How To Close More Sales With Team Selling

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Team selling in retail is something rarely used but sales teams should recognize it for the opportunity it brings - especially during the pandemic.

Before I get to that sales technique, let me tell you how this sales strategy doesn't work.

So, I wanted a new Honda Prelude. It was October of 1982. The Honda Prelude had become Car of the Year. It was in limited demand. Since I owned a Honda Civic already, I put a $500 deposit down to reserve one.

The salesman said it would take 3-4 weeks for delivery. That was fine as I wasn't going to get my bonus check for another two weeks anyway. Three days later he called. I went down the next day, drove the car, and fell in love with it.

My sales guy took me back to his office. After 30 minutes of my resistance to the deal, he said he wanted to turn me over to another salesman. He left and quickly came back. "I'm going to turn you over to my boss," he said.

The next thing I knew the door burst open and a guy wielding a cane limped in. He sat down and asked, “What is all this crap on the desk?”

He picked up his cane and cleared everything off the desk onto the floor.  Then he picked up the sales book, threw it at the sales guy, and ordered him to leave.

Needless to say, I never returned to that dealership.

Turning over a sale

Turning over a sale (a T.O. as it used to be called) can be a tricky thing. It’s like a Hail Mary pass in football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success.

The salesperson knows the sales pitch isn't going well and hopes that another one of their team members can close the sale, so they still get half the commission. But there are risks.

(And before I go too far, turning over a sale is more likely to happen with items that cost more.).

On a typical sale of above-average or luxury merchandise in a retail store, it takes between 20-30 minutes of building rapport and presenting options before you get to the close. If at that point another person - a stranger - is brought into the sale, it often becomes a roadblock.

"Who is this person?" your customer thinks. "Why did my first salesperson turn me over to this person? Am I not good enough? Am I going to be pushed into something I don't want?" Hackles rise.

Customer service

A shopper is not a pawn to be played with and be closed so you get your commission. The shopper came into your brick-and-mortar store for a social connection.

If they have connected but you turn them over, you oftentimes lose the purchase as well as the chance of a repeat visit.

Selling and salesmanship are about knowing people. When their body language is telling you they feel threatened: crossed legs, crossed arms, eyes looking down, you probably moved too fast.

You need to slow down, regroup, and get their buy-in; that is if you care about customer service and something more than making a deal.

When they go silent on you, they probably feel either out of their league in knowledge about the product or out of their league in the price of the product.

It still falls on the salesperson to craft an engagement that perfectly matches the customer.

When you just bring in another salesperson and say, “Helen this is Tom. He’s been looking for a wedding band for his wife in white gold that’s more classic than what I’ve been showing him. Perhaps you can help him better.” You’ve as much as said to the shopper, you’re hopeless and I’ve done all I can...

It’s a loser’s limp way out of a sale you botched.

After all, if the first salesperson could have shown it to them, don’t you think they would have?

A great salesperson is like a car with GPS, constantly micro-correcting to get to the finish line.

They are constantly watching reactions and correcting. Shoppers crave connection, and that connection must stay real between the sales associates and the customer. It cannot become forced and fake three-quarters of the way through.

In essence, the customer has been dropped. If everything had been going along fine, the salesperson wouldn't have called in the cavalry and departed right when it got to the decision-making process.

What is the team selling process?

You still build rapport at the start of the sale. You still probe to qualify what type of product this shopper is looking for - the works.

The difference in team selling in retail is that you are bringing the second salesperson in to help you make the sale, not turning over the wheel to the car. You stay there. You don't depart.

Say you sell expensive watches...

As you start to feel friction or you notice your own loss of confidence - before you try to close the sale - you simply bring another salesperson into the sale by first asking the shopper, "You know, I think Tom knows a bit more about our watches. May I bring him in to help us?"

The customer is in the driver's seat. They may say no or they may say yes.

That choice means when they say yes, they are still involved in the sale and team selling might convince them to move forward. If they say no, you smoked out that they don't feel comfortable with a new person.

"The key to making it work is that when you bring the other salesperson in, you both stay there."

Think of the second person as a customer advocate

Introducing themselves, and coming around the counter with the attitude of "Let's figure this out together" goes a long way with the shopper.

Then as the original salesperson recaps three concerns the customer has, it gives another set of ears to the situation ... and hopefully quick solutions.

The point is the team is helping the customer make a choice, not making the shopper start from scratch with a new salesperson. That frequently thwarts the long-term relationship the salespeople try to make.

There are no do-overs in selling

You either get the sales process right or get it wrong. Team selling is no exception.

When sales associates are new and they get stuck, they may call for backup. That's understandable. But it would be better after giving them retail sales training, to team sell with them for a week, rather than wait and see what happens as your sales team falters.

I understand the temptation of a sales manager to jump in to try to save a sale. For the same reason as turning over a sale can be risky, so too can a manager jumping in.

Turning over means you have to go backward to build rapport with a stranger. That can try shoppers' patience.

Change your thinking around turning over a sale and you'll discover the rewards of selling skills in retail - higher conversions, happier customers, and customers who want to return again and again.

To have your entire sales team trained on how to build rapport and sell your merchandise, check out 

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor®, has helped hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses in every major category, including hospitality, manufacturing, service, and restaurant. He is a nationally recognized expert on business strategy, customer service, persuasion, and marketing. With over thirty years of experience beginning in the trenches and extending to senior management positions, he has been a corporate officer, franchisor, and entrepreneur.

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