Selling is a Seven Letter Word (Part I)

In retailing today in 2011, “selling” is a dirty word. “What?!?” you may be asking, “How can that be? Isn’t retailing all about selling?” Not really. Think about it, selling is something that both store employees and customers hate and it puts the two groups at odds when they should and can be partners with the exact same goals of helping people buy the products they want, in the way they want to buy them. Traditional sales models of yesteryear involve selling things that customers do not want-by convincing them that they do. The old model basically encourages employees to keep suggestive selling to a customer until the customer says “no more” — either verbally with a “no, thank you” or “I think I’m all set” or non-verbally by simply walking out of your store empty-handed. The old model is essentially to generate more dollars for the store at the expense of a customer who does not want to spend those dollars but gets coerced into doing so by a “great” salesperson.

Let us tell you about the new Retail Concepts selling model…

Selling is a Seven Letter Word

Consumers in 2011 are increasingly disinterested in dealing with traditional sales people. They are not looking for friends or relationships in stores and don’t care if the staff knows their name. They want to get what they came for and get out. They are busy and want a store that understands that and provides what they are looking for, efficiently. These consumers want information about products, and they want fair pricing, and they want all the other services such as gift wrapping, easy returns, etc. but they don’t need to talk about it. They want the information online. They want it in clear signage in-store around the product and its attributes, as well as store policies, procedures and services. They don’t want to have to ask. These customers spend money just like traditional customers do and they deserve respect. But most small shops not only don’t give it to them, they continue to insist on trying to speak with them and insist on showing them items they did not come in to get. They frustrate and drive-out shoppers who have money and want to spend it but they do not want to be “sold” or “told”; they want to shop on their terms and since they are customers, smart stores allow them to do so.

The new model that we at Retail Concepts have been working on is “inform and deliver” as opposed to “sell, sell, sell!” The new model has no more role-playing exercises and practice to create forced phony conversation with customers. The new model has stores hiring intelligent people and then giving them all available information and challenging and empowering them to deliver exactly what customers ask for and only that. The new model is totally transparent, with staff and customer on the same side, wanting the same thing. It eliminates the pressure and allows respect so employees can relax and enjoy their jobs instead of hating what they do and having it show (which we all see in many stores) because ultimately, they are being asked to convince people to buy. And, really, who wants to do that?

Okay, hold on, we know what you are saying: THEY WANT US TO SELL LESS?!?!? Well, yes, that is exactly what we are saying; sell less in the traditional sense of the word and EVOLVE the way you interact with your customers and position your products so that you can have happier and more engaged customers (and staff for that matter), move more goods and ultimately drive more dollars to the register day-in and day-out.

So this evolved sales model, what does it entail? In the next edition of this two-part newsletter series, we will dive into some of the key elements of Retail Concepts model of selling in 2011. But as you must be on the edge of your seat to find out what this is all about (and why wouldn’t you be?!?), here’s the basic gist: of course you still want to engage verbally with your customers, but just in a new way. Sure there will be those old-fashioned folks who want to interact with salespeople as they always have and that’s fine. With this customer group, you can keep doing what you are doing. But in order to survive and grow with the times, you must approach your store and relationships with your customers in a new way-based on the way they like to shop.

This starts with a staff that is always friendly, alert, empowered, knowledgeable, creative and fun — and always available to help customers on their terms — to find the merchandise they need, in the way they want to find it. Without that fundamental element, you are DOA. Then branding (yes, even for small stores) is key as it helps position you as an authority in your product category and gets customer buy-in. Informative signage is a MUST as it provides consumers with important attributes about products and allows them to shop non-verbally and still get the same information as those who prefer to engage directly with staff. A proper, well-planned and well-assorted merchandise mix is a key selling tool that can really make or break a business. If you have the right product, at a compelling price-point and positioned in the right way, this will unquestionably drive volume, better than a traditional salesperson ever could. Stores who take this approach will do more business with less selling and staff and associates will enjoy the experience more.

View the next part of our “selling is a seven letter word” series to learn more about how you can change your store’s approach towards selling. In the meantime, we encourage you to watch how your customers shop, and how they interact with your employees. We are willing to bet that you will see your customers wanting you to inform and deliver, and hopefully you will do so!