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

By Bob Phibbs

out of stock retail how to deal withWhen you're out of stock, you'll need to challenge both your employees and your customers if you want to make a sale...

In Texas, during the holidays, at the height of the western wear trend in the mid-80’s, a manufacturer’s representative walked into a boot store.

The store, a 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 work boot.)

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

Could that be your crew?

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

As owners and managers it is your duty to challenge your employees when they say things that attempt to relieve them of responsibility for making a sale. We need to show them “the forest for the trees” in such instances.

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

But what if you have 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.

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

You want them to think on their feet with the goal 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?

Your goal is to get customers to think of possibilities to get what they wanted, 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 really help you move the needle of sales, right?

During the holidays, you are bound to be out of stock, especially right after the holidays. What proactive questions have you used to challenge your employees and customers to increase your sales?

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