Topic: Retail Sales

Retail Sales Training: Don't Assume Customers Want The Cheaper Option

By Bob Phibbs

assume customer wants cheap

From the Retail Doc's Facebook Fan page:

Jessica Westberg from Billings, MT asked " Can you write about not assuming the customer wants the cheaper option?"

Sure and here's a perfect place for a story...

It was during a huge clearance sale shortly before the holidays. The rack said "3 shirts for $20." A woman held up several to her elderly what appeared to be husband's chest, picked 9 and asked, "Can you give these to me for $50?"

The harried clerk took one look at her appearance in a soiled and tattered jacket, unkempt hair and declared, "No. See the sign? It's three for $20. That would be six for $40 and nine for $60" then turned away.

She stayed at the counter...

"Young man. Young man," she said until he finally turned around.
"What!" he said in an impatient manner as he continued to ring up another customer. The clearance sale was being held in a tent and the wind blew a receipt off the desk.

"How much is that brown jacket?" as she pointed to the brown satin jacket hanging on pegboard behind the cashier. This was during the 80's when satin jackets were "cool." This particular one in chocolate was embroidered with the store's logo in gold, red and black that made a dramatic statement. They were given as a prize to their store managers each year for achieving sales goals. It was a prized possession.

"THAT jacket?!" he said incredulously. "Two-hundred dollars," as he turned back around to help another shopper to his left.
"Can we see it?" she patiently asked.

"Can we see it?" she asked louder.
"What? ... Fine," he took it off the pegboard and handed it to her. "It's a medium," and handed it to her.
She held it up to her elderly companion's chest, then said to the clerk, "We'll take two."
The clerk was dumbfounded. Especially when she paid cash for the entire purchase.

The old adage "assume means you make an ass out of me" may be applicable.

We've all had those experiences in retail when we've misjudged how much someone could afford.

How do we know what someone can or will afford? In a previous post, I warned that being too focused on the "deal" could lead to lower sales. In essence we'd be assuming customers want the cheaper option. 

Employees assume the customer wants the cheaper option for three reasons:

  • They've sized them up and decided from the way they dress or talk that the shopper can't afford it.
  • They've empathized with all shoppers based on what was read/seen in the media.
  • They think like a customer that they'd like the cheaper option because they, the salespeople have never paid for that premium item and settled for the "good enough" brand.

To get over these assumptions we have to look inward at how we as business owners, managers and salespeople look at the merch or services we sell.

Sometimes it is based on our personality, sometimes it is our upbringing and sometimes it is the people we work next to but all can benefit from retail sales training.

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