Retail Sales Training: Grow Sales With Analogies

Young woman choosing between an apple and an orange

Access My FREE 5-Part Retail Sales Training Email Course!

Updated for relevance October 2, 2023.

Retail sales training is all about finding new ways to connect to shoppers, new ways to say something so another person can easily understand, and so you can close the sale.

I spent a lot of time in the coffee business. One of the drinks we offered was the iced, blended mocha. As we opened up new markets, new customers often had no idea what that was or tasted like. Since it was one of the best ways to increase the average check, we had to get customers to try it without slowing down the line.

While one could say, "It's made from cold-brewed coffee, milk chocolate, and ice with whipped cream," customers' eyes would glaze over.

That's why we had to teach the baristas to say, "It's like a chocolate milkshake with coffee."

Simple. Easy to understand. That's because customers knew what a milkshake already was; they had a common reference point.

An analogy can be the "caffeine shot" in your sales pitch, that little kick to keep your customer engaged and awake through the transaction.

When Gene Roddenberry first proposed Star Trek to NBC, he promised "Wagon Train in the Stars." That analogy worked in the mid-sixties when Wagon Train was a popular TV show. That analogy wouldn't work today.

Did you see the movie The Player? It used this technique a lot in the opening scenes in the funny pitches for new movies:
"It's about a TV star who goes on a safari."
"Goldie Hawn would be good."
"Goldie goes to Africa. This tribe of small people finds her."
"She's found, and they worship her. It's like The Gods Must Be Crazy, except the Coke bottle is an actress."
"Right. It's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman."

Do you see how that shorthand lets us see the project quickly? Of course, the examples you use have to be generally understood by your audience.

If the listener hadn't seen Pretty Woman or The Gods Must Be Crazy, the use of "it's like" would be lost on them.

If your store were a movie, analogies would be the trailer—short, engaging, and packed full of all the best bits to get people interested.

Real-life Example: Selling a Quartz Kitchen Countertop

Situation: A shopper walks into a home improvement store looking to update her kitchen. She has done some research but is overwhelmed by the options like granite, laminate, and quartz countertops. She's unsure what would best fit her needs, including durability and low maintenance.

Traditional Explanation

The salesperson could say, "This quartz countertop is engineered from one of the hardest minerals on earth, mixed with resin. It's non-porous, and you won't need to reseal it like with granite. It's very durable and will withstand most types of wear and tear." And it makes sense if you have an Analytical personality style

The problem with this is that two-thirds of the world isn't analytical, so it might overwhelm the shopper with details and technicalities, making her even more indecisive, especially if she has an Amiable personality style

Using an analogy

Instead, the salesperson could use an analogy: "Think of this quartz countertop as the 'luxury sedan' of kitchen surfaces. It gives you the elegant look of marble but without the high maintenance. You could spill red wine or drop a heavy pot, which would handle it like a high-end car handles bumps and spills—gracefully and without losing its luster."

Why This Works:

  • Common Reference Point: The analogy uses a "luxury sedan"—something the customer likely understands—as a point of reference for quality, durability, and low maintenance.
  • Emotional Appeal: The analogy also taps into the aspirational quality of luxury, making the customer visualize her kitchen as more upscale.
  • Simplification: It distills complex information into a simple, relatable comparison that's easy for the customer to grasp quickly. You could then compare other materials, like a bicycle, that might get you there, but you'll be in danger of having an accident.

By using an analogy, the salesperson is more likely to make the shopper comfortable enough to make a decision, thereby increasing the chance of closing the sale.

Retail sales training is like learning to play the guitar. At first, you might hit some wrong notes, but as you practice, you become the Jimi Hendrix of sales, effortlessly wooing customers with your pitch.

In Sum

What technical or lengthy description do your vendors give you to describe their products that make you tongue-tied or customers look at you blankly?

To make better use of selling with analogies, start with those facts to develop your own "it's like" descriptions.

"It's simple to learn, like riding a bike."
"It's like a watch; set it and forget it."
"If you can screw in a light bulb, you can install this."
"It's like Harry Potter but for really young kids."

Even with an inexperienced sales crew, you can easily adapt this selling technique for your store to help close a sale. 

Think of analogies as your sales toolkit's Swiss Army knife. They're versatile practical, and can help you out of a tight spot, breaking down complex concepts into digestible bites.

Retail sales training is the key, and using analogies can help you grow your sales. We have a full course in selling with analogies in SalesRX, my online retail sales training program. 

Learn More About SalesRX