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Tips on Selling, Business

Why repeat sales are so important – and how you can increase them

One of the most cost-effective ways to improve your business is to focus on repeat sales. RICHARD SHAPIRO explains how to keep customers coming back to your store.

With summer over and the first quarter of trading behind us, we are moving into the autumn season – which is a perfect time to set our sights on some ideas to generate repeat business.

While much emphasis is placed on acquiring new customers, repeat sales are the lifeblood of any retail business. That is because you do not have to spend money attracting a customer who already shops with you. The best opportunity for retailers to generate repeat business is for sales staff to create and build relationships with customers.

We all stop at our local coffee shop in the morning to see Mary the barista who gives us a big smile. She knows what we did over Christmas, if our children had a great summer holiday, and what our plans are for when they go back to school.

Once you find your ‘Mary’, you don’t seek out another, more convenient or cheaper café; your loyalty is towards Mary.

Here are my six repeat business ideas to help you become every customer’s ‘Mary’:

Teach sales staff to greet people as they would a new neighbour into their home. Communicate how important it is to smile and connect with customers as people first.

It’s more important to find out about the customer and their needs, goals, and personality, than it is to know exactly what’s in your inventory.

"It’s not important how you help them – instead, it’s about showing the customer you care about answering their question or resolving their problem"

Ask customers if they have ever been in your store before and whether they purchased something or not. If someone is new, tell them more about your business, for example the best places to park in the future, your hours, and the type of stock you carry.

You can also let them know how long you have been in business, your other locations, the details of your return policies, and your personal customer experience philosophy. It will not only be useful to your customer, but more importantly, create a dialogue and relationship.

Always tell the customer you can help them. People like to feel they are speaking to a person who can help. Providing help might require asking another staff member for advice, requesting more information from the customer, or even referring them to another store.

It’s not important how you help them – instead, it’s about showing the customer you care about answering their question or resolving their problem.

Listen to your customer’s emotions. Pay attention to what customers are feeling, not just what they are saying. In almost every instance, you will be able to easily tell if someone is happy, frustrated, excited or disappointed.

By expressing a reaction to their emotional state – for example, by saying, “You sound disappointed we don’t have your size in stock. Let me double-check and get back to you” – you foster a new and beneficial relationship.

Have business cards printed for all sales staff. Doing so will make your employees feel more important and valued, and it’s an excellent way to invite the customer to return.

The employee could say, “I really enjoyed helping you today. Here is my card with my contact information. Now that I know your tastes, I can let you know if we get something in stock you might like. Would you prefer me to email, call or text? Just let me know.”

Keep in touch. Many retailers fail to show the customer they matter after the sale. That’s a big mistake. Sending daily emails can also have a negative effect. Brainstorm with your team about the best ways to show customers they are relevant after they leave your store.

I grew up in a retail environment. My dad owned a menswear store and I worked there in my early teens. I learnt two important lessons. Firstly, it is more important to listen and learn the customer’s state of mind than to find out their method of payment.

Secondly, when new customers entered the store, they were strangers. My father hoped by the time they left they had become new friends.

If more retailers understood why they visit the same coffee shop to see their ‘Mary’ and taught their staff the concept that shoppers are people first, and customers second, the percentage of repeat customers would undoubtedly rise.

Richard Shapiro

Contributor • The Center for Client Retention

Richard Shapiro is founder of The Center For Client Retention, offering research, training and consulting services, and author of The Endangered Customer: Eight Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business. Learn More: tcfcr.com

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