, not try to touch every customer.

If you want to do that, get a dog.

8. Provide the best solution, not just lowest price. That’s good, but the suggestion of asking, “What are you looking for you didn’t find online?” is again wrong-headed. Do you really want to raise the specter of shopping online to your brick and mortar customer? I don’t think so. Likewise asking, “Why did you come here today?,” is really a lot like the “Why the hell are you in my store?”

Customers tell friends their wants, not just their needs. Unless your training gives concrete ways on how to develop rapport, you’re just going to sell the crumbs, not the whole banquet the shopper could buy from you.

Remember your goal is to get your customer to share with you all they are looking to do with you, not just have them tell you the one widget they came in to buy. Develop one open-ended question that seeks to build rapport, something like What’s your project today?

9. Attempt a second sale is what I call closing with an add-on. It is always a good idea to suggestively sell and the more specific you can be, the better. He got this one right!

10. The last suggestion that Thou shalt help customers extend beyond their budget probably works better selling cars. Store employees are the ones most likely to hear the budget objection, identify with it, and retreat from selling more. No customer comes in saying, "The sky's the limit," so it is up to you to help each one see all they could purchase from you. Don't ask if they have a budget and hope to get them to extend beyond it. Just don't ask so they won't tell.

The real work is to convince your Millennial employees that your $200 widget will be purchased by a Baby Boomer customer even though it could be found online for maybe $50 less.

Your takeaways...

Domination or aggression on your sales floor might get you a sale – might – but it more often smacks of a 1960’s do-this-so-I-win-and-you-lose to your customers.

The only way to grow your brick and mortar sales is to employ people who are willing to engage a customer. Your employees must to be able to meet someone, must be able to connect with their quest to fix, replace or add to their lives. They must then sell your products in a way that makes each customer feel, for those few minutes, like the most important person in the world. That let’s your customers see the unique possibilities your employee has provided and more often results in “I’ll take it,” than in, “I’ll think about it.”

Four Precepts That Should Guide Your Training:

1) Help everyone with an open heart. That means the party is in the aisles, not behind the counter.

2) Get to know the person before the problem or offering a solution.

3) Never assume you know how much a customer will spend, so present all the products starting with the most expensive.

4) Help the customer decide today is the day to solve their gift, replacement, or desire for something new.

Retail is different. It should be more human.

And if you believe that but aren't sure how to train it, check out my online sales training program, SalesRX.com.

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