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The biggest B2C mistake

It’s made millions of times every day across the country in stores other than self-serve (like supermarkets). If your store relies on interaction between your sales associates and your prospects, don’t be trapped in the traditional way its always been done in retailing. Consider what your goal is for your sales people: to engage your customers to help facilitate a purchase decision.

What do we know about buying decisions? They’re made in the heart, then justified in the brain. Brain imagery studies in recent years have confirmed what sales trainers have been preaching for years: the decision to buy begins emotionally and ends logically, and if there’s any doubt or confusion in the prospect’s mind, their default behavior will be to not buy. That’s what your sales staff must assist in. Give your customers the information they need to make a decision in your favor and don’t load them up with what they don’t need to know.

You already know that the primary sales skill is listening, not talking. Find out what your prospect wants (it’s easier to sell to a “want” than a “need”), then show him/her how what you have satisfies that want. Easily enough said, but sometimes hard to do…if you can’t engage them in dialogue. If they won’t talk to you, your people won’t know what information will help them decide to buy.

So, don’t throw the traditional hurdle in the path between the arrival of your prospect in your store and closing the sale: failing to engage them early. Conventional wisdom is that we greet a new customer by saying. “Good morning/afternoon/evening, may I help you?” Ask your sales people how many times they hear, “No thanks, just browsing” or “No, just looking.” Any offer made to be available to them at that point falls far short of engaging them, and the worst-case scenario is that they leave the store without speaking to anyone and without buying anything. In the real world, I was in a lighting store years ago when a couple was greeted with “May I help you?” and told “no.” They left shortly, and I overheard the woman tell the man that they had a very poor selection of fixtures. Yet, along the back wall, there were tables and chairs set up for the sales staff to show customers their real inventory in a variety of thick catalogs. But, the sales associate never got the opportunity to guide the couple there.

So, what do you do differently? Don’t ask the question that can bring the conversation to an abrupt end. Try saying just “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and shut up! The combination of a sense of common courtesy with the uncomfortable nature of a pause in conversation will invariably motivate your prospect to respond. Consider how much you gain in just a few seconds if that response is, “We came in to look at refrigerators” or “I’m shopping for a power drill” or “Where are your laptops?” or “Do you carry Sharp big screens?” With that simple exchange, you’ve begun a dialogue which is the foundation of engagement and relationship-building. As you lead them to the appropriate place in your store, you can ask your first qualifying question about what feature or characteristic is of greatest interest to them. Once you’ve gotten them to answer that first question, it’s easier for them to answer subsequent ones and, in a short time, you’ll be able to point them to the item(s) that most-closely match what they’re seeking. And, you’ve positioned yourself as a helpful resource, not a pushy sales person. The more comfortable they are talking with you, the easier it is to draw out objections and deal with them. And, any retailer knows, once you’ve overcome the objections, they’re usually ready to buy.

So, don’t drive them out of your store by offering to help them. Keep them there by engaging them and actually being helpful.