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Get real - customer service is not the same as selling!

The noble art of retail selling is an area that is surprisingly often overlooked. BRIAN WALKER breaks down the elements that go into selling success.

Even amongst those who should know better there’s an often-repeated falsehood – ‘anyone can sell’.

Many retailers believe that every trained salesperson can engage the customer in a non-business approach, assess customer needs through questioning, retain vital information, and then skilfully introduce the right product to the customer through to a benefits-driven pitch.

Wait a minute! It gets better. Then this talented salesperson also effortlessly bundles the add-on to product that the customer simply must have.

Elated, the customer leaves the store ready to share the tale of the experience with 20 other potential customers and turns them into ‘evangelists’ for that business.

It’s important to remember that customer service is not the same as selling.

Some sales staff don’t know how to sell very well, or at all. A smiling face, sunny disposition, and helpful manner are important; however, it doesn’t make these people profitable salespeople.

The greatest asset that any salesperson can have is to be a strong active listener, confident with the right degree of humility and genuine interest in the customer.

They should know their product and be enthusiastic when explaining its features and benefits.

The correct sales training will go a long way to delivering these increases and help you stay fit and resilient in today’s uncertain and unpredictable market.

Missed opportunity

Over the years we’ve seen selling data from a large range of retailers, including more than 6,000 individual stores over the past two years and one area where opportunity is lost consistently is the add-on or up sell.

Our research suggests that this opportunity may be lost by sales staff in as many as 50 per cent of encounters – this is just profit walking out the door.

Once again, a strong sales strategy will never deliver if the investment in selling skills and performance framework is not in place.

Between 70-80 per cent of purchases are done on impulse. These customers will buy that add-on with their product purchase - if only somebody would ask!

So, this begs the question, are we selling more to the customers we have and are we measuring this by ‘items per sale’, ‘average sale’, ‘conversion and gross sales’ by staff member?

Did you know that the conversion ratio of shoppers-to-buyers in specialty retail only averages approximately 15 per cent?

“The greatest asset that a salesperson can have is to be a strong active listener, confident with the right degree of humility and genuine interest in the customer.”

This means that 8.5 out of every 10 people who walk through the typical store leave empty-handed!

Consider what the effect would be on your bottom line if transactions remained static while your average sale figures were increased by 10 per cent, or if your conversion rate increased to 30 per cent and items per sale rose by even just one.

Selling more to the customers you already have is a vital objective in today’s environment.

Operationally ‘fit’ companies maximise sales conversions and therefore dollars without any capital investment or increase in overheads.

What would it take to increase the ‘suitability’ of your salespeople so they have the skills and motivation necessary to convert more shoppers into buyers?

Fitness tips

Think, talk, and make sales: ‘Fit’ businesses have an aligned culture and employees accept the importance of making sales.

What do I mean by aligned? If the owner of the business and the manager are not discussing sales at every opportunity with each member of staff then it is unrealistic to expect that the other the staff will think, talk and make sales.

Consider the following example -someone whose job it is to maintain a jewellery store’s cleanliness and inventory is approached by a customer with a question.

If that employee was focused solely on their responsibilities, it would be understandable for them to answer the question as quickly as possible and return to whatever task is at hand.

When that same employee is ‘sales conscious’ however, extra care is taken to direct the customer to an employee tasked with securing a sale – ideally not only leaving the business with another sale secured, but also with another customer pleased with their experience.

It’s important that everyone working within your store has a sales focus – even if their responsibilities don’t specifically involve sales, it should still be something on which the should be consistently conscious.

Keep everyone in the loop: The owner or manager should communicate the state of the store’s sales performance to all staff members regularly.

This information should be relayed each quarter at a minimum.

I recognised this with a client a few years ago and it has stayed in my mind as an effective way to speak of the importance of the sales effort and the joint teamwork required by everyone at every level to deliver sales increases.

“Brand damage by stealth can be detrimental so keep your staff happy with you and they will make you happy in return.”

Recruitment guidelines: Clear and standardised recruitment guidelines will help align your staff to a common goal and create a real ‘sales culture’ in your business.

Examine the turnover rate, and consider the reasons when and why employees leave the business.

Depending on the size of your operation you will see some common trends and, in many cases, inconsistent recruitment practices are a significant factor

Recruit from a base of clear, sales-aligned behavioural questions with the adage of ‘recruit the will, teach the skill’ applying.

More than 70 per cent of staff exit surveys we complete show that staff that initiate leaving do so because they did not feel ‘engaged’ with the business.

Strong engagement starts with strong induction: Whether it be a buddy or mentor system, simply making sure the new staff member has a clear ‘go to’ person – who is not the boss – is a helpful step to inducting them to the sales focus of the business.

Match your new employees with someone with whom they are comfortable asking questions and expressing their concerns, and who can communicate the importance of this sales-driven culture.

The secret ingredient: No business will succeed without motivated people.

We all know that great people make great businesses. Ask workers whether they feel great working for their boss and you will get a very mixed response.

Our research tells us that engaged, motivated staff deliver 20 per cent higher sales on average.

Conversely, consider the damage the unmotivated team member can do.

“If 100 per cent of your staff are not nominating sales as their number one goal it’s time to think about increasing your cultural alignment - think back to that conversion rate!.”

Brand damage by stealth can be detrimental so keep your staff happy with you and they will make you happy in return.

Set clear performance standards and goals, provide coaching, training, feedback and offer reward systems for excellence.

It should reach the stage where you will then not have to worry about making sales or delivering great consistent customer service as it will happen as part of your winning culture!

Food for thought

Ask your managers and staff to anonymously nominate their top three goals in the business.

If 100 per cent of your staff are not nominating sales as their number one goal it’s time to think about increasing your cultural alignment - think back to that conversion rate!

Don’t be worried if you don’t get over 70 per cent alignment as our research shows this is common.

‘Fit’ businesses however will measure this regularly and always aim for 100 per cent!

Provide teams with knowledge for confidence.

Are your salespeople fully confident in their product ranges and the features and benefits of the products they are selling?

If the answer is not a resounding ‘yes’, work on further training in this field.

Introduce new products and have your salespeople ‘sell’ them to their fellow team members at weekly team meetings.

Be sure they know the features and benefits of all products, associated accessories, and add-ons to assist them to maximise conversion. Knowledge is key in making those additional sales!

Brian Walker

Contributor • Retail Doctor Group

Brian Walker is the founder and managing director of Retail Doctor Group, a retail consulting company. Visit: retaildoctor.com.au

SAMS Group Australia

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