Retail Sales Training: The Difference Between I can and I won't

By Bob Phibbs

I was on the sales floor, conducting a Retail Selling Boot Camp for a client when I came to a roadblock. I was coaching a young woman on the new greeting we were going to use.

She half-heartedly tried again and again and kept saying after each, “I can’t do this.”

I told her, “Stop saying that. You are making it a reality and killing your selling skills.” We tried again and again but to no avail. She was frustrated. I was frustrated.

I said to her the old adage, " The person who says “I can’t” and the person that says, “I can,” are both right.  She paused, had an aha moment and we were on to the next person to role-play.

The next day she said to the rest of the group, “Yesterday I learned the difference between ‘I can' and ‘I won’t.'”

That’s it for all of us isn’t it?

Attitude about change, customers, - anything - is black and white. Yes one could say, “That’s the glass half-full vs. the glass half-empty.”

But it goes deeper than that.

I used to work with a coffee franchise and a franchisee was telling the founder about the horrible experience he had at Starbucks. In detail he went on and on about how all if it was bad and his store was perfect.

The CEO's response was, “I think you often get the experience you’re looking for.”

You expect the competition is lousy and you're perfect – you’re right.

The trouble is, that blinds us from looking at our own business objectively.

And why do we do this? To build ourselves up. Visit the website retail-sucks-dot-com and you’ll find plenty of anonymous victims sharing how their endless days are someone else’s fault. 

You think customers are rude, arrogant and nasty when you go to work in your store and guess what you find? Customers are rude, arrogant and nasty.

Think customers are all cheap, looking to haggle and find a discount? Yours are.

But think you’re going to find people who will want to talk to you, to share their experiences in a new way, that work can be fun and guess what? You find them.

Think of a time when everyone just bought from you. Weren’t those days great? Think it was all coincidence? No, people pick up on your attitude. You brought success to yourself.

Now if you think and say to yourself (and others) No one is buying, guess what happens? Self-fulfilling prophecy, no one’s buying from you.

But it’s hard isn’t it? Sometimes we really do feel that way.

How to handle it?

My friend Ian Percy shared his suggestion: “Every morning take five minutes before the doors open to have everyone (managers and staff) meet and talk about wonderful expectations for the day. How terrific customers eager to buy will soon enter the store and what a privilege it will be to serve them. You could even set an expectation for dollar sales that day. Just five minutes is all it takes to tell the Universe what kind of day you'd like to have.

Now as you read that suggestion, what was your honest reaction? 98% will have had a negative reaction: ‘That's stupid and naive.’ ‘Staff won't show up 5 minutes early.’ ‘Waste of time.’ Guess what? You'll be right. And I rest my case.”

Many people made fun of The Secret when it hit big a couple years ago. Why? It was intimidating to think we could control our destiny just by choosing to think better.

See also, Do You Have A Bitter Betty Employee Killing Your Retail Sales?

In Sum

If you wanted to be beaten down by your job, the economy, or fear, give into it and focus on it.

You want to stay the same – stuck? Tell people, I can’t.

But if you're looking to grow your retail sales, just remember it is a choice of what your attitude and thoughts are about the situation.

The battle for sales isn’t for more customers; it’s between our own ears.

To change your sales, understand the difference between I can and I won’t, is ours.

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