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Tips on Selling

Don't be afraid to sell in multiples
Don't be afraid to sell in multiples

It’s all about the second item (and the third!)

Selling in multiples is how retailers get ahead. Rick Segel and Matthew Hudson say the difference between closing one item and two items is the difference between a good and great salesperson.

I was once 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.

This retailer is a specialty store, which tends to mean customers are split into an insider group of consumers who know the product well and those who might be coming in for the first time.

This is similar to customers going to a ski shop, for example. If you are a skier, you are familiar with the various ski gear and know when you see the super-duper latest model skis.

If you are a beginner, however, you really don’t know the difference.

Helping out an outsider

In this particular business, I was an outsider. I went into the store and walked around. They were having a major sale and all the salespeople were busy.

I was looking at all these products with not a clue in the world! I needed help and direction but the store was so busy that all the salespeople were tied up.

Finally, a salesperson approached me. I don’t know if he was a manager, assistant manager or owner but he knew his stuff.

More importantly, he had a contagious passion for the product that made me want to buy even more.

I asked about the different products I would need to complete a specific project and the person laid out all of the products that I would need. He essentially created a shopping list to cater for my wants and needs.

What could be better?

Throughout the sales process, I asked a stack of different questions and gave the salesman plenty of buying signals, saying things like “I really like that” and “Oh, I need that.”

Missed opportunity

I had demonstrated my willingness to purchase two items but was intentionally indecisive about the second item that was in question.

Everything was going fine until the salesperson asked, “So do you really want the second item?”

I said, “Oh, I guess not”, and to my alarm he proceeded to put it aside and wrap up just the first item.

In other words, he gave up!

In that one action, he demoted himself from expert salesman to clerk.

What would it have taken to close that second sale? He already had a list of all the things I needed and could’ve pushed for three or more items, but instead he ended up closing with a one-item sale.

Just by saying, “Do you really want that?” he made me feel as if I shouldn’t be buying it. Certainly, I didn’t actually need it.

"Top-performing retailers don’t strive to be everything to everybody... Define the problems that the business uniquely solves for customers"

In the salesperson’s eyes, he believed he did an excellent job.

We bonded, he got my information for the mailing list to make sure I was aware of any specials or classes that were taking place in the store, he gave me a buying guide, he converted my wants into needs.

He made me feel like an insider as opposed to the true outsider I really was and he closed the sale.

The problem is that he had the ability to make a multiple sale and lost out on that because he didn’t want to be too pushy or because he wanted to be liked by me.

Consequently, that sales opportunity walked right out the door.

Worse than that, he didn’t service his customer properly because I had to make an additional trip to another store to purchase the missing components of what I needed for my project.

To sell is to serve

When you are servicing a customer well, you are selling them; you’re selling them on yourself, on the ideas you provide, and on the products.

Remember that when you’re selling, you’re serving – you’re taking care of needs and delivering customer service. As good a seller as he was, the salesman in my example ultimately didn’t take care of my needs.

I wanted to buy the item, but I left the store without it!

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 into the store through marketing, advertising, and merchandising, and to have someone wait on them and to gain their trust, in order to have them buy something.

Don’t throw all those advantages away by not maximising the opportunities when they present themselves. Believe me, the customer will thank you later!

Rick Segel and Matthew Hudson

Contributors • Rick Segel & Associates

Rick Segel and Matthew Hudson are founders of retail training and services business, Rick Segel & Associates. Visit:

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