By Matthew Hudson
Many people believe retail selling is all art. Those are the ones who like to use their charm and personality to sell and don't want to be “hampered” by a system or process. Others would like you to believe that it is all science. These are the ones who do everything in a step-by-step formula. The only problem is that Customers often times go “off script” and skip a step or two. Our years of retail selling experience have told us it is neither, but rather we believe:
Selling is the perfect balance of art and science.
You need personality to sell. You need technical skill to sell. You need a system or process to follow to sell. How do we know this? By studying the two opposing camps. What we find is that neither camp wins every time. In fact, rarely are the people who rely solely on their magnanimous personality the top producers. Nor are the people who follow a checklist when selling and make the shopping experience systematic the top performers.
Do you need a system for great selling? Absolutely. In fact, research consistently shows the power of following a system. We posted an infographic about this last week. The studies we referenced compared the sales results of retail sales professionals who followed a system versus those that did not.
We say all that as preface to this article, so you know that we believe in the balance between art and science. In fact, in our book The Retail Sales Bible we point out that there are actually 4 sales you have to make to every Customer – the first is yourself - and that requires some personality,
But the question we want to address in this article is the business side of the equation; what are the benefits to me as a retail storeowner if all of my salespeople are trained in and use a unified sales process?
Here are 4 reasons to have a unified sales process in your stores –
1. Lower Returns.
If you examine your business, you will find that selling the right merchandise in the first place could have prevented many of your returns. Are you familiar with the “return policy” sales process? This is the one where your entire process is saying, “If you do not like it, you can return it no questions asked.” First, this is scary as a storeowner. But more importantly, this line should never be used unless the salesperson has absolute confidence that this is the right item for the Customer. You can only know that by selling through a process. Otherwise, you will take shortcuts and jump from hello to here are the TVs to you can return it.
If the salesperson is held accountable to a sale process that requires them to Research the Customer’s wants, interests, needs, concerns and desires, then the product selection should be right on the money. (Double meaning)
2. More Effective Sales Coaching.
Here is one that most forget. You have very little time in your day to work with your salespeople. So make the most of it. If everyone is following the same sales process, then when you are working with someone you can focus on the problem and not the symptom. For example, let’s say that your sales team is jumping right from the Greeting to the Experimenting Phase (presentation) and skipping the Researching Phase (interview.) First, if everyone calls it Researching, then when you use that word your entire team knows what you are talking about. But if sometimes you say qualify and sometimes you say interview and some people on the team say research, then half of your training time is spent getting on the same page instead of focusing on the issue. In other words, you are focused on the symptoms. Don't believe those that would tell you “it does not matter as long as we are all talking about the same thing.” Remember, these are salespeople you are talking too and they are selling you when they say that (at least trying to.)
3. Better Shopping Experience.
If everyone in your store sells the same way, then the experience your Customer receives is consistent. By selling the same way, we mean following the same process; we do not mean saying the same things. The last thing you want is for your salespeople to take his or her personality out of the sale. It's the principles that need to be consistent, not the language. And a better shopping experience means more repeat Customers.
4. Higher Referrals.
Simply put, the most important stat you should be monitoring in your store today is referrals. It costs too much to advertise, so get your Customer to advertise for you. If everyone is on the same page, then (as was stated in 3 above) the experience the Customer receives is consistent. It does not matter if they come in during the day or on the weekend. And it does not matter which location of your stores they are shopping.
We believe so highly in the importance of a unified sales approach in retail that we created an online learning system to help your teams get there. We know the problems with time every business owner faces. And we know that training is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. And we also know that bringing in professional training is cost prohibitive these days.
So, we created the Retail Sales Bible Online Selling Certification Course. It allows your entire team to be immersed into the principles of the Retail Sales Bible, learn the best skills from our research with the best salespeople in retail, but most importantly, put your whole team on the same page with a common vernacular and sales process.
Read more on Tuesday...
By Matthew Hudson
When entrepreneur Steve Conine started Wayfair.com with Niraj Shah, there was no guarantee that the online everything-for-home site would be a success. It was 2002 and the dot-com triumphs had come and gone. Some of the big Internet retail sites had already collapsed and investors where becoming shy with their money. Yet Conine and Shah saw potential using a new model, one that used a small businesses mindset, tenacity and customer engagement to make Wayfair a billion dollar business.
Though the big e-commerce sites were in trouble, Conine found the little mom and pop sites were showing a 25 to 30 percent growth. Long before Kickstarter, Conine saw that having a connection with the consumer made all of the difference. Now Internet retail depends heavily on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. This phenomenon has become so important that rare disease researchers are using it to find professional and financial resources. These scientists are using the same techniques that Conine uses to sell chandeliers on Wayfair. Customer reviews and an active social media link helps to keep the customer interested and engaged.
Create Your Own Luck
Timing is important, but sometimes it is better to make your own good fortune. Conine and Shah believed the timing of their site was less important than the opportunity. We are seeing this now in the green technology sector. Innovation does not always follow a business plan. As we moved into a new millennium, cable companies laid down a huge amount of fiber optic cable because the forecasts were optimistic for this technology. Though the cable itself did not produce the expected revenue, it did open up a new income stream as technologies developed around the infrastructure.
Try crowdsourcing for opportunities to take your Internet business into new waters. This is an ask and respond model that seems to be working in the Internet-based business world. This is the way the Australian Internet giant Catch of The Day became a $350 million dynamo.
Keep Them Happy
The third leg of the Internet success table is consumer happiness. In an article by the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, researchers are finding customer engagement is dependent on positive consumer emotions. The paper looks at effective communication that creates emotional engagement. Conine and Shah used customer surveys to monitor customer satisfaction and happiness with the Wayfair’s delivery services.
Of course, those aspiring to be the next Internet giant need to look to the successes of the past, then make their own imaginative strides. Use technology like text messaging and social media to gauge and maintain customer emotions. Look for opportunities to make your people happy. This is one of the best ways to create customer engagement and promote your online business. Social media is simply word of mouth advertising on steroids, so use it to your advantage.
By Rick Segel
As a retailer, graphics and visual presentations probably make up a large portion of your signage and other ad platforms. How can you be sure the graphics you’ve chosen are the most effective on the customer’s buying decisions and, ultimately, your sales?
VAS, a product created by 3M, stands for visual attention services. VAS scientifically analyzes all of your ads and designs so that your advertising and websites--any graphic presentation--gets the highest amount of attention-grabbing impact.
VAS works by looking for hot spots on the ad, like a heat map. It analyzes where the viewer’s eye focuses, letting you compare ad pieces to see which one is most effective. It improves decision making by adding objective data into the creative process. You can use VAS to improve graphics on packaging, signage, and banners.
Understand I do not work for 3M; however, I was exposed to VAS from the folks at FASTSIGNS, a sponsor of our upcoming book Signs Sell, which will be out in the next 90 days. Based on the data and recommendations from VAS, we changed the entire cover of our book to improve its effect on viewers.
I recommend you try VAS. Luckily, you can analyze ten different designs free of charge, and you can compare different ad pieces to see which one will be stronger. Check out the VAS website. You can also check out a YouTube video of the creators behind VAS and the success they’ve experienced. You’ll realize how effective the use of this technology is. It’s the subtle, little difference that make it all work.
1- Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers 1959-1967
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”
Although this was originally imparted as sporting advice, Lombardi's central message bears relevance to all areas of life - even retail. You will only attain true success in life if you are willing to work hard and diligently. If you do this, you will be able to take pride in your achievements; irrespective of their monetary value.
2-Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon.com
“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you”
You will never be happy if you are always striving towards someone else's passion. Work out your true ambition and you will be much more motivated and likely to attain success.
3- Donald Trump, chairman and president of The Trump Organization, chairman of Trump Plaza Associates, LLC and chairman of Trump Atlantic City Associates
“Watch, listen and learn. You can’t know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity”
You can gain great insight by listening to and learning from the experience of other individuals. If you accept that you will always have something to learn, you will be able to continue improving. Two heads really are better than one!
4-Oscar Wilde, writer and poet
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination"
Always seek to pursue excellence. Engage your imagination and discover what it is that you really want to achieve in life. If you can use your imagination to develop new ideas, you will be able to improve yourself and your entrepreneurial ambitions.
5-Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc.
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart"
So many people fall at the first hurdle, preventing themselves from starting their own retail business because they fear failure. If you accept that you have nothing to lose, then you can overcome this fear and pursue success.
6-Wilson Luna, author and international business adviser
(talking about 'ego') "It hurts your business"
If you solely focus on your own needs, you neglect those of your company and discourage others from investing within your retail business. Accept that your business takes priority instead of your vanity, and that you can always learn something from others.
7-Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
"Entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital, so that you can do more of it and move forward with it"
Those who love their job are more likely to devote time and effort to it. Find a retail venture about which you are ardently passionate. If you love your work and are always seeking to discover new facets of it, success is sure to follow.
Guest Post: Bradley John Taylor is a creative writer from Derby, England. You can follow him on Twitter @BradleyTaylor84
Check out this study looking at the social media relationship between retailers and their vendors/ suppliers.
By Rick Segel
I was asked to do mystery shopping for a national chain. My job was to take my time going through the store, reviewing the visual merchandising signage and employee attitude and performance. This is a chain that I absolutely admire. All the people I’ve had contact with are very nice people who do a very good job.
They are a specialty retailer whereby people who go into the store generally know something about what the store sells. Without giving the name of the store or product away, it would be like someone going into a scuba diving store. They have some inclination they want to go scuba diving, which tends to create an insider group of people who know the product and understand it and those who might be coming in that are exposed for the first time. This is similar to the customers going to a ski shop. If you are a skier, you are familiar with the various ski gear, and you know when you see the super duper, latest model skis. But if you are a beginner, you really don’t know the difference.
Well, in this particular business where I was mystery shopping, I was an outsider. So I went into the store and walk around. They’re having a major sale, and all the salespeople were busy. I was looking at all these products with not a clue as to what to do. I needed help and direction, but the store was so busy, all the salespeople were tied up. I finally was approached by a salesperson. I don’t know if they were a manager, assistant manager, or owner. But they knew their stuff, and even more importantly, they had a contagious passion for the product that made me want to buy even more. I asked about different products I would need to complete a specific project, and the person laid out all of the products that I would need. If you think about it, he created a shopping list of wants and needs. What could be better?
There was one major issue: I was not in my home town. I was traveling 2,000 miles away from where I live. I had limited luggage space, so I had to be careful about what I bought because it wouldn't fit into my luggage. So I asked different questions about which would be the best product to buy, and I was giving the salesman buying signals saying that “I really like that.” “I really need that.” “I should really buy that, too.” And the best of all buying signals: “Would there be any way of shipping this additional item to me?”
And the person said, “Yes we just charge for shipping costs.” So what I had laid out was the ability to purchase a minimum of two items, that is until the salesperson said, “So you really want the second item?” And I said, “Oh, I guess not.” He said, “OK,” and proceeded to wrap up the sale of just one item. In other words, he gave up.
What part of being a sales rep didn’t he get? He demoted himself from expert salesman to clerk. What would it have taken? He had a list of all the things I needed. He could have easily pushed for three times and had to settle for two, four times and settle for three. He could have said, “We’ll take care of the shipping costs.”
The total I could have purchased at that time was approximately $600.00. The shipping costs might have been $30.00. I was in no hurry to receive the products. They could have shipped out on the slow boat to china.
But instead, he closed the door saying, “Do you really want that?” making me feel as if i shouldn't be buying it.
So in the salesperson’s eyes, he believed he did an excellent job. We bonded. He got my information to follow up with me, to get me on a mailing list to make sure I was aware of any specials, and inform me about classes taking place in the store. He made me feel like an insider as opposed to the true outside I was. He gave me a buying guide. He converted wants into needs. He had the ability to make the multiple sale, but because he didn’t want to be too “pushy” or because he wanted to be likeable, he missed out on a selling opportunity. Worse than that, he didn’t service his customer well because I had to make an additional trip to another store to purchase what I needed.
See, when you’re servicing a customer well, you’re selling them. You’re selling them on yourself, on the ideas, on the product. And when you’re selling, you’re serving. You’re taking care of needs.
As good of a person he was, the salesman didn't take care of my needs. I wanted to buy the item, but I didn’t. Retailers make their money not by selling an initial item; they make their money by selling multiple items to the customer. We’ve paid to bring customers in the store, to have someone wait on them, and to gain their trust to have them buy something. Don’t throw all those advantages away.
Believe me, the customer will thank you later.
By Matthew Hudson
In an interview yesterday, I was asked a great question - "what is the biggest issue facing retailers in regards to their marketing that people are missing?" I loved this question becasue it was essentially saying "what are all the marketing people not talking about?"
It's the missing link. Not the one from Monsters and Aliens, but the one in retail.
The success of yoru marketing or advertising campaign is directly porporational to how well you have prepared your employees.
Listen to the latest episode:
"Is Facebook Dead?"
Guest Interview: John Young, Retail Marketing Expert
- The 2 pillars to effective social media marketing.
- Compare PPC to Facebook advertising.
- The 6 Golden Strategies of Facebook success.
Just below click to listen.
Or Get our App
When Julie left her once favorite clothing store empty-handed she said she felt agitated but didn't know why. "I don't know, nothing hit me. Maybe I've outgrown that store."
Julie is one of more than 100 consumers that I interviewed for my new book, Decoding the New Consumer Mind. I tagged along with her on a shopping trip, chatted with her about her life and interviewed her about how, when and why she shops and buys.
What Julie doesn't know (at least consciously) is that three things happened when she was shopping that contributed to her agitation. She accidentally wandered into the petite section of the store and it took a minute for her to reorient herself, she found a t-shirt she liked but couldn't find her size, and she received a call from her daughter that distracted her long after the conversation ended. Tiny impediments to purchase, like those that Julie experienced, were relatively insignificant a decade ago. Not so today. And that's one of the many ways that consumers have changed in the past decade.
Three giant sociocultural shifts have altered our psychology and by extension how and why we shop and buy. One of those shifts is greater emotionality - particularly anxiety, anger and emptiness. Julie told me that "it's been a tough year" and that she's been stressed out lately. She's not alone. According to a new study by JWT, three times more Americans report feeling anxious than those that don't. Around the world, anxiety is on the rise. Stress, anxiety's little cousin, is such a common part of our lives it's nearly taken for granted. And diagnosed anxiety disorders are at record levels.
Anxiety - big or small - influences our interests, stamina, how we process information and how we make decisions - all things that are key components of shopping. Here are three examples of how anxiety is impacting retail:
1. Anxiety's original purpose was to give us a physical boost to combat things like wild animals. Even though today's threats are more likely to be things like deadlines or money concerns - our bodies still get the juice, at the expense of our rational minds; which is why the sensory components of shopping are more important than ever. Today's shopper sees, hears and smells with greater acuity. They acquire perceptions through visual and symbolic information such as colors, assortments and organization much more readily than through words.
2. One of the factors contributing to elevated levels of anxiety is a diminished trust in social establishments. Edelman's 2014 Trust Barometer shows abysmal levels of trust in business, media, schools and especially government. Who do we trust? People "like" us; which is why "crowd cred" is more important than ever. Retailers that showcase the opinions of other shoppers - through things like "most pinned" tags in stores or product ratings online - simply look more trustworthy and that takes away a barrier to purchase.
3. When Julie's daughter called (shoppers get to take work and family stressors everywhere now) the two very minor shopping bumps she encountered were enough to exhaust her interest in the retailer. Hassles seem more profound when our mental resources are diminished by anxiety and stress. This is why shoppers increasingly tell me about smooth transactions, easy shopping and insightfully designed websites or stores when I ask them about their favorite retail experiences. This is a major difference from the interviews I conducted a decade ago when shoppers talked about products or prices more than the shopping experience. After years of discount fever, consumers have come to expect great products and bargains when they're shopping - which means they're rarely surprised or delighted when they find them, more likely they're disappointed when they don't. Add to this the effects of anxiety, and fewer sticks stand out more than more carrots. Sensory excellence, trustworthiness and hassle reduction stand out because they're unique in today's retail landscape and most importantly, because they tap into the new psychology of today's shoppers.
Guest Post - KIT YARROW, Ph.D., is an award-winning consumer research psychologist, professor, consultant, and keynote speaker. For more information, please visit www.kityarrow.com