How To Increase Retail Sales By Focusing On These 5 Obvious Things
By Bob Phibbs
When I was putting myself through college, one of my first jobs was in retail sales at the Broadway Department Store in Southern California. While I was trained on how to use their POS system, perform transfers from one store to another, and other tasks, teaching me how to sell wasn’t a priority.
So when I would go up to help someone, I would ask, like every other employee did, “Can I help you find something?” Most shoppers responded, “No, just looking.” I walked away, left them alone, and went on to the next shopper.
This went on for weeks, but I grew more and more frustrated as management tracked the part-timers and gave more hours to salespeople who had the most dollars per hour sold. I wasn’t getting those hours, so I asked a friend what I should do.
He replied, “Well if you don’t want that response, don’t ask that question.”
It was one of those Homer Simpson D’oh moments. The answer was so simple and was staring me right in the face. That’s when I figured out how to greet a customer.
In my work as a retail consultant, I’ve observed several seemingly obvious points that many retailers often are oblivious to. While they ask me how to attract customers and wonder why they are stuck; I wonder how they don’t see the flat tire.
Here are those five obvious things you must pay attention to grow your retail sales:
1. Your sales process is not consistent. Whether it is from poor hiring, a lack of training, or an unspoken belief by your crew that if people want something they’ll ask, employees frequently leave their shoppers on the floor waiting. Waiting for someone to talk to them. Waiting to be rung up. Your untrained employees, on the other hand, are waiting for the shopper to ask a question, or worse, are waiting for them to leave so they can jump back on their smartphones. When you have a consistent sales process, like a good script, everyone understands the plot and exactly how to get to the happy ending of a purchase.
2. Your features aren’t compelling. Unless your shoppers are engineers, facts are boring to most of them. When you lead with just a long lists of facts about the product, you lose most shoppers’ interest right off the bat. What your shopper cares about is how your product will help them do more, be more, and enjoy life more. When your focus is on your customer first, you look at the poorly performing product they are using, at the project they want to complete, or the gift they want to give and understand they aren’t just buying something, they’re upgrading their lives.
3. You’ve forgotten your own story. The world is full of retailers who have no soul, no point of view, and no passion. Shoppers, especially Millennials, are looking for a brand and a person who is authentic. One who can lead them to a cause. One who can say, “I created this store because I wanted a place people like you could come and shop.” Or employees who have embraced the product or lifestyle their brand represents. They are especially focused on social responsibility and how you make the world a better place. When you focus on your story and train your employees to share the same, it makes a connection and shows your humanness.
4. Your marketing isn’t as effective as you think it is. Many who create social media or help with advertising a retail store don’t have the passion or creativity a business owner has to show and sell. Outsourcing your social media posts while one answer, isn’t the best answer when it comes to advancing your brand. Clogging your social media with stuff doesn’t encourage visits. Because you concisely know who your customer is and you know what answers they are looking for in their daily lives, you can create social media that passionately addresses their concerns. You’ll get raving fans with those passionate posts.
5. You’re only focused on customers who have already decided to buy your products. When you miss the first two stages of a buyer’s journey - #1, making them aware they have a need and #2, getting them to consider you as a source of how to solve that need - you just focus on #3, getting them to buy. That usually leads to too much emphasis on discounts to get those who have decided to buy. It also often misses the upsell. When you keep in mind all three parts of the shopper journey, you are able to come up with compelling videos, blogs, articles, and newsletters that focus on just one aspect of the buyer’s journey at a time, so you can reach a broader audience.
In my visits as a retail consultant, when I ask about something seemingly obvious I often hear, “Oh we used to do that. I don’t know why we stopped.”
It doesn't matter the reason.
When you’re starting out you’re often hyper-focused on the customer because every sale means the difference between you making your payroll or missing it.
You were hungry. Oftentimes you hired people who were hungry too.
People who enjoyed the sport of building a sale. Employees who enjoyed the challenge of adding on, of getting people to treat themselves, and of having fun.
You created energy in your store. Anyone could walk through the doors. Anything was possible.
It still is.
Recognize that almost all the answers you need to improve your retail sales are staring at you every day within your own four walls. And if you need help from a retail consultant, remember the Retail Doctor makes house calls.
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