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Image courtesy: <a href="http://www.freepeople.com/" target="_blank">Free People</a>
Image courtesy: Free People

Stop the cringe and seal the sale

Every retailer has staff who exhibit in-store behaviour that stifles sales, often without anyone knowing it. BOB PHIBBS examines seven toxic habits that hamper.

Crimes are occurring in brick-and-mortar stores everywhere. Staff are displaying behaviour that shut down sales... and it’s happening every single day!

Here are seven toxic behaviours that push shoppers away and keep stores from achieving key performance indicators (KPIs):

When hello is a hassle
Asking, “How are you today?” has good intentions but an execution from behind the counter can unnerve customers only just entering the store. Why? Because the customer hasn’t had a chance to decompress from traffic and get their bearings. Often they can’t see from where the yelled greeting is coming or to whom it is directed, so they ignore it.

The Fix: Greet shoppers with the right words and only when making direct eye contact.

The hustler’s handshake
Reaching for a customer’s hand while saying, “Hi I’m (name) and you are?” is another no-no.

There are few things creepier to witness than this 1950s car-selling technique. A handshake is something you earn, not force upon others. While the intent is correct – to greet the person as a friend – a thrusting handshake can be viewed as very impersonal.

The Fix: Keep your hands to yourself. Do a good job and they’ll reach for your hand at the end of the sale.

Playing peek-a-boo with product
“Do you want to see it?” A salesperson’s whole presentation should be aimed at encouraging consumer-buying behaviours – the quest is to get customers to pick up an item, try it on and play with it. Yet when employees ask if customers want to see an item, the answer can be “no”, which robs the store of a potential sale.

The Fix: Open the display case, take items off the stand and hand them to the customer without asking.

The stock shoot-down 
“Our records show we don’t have it.” Using an iPad or another digital device to advise a shopper an item isn’t in stock might be quicker than going to the stockroom but it stops staff members from offering alternatives.

A great jewellery salesperson who knows their stock will emerge from the back room with a different piece of similar qualities and place it in the hands of the customer before saying anything about the item being out of stock.

The Fix: Train employees that if they use digital devices to check inventory, they must also search for an alternative solution and avoid just saying, “No, we don’t have that.”

The ‘please come back’ plea
“Here’s my card; when you come back, ask for me or I won’t get credit.” Handing a customer a business card at the end of the presentation is a loser’s limp. Not only did the staff member fail to close the sale but also they still want the credit or commission for the sale. It’s desperate and leaves customers feeling guilty. When a customer feels yucky, they won’t return to the store.

The Fix: Re-write the rules of sales commission. Once a customer leaves, any further sale goes to whoever closes it.

The slippery ‘on-sale’ sale
“Oh, these were on sale. You get a discount.” Sometimes a shopper arrives at the register not knowing that a full price item is actually on sale. Informing a customer of their saving while ringing up an item may seem consumer friendly but it actually robs the store of the chance to sell more. If the shopper had seen it on the tag or known it was on sale before arriving at the counter, it may have prompted them to buy a second item. Now that they’re at the POS counter, it’s too late – they can’t be bothered. What a missed opportunity.

The Fix: Make sure all merchandise is clearly signed to match promotions, and have staff use the potential savings to recommend more items before buyers get to the cashier.

The commission claw-back
“Hey, that was my sale.” When used correctly, sales commission is a great thing in retail; it rewards those who close the sale.

However, some inexperienced managers, who aren’t ready for the inevitability of conflict between commissioned salespeople, will allow toxic conversations to occur on the store floor.

Staff who complain about commission are like hungry dogs fighting over a scrap of meat, and if the customers hear it, they’ll want nothing to do with the store ever again.

The Fix: Train employees that any and all conversations about commission must happen in private and never on the sales floor. Set up a system that keeps track of every sale and check it at the end of each day.

Retail is hard enough without staff sabotaging the process with petty and ill-thought behaviour. Managers who can eliminate these behaviours from a sales floor will have greater success converting browsers into buyers. 

Bob Phibbs

Contributor • Retail Doctor

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor from the US, has been training small and medium sized businesses on how to successfully compete in today's retail environment since 1994. Learn more: retaildoc.com

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