Sunday 26 February 2017

To Serve or Not To Serve

Like many aspects of retail, salesmanship is going through a renaissance, and the latest version of attending to your customers is very different.

In the good old days (whatever they were) attending to customers involved approaching every customer directly and launching into your sales pitch. You would extol the virtues of your products, explain why they were essential to the customer, and of course before the customer left the stall, get in the line “so, how many would you like?”

There was some tweaking to the technique of course. We went through a stage where “Can I help you?” was replaced with the more sophisticated approach “That product has just been classified as “most valuable” by the Caroline Springs Housewives Association, and do you know it comes in 5 different colours?” You get the idea.


But things have certainly changed and the big change is the shift from a salesperson dominated discussion to a customer dominated discussion. And often the customer choice is “no discussion”. Customers have entered a new world of control. They can even decide not to visit stores and do their shopping online, which increasing numbers are doing. Why should they put up with the interference of sales staff when they can choose and purchase un-interrupted?

Abuse of sales staff is now a thing. Smartcompany recently reported that over half of Australia’s retail sales workforce have been physically or verbally abused. Conflict training is now an important part of retail training programs and the ABC published an article before Christmas last year entitled “Why You Should Be Nice To Sales Staff”. The bottom line is that the “pushy” approach with customers is no longer appropriate.

So, what is the best way to deal with customers these days? One of our more successful traders is famous for being regularly absent from his stall. In fact he is never far away and keeps a close check on customer behaviour. He likes to give customers a free go to get hooked on his products but as soon as their body language suggests they want to take the next step, he is by their side. This is customer attention but in a different way.

The thing that doesn’t change is your awareness of customer behaviour. Sitting at the back of your stall immersed in a game on your mobile phone doesn’t qualify. But carefully watching behaviour and then moving in when the time is right can reap rewards. Don’t be pushy, but be attentive and hopefully you will end up with a sale, and maybe a handshake from a happy customer who has respected the fact that you gave them space.
Good luck!

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