How To Correct The 5 Biggest Salesperson Turnoffs For Retail Customers

By Bob Phibbs

customer service mistakes in retail how to deal with themUntrained retail employees often think merchandise sells itself.

That if a customer wants something, they’ll tell you. To those employees, I offer that selling in many ways is like dating.

You have to get a stranger to like you before they will ever commit.

That is why customers shop with a salesperson. If they would rather avoid yours when they come to your brick and mortar store, they’ll stay at home and shop online.

I don’t want that for you...

The best way to get more sales in your retail shop is to give customers an exceptional experience that is focused on getting them to buy.

To that end, I’m sharing what I’ve seen to be the five biggest mistakes salespeople do that cripple their customer service as well as ability to close a sale, and how to fix them.

Being aggressive. Like that drunk guy in the bar hitting on every woman he sees because he feels it is a game of numbers – someone has to say yes – so too the overly aggressive salesperson. It might show in their request to shake your hand as soon as you enter. It might be the salesperson who talks and talks leaving no room for the customer to have an opinion or ask a question. Or it might show in them prowling the floor trying to quickly determine if you are a looker or a buyer. Such aggressive acts usually feel like desperation... either to be liked or to make a sale. Customers will smell the desperation.

RX: If you have an employee like this, or you tend to be like this, the key is timing. Instead of pouncing on someone when they come into your section, count to at least five to give them room.  Next, give up the idea you can tell who will buy and who will not and focus on one customer at a time, showing them all the possibilities.

Being passive. Like the wallflower at the school dance, someone too passive on the salesfloor expects the customer to do all the work. With minimal interaction, the customer feels it is like pulling teeth to get you to help them.  Customers sense your lack of engagement and walk.  

RX: The reason most people are passive is lack of self-confidence. If this is you or an employee, before you greet someone, see in your mind the times you pushed past feeling awkward or scared but made a sale anyways. Role play with a friend if that works for you, get out from behind the counter, turn up the volume on your voice, and feel customers want to hear what you have to say. Act as if you are confident and the confidence comes.

Being ignorant of the products. This can range from the most basic question of where something is located in the store to the ultimate – will this work for me? Many times these days, customers have researched online and been given more information than the salesperson. The more I don’t knows you give, the less chance you’ll have of making a sale.

RX: Starting with the most basic – where an item is – give your salesperson a list of your top five items and tell them they have five minutes to bring them to the counter. When they get it right, give them another five items. If they get it wrong, have them repeat it with less time. As to product knowledge, come up with scenarios on your top ten items that let you finish by asking, “Will this work for me?”  When they can pass, move on to your next ten… and during downtime, everyone should do some online searches.

Lacking of personal hygiene or boundaries. Yes body odor, whether due to a lack of bathing or overuse of cologne, is a put-off but so too are people who touch strangers, who ask for or tells too many personal details, or who makes someone feel they are hitting on them.

RX: Body odor is no laughing matter. Make sure you put this line in your job description: Must maintain personal hygiene so as not to be offensive to other employees or customers. If they are smelly one day, then the conversation is easy. As to touching customers, start by making them aware of when they do it.  Next have them notice the person’s face. For some regular customers, it might be fine; it will show on their face. But with complete strangers, touching is a no-no. And for guys especially, too long an eye contact can be uncomfortable for a woman.

Lacking follow-up. Once customers put down a large deposit, they want their merchandise as soon as possible; they don’t want to have to constantly check on delivery dates. Custom products often require a wait – think furniture, kitchen cabinets, and jewelry. When the customer has to be the one who initiates contact again and again, they grit their teeth until their product arrives.  They may love their luxury product, but they will tell their friends how much of an ordeal it was, and you lose referral business.

RX: This is such an easy fix! Set a reminder in your smartphone to call or text the customer the following day to let them again know when you are expecting more details. Set up an alert every couple weeks for you to do the same until it can be delivered.

See also,  How To Choose The Right Retail Sales Training For Your Store

In Sum

Yes, it is a fine balance between being helpful and being pushy, absent, uncaring or aggressive. That’s why retail sales training keeps employees from going too far one way and not enough the other.

Use these tips and you and your employees will develop their own approaches that are just right.  Your customers will sense your authenticity and reward it with buying from you, that day, and at full price.

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