Retail Sales Training: Pepper Your Presentation to Remove Salt of Insecurity

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales training tips salt and pepper

Ever been at a great dinner and used the salt instead of the pepper? The whole entree is ruined. This blog is about peppering your retail sales approach to avoid the salt of insecurity.

A colleague of mine, Carol Spiekerman posted this on her blog. I'll share my comments after but here's Carol's story...

"Last Saturday, my just-divorced friend and I spent two hours browsing Best Buy (breaking my previous record by about one-and-a-half). After a long and icky battle, she and her ex-husband finally made it official, and she was excited about trading her “perfectly good” (according to her dear ex) Flintstonian, room hog of a television; receiver and speaker set-up for a streamlined home theater system.

She’d asked me to accompany her because she was “clueless” about technology yet ready to splurge big time; she wanted me to have her back. BTW, both my friend and Mr. Ex had enjoyed soaring salaries even during the recession, so funds weren’t the issue.

Every minute of this visit reeked of “customer centricity.” The sales associates could not have been more professional: the first one deftly guided us through computer speakers— though they were not even on my list, I started poking around. Plugging his iPhone into the demo unit and flashing a conspiratorial grin, he took me up on my dare to crank up the volume on the $150+ Klipsch set . . . and when it came time to head to Home Theater, his seamless hand-off to a senior associate was a real thing of beauty.

Once there, we were treated to an effortless non-pitch that had Senior Blue Shirt translating the latest in TVs, receivers and speaker sets from high-tech to low res without so much as a whiff of condescension. The more time we spent with him, the more confident my friend became in her decision to make an investment that would surpass any she’d personally made in the last ten years.

The power session wrapped up with Senior Blue Shirt offering to write up everything he had recommended, and that’s when the sale started going off the rails—and here’s why:

The five minutes that he was gone was just long enough for my friend to lapse into doubt mode, even though I was fully supporting the vision for the new home theater. Nothing that couldn’t be overcome at that point.

When he got back and began walking us through the quote, the situation became unnerving for a few reasons:

Installation – What had previously been described as a fairly straightforward process suddenly got more complicated. First quoted as a general estimate of “about $300,” the installation fee then morphed into a “range” of “$100 to as high as $800.” Of course there are reasons for the range but that provides no comfort for the wide variation.

Delivery – Another unexpected complication, as visions of Geek Squadders magically appearing with everything—plugging it all in and turning it all on—regressed into to a two-phased commitment that would include greeting a trucking company for the television and Geek Squad for the remainder. AND, it was revealed that the non-TV components would need to be brought home by my friend while the centerpiece of the system, the television, would be brought by the trucking company in “a couple of days.” Not exactly seamless nor efficient and some of that stuff looked pretty heavy. That shut off the instant gratification switch.

Timelines – There was no discussion of specific timelines; only ranges. Senior Blue Shirt’s low-pressure accommodations gave my now-skeptical and fearful friend “permission” to leave the store gracefully, and that’s just what we did. My computer speakers were a distant memory by then and no one sought to remind me on my way out.

Back at her house, my friend turned on her perfectly good TV and twenty-year-old stereo and said “You know, I really don’t watch television that much . . .”

What I heard in this story was one of disappointment.

The customer felt they had made a friend at the retail store level, one willing to help them out, one who could make it simple and one who "got them." Their disappointment came when the customer found an overwhelming array of "yeah, buts" that greeted them at the end.

How to get past this?

Pepper possible disappointments during your retail sales presentation to soften any blow about timelines, special orders, variation in color, etc. at the end.

For example, "We can set the whole system up for you after you get it to your house. If you can't take the whole system with you today, we've got a company that can get the heavy pieces there while you can take the lighter ones with you - just to be sure they don't miss anything. Make sense?" Then go back to what you were talking about.

Peppering your sales presentation with information that could make the customer uncertain or insecure in their choice keeps you as their friend instead of a sudden enemy. I inherited a retail store where employees didn't see how they were making customers insecure. I could see it when a customer pulled on the boot and said, “Hey these slip in the heel.”

The untrained salesperson replied, “Oh yeah, they’re supposed to do that.”
The customer would walk around then say, “But the front feels tight.”
The salesperson would react and say, “Oh yeah, new boots do that.”
The customer took off the boot and said she’d look around. Next thing you know, she was gone.

To make customers secure, I would train that while the salesperson was waiting for a customer to remove their shoes, they'd ask, “Have you worn boots before?” 9 out of 10 times they would answer, “No.”

“When boots are new they will slip in the heel and the foot will feel a bit snug. The sole will relax as you break them in which takes about a week of wearing them.”

Invariably the customer would try on the boot and say, “Hey these are loose in the heel.”
The salesman could then reply with a smile“Remember, I told you that?” careful not to smirk.
“Let me walk around in them.”
Salesman, “How do they feel?”
Customer, “They are a bit snug up front.”
“That’ll go away in about a week.”

Because the customer could feel they were safe, we increased that retail store's closing ratio by 30%.

In the first scenario, the salesperson was on the defensive, reacting to the customer and losing credibility, it let the customer think the salesperson was just a bit dishonest in trying to make the sale.

The second scenario put the salesperson in the place of knowledge and power. Because the negative qualities were peppered beforehand, the customer knew what to expect and felt safe, that the salesperson could be relied on for further information.

In Sum

If you make the customer insecure during the moment they are deciding or paying for your merch or service, you will then be trying to placate a nervous customer.

By then though, the trust and relationship are gone and you're left coming up with excuses to your boss.

Use the best retail sales training to make sure your employees can improve their conversion rates.

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