Topic: Retail Sales

Selling Skills: Is the Need to Be Right Crippling Your Retail Sales?

By Bob Phibbs

Retail Sales

I was exiting the Albany Airport parking lot, returning from a great weekend of retail sales training, when I noticed the three EZ pass exit lanes were closed, so I had to go to a cashier.

I drove up, put my ticket in the automated machine and the EZ pass light didn’t light up. The guy in the booth said, $36.00. I replied, “What about my EZ pass?”

A girl in the booth behind him piped up, “You don’t have one.”

As I reached to get it I said, “That’s ridiculous, of course...” But she cut me off. “Then you don’t have any money in it.” That really pissed me off ‘cause I knew I had just checked it two days earlier.

“Yes I do...” But she cut me off again. I had no choice but to give the guy my credit card. As I did I said to the woman, “Great customer service on an early Sunday morning.” She started to say something when I interrupted her, “Would you just go away?”

She did, but not without saying snidely, “I hope you have a great Sunday.” To which I felt compelled to answer, “It will be, once I pass this booth.”

OK, so I’m sure I provided fodder for the rest of her day. What a jerk I was! I was so RUDE.

I’ll acknowledge I could have let it roll off my back. My bad.

But the RUDE category is everywhere in retail coming from the need to be right by employees. And not out of nowhere...

We’re hiring people who look at providing solutions and quick tweetable answers by jumping to conclusions.

Like customers are something to be dispensed with.

Without selling skills, you are crippling your chances to compete.

One retailer I know divided their customers into good ones and “pain in the asses.” Once the retailer realized it was what his crew was bringing to the table, he found his customers got nicer.

One of my Robert Graham shirts and yes, a mermaid

Contrast Miss Tollbooth to the Nordstrom I visited last month looking for a new Robert Graham shirt. I asked the guy if he had any of the bolder designs like I was wearing. He said he knew what I meant. After a quick scan of the racks, he energetically said, “I’m with a customer, but if you can give me a few minutes, I’ll go in the back and check. What size do you take?”

He could have simply said, “No, we don’t get those louder prints,” or simply, “No.” But his whole answer allowed him to first understand how he could solve my problem, not get rid of me. Those are selling skills.

That’s what’s missing in many retailers nowadays. We’re not pains in the asses, we’re customers, just like you, trying to get through our lives the same as you. No better or different.

I ended up getting that shirt elsewhere, but because he took the time to understand what the possibilities might be before he was resigned to say no, I’ll of course, be back to Nordstroms again.

Retail means you serve the customer, not make it EZ on yourself. Telling people you are right only bolsters only your self-image. It never helps the customer.

If you want to make more sales, you have to earn them by upgrading your selling skills.

What say you? Do you have an employee who answers a customer with "No" or "We can't do that," before finding alternatives? Have you been a customer and stopped dead in your tracks with an employee who jumped to conclusions? Please share in the comments below.

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