Retail Sales Tip: How To Keep Out of Stock From Meaning No Sale

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Updated February 16, 2024. When you're out of stock, you'll need to challenge your employees and customers if you want to make a sale...

In Texas, during the holidays, a manufacturer's representative walked into a boot store at the height of the Western wear trend.

The former grocery store was filled top to bottom with boots of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The rep asked the young man at the counter, “How’s business?”

“It would be good if we just had blue elephant ropers.”(A roper is a style of a work boot.)

The employee had become frustrated with requests for a popular item in the midst of tens of thousands of opportunities to exceed a customer’s desires.

Could that be your crew?

It comes from a passive "clerking" mentality that the customer asked for it, we didn't have it, and I did my job.

As owners and managers, you must challenge your employees when they say things that attempt to relieve them of responsibility for making a sale. In such instances, we must show them “the forest for the trees.”

You could have replied to the employee in the above example, “Yeah, I know.” Or maybe, “Well, they're popular; we just can’t get them.”

But what if you challenged them with something like this: “Did you ask them where they’d use them? Did you show him how blue is a hard color to take care of? Did you get another pair of boots on his feet to see if he even liked a roper style?”

They might sheepishly admit they could have but didn't. That's OK; you want to imprint the idea of possibilities in their mind, not excuses.

By using retail sales training, you can often challenge the negative aspects of employees’ perceptions and teach them how to handle it the next time.

You want them to think on their feet to make the sale.

Here are two questions to ask customers when you are out of stock:

  • Are you open to some other possibilities?
  • May I order it for you and ship it to your house?

You aim to get customers to think of possibilities to get what they want, not put up a fence with, "No, we don't have it."

And notice, we didn't say we'd transfer one in, as that can be a crap shoot for both customers and retailers. And no, this doesn't work all the time, but if it worked 1 out of 5 times, it could help you move the needle of sales, right?

You are bound to be out of stock after the holidays or with ongoing supply chain issues. What proactive questions have you used to challenge your employees and customers to increase sales?