Why are some sales consultants more successful than others?
Ongoing series written by Ron Wolinski when he was Manager of Sales Education at Simmons.
If you've read any of my past articles, you now know that the principles of Professionalism, Consultative Selling, Problem Solving, Communication and building Long-Term Relationships are the foundation of my personal selling philosophy.
In my years in retail, I observed many things that sales associates did right and many things that they did wrong. I spent much time attempting to build and enhance the right things and eliminate the wrong things. In this process, I developed a mental inventory, or check list, that I focused on in my sales education seminars. I would like to share these ideas with you. I'm sure you've heard many of them before, and some may be new to you. Keep in mind these ideas are quite simply my opinion and they do not make me right. These are the qualities and attitudes that make some retail sales associates more successful than others.
- Place the needs of the customer first and foremost in your mind.
- Spend the majority of your time listening to customers express what's important to them, rather than "pitching a product."
- Know competitive products as well as you know your own.
- Read industry/trade journals and shelter magazines so you know the latest trends, attitudes and approaches. Shame on you if your customer knows more than you.
- Make a personal telephone call to your customer immediately upon product delivery to resolve any questionable situations before they become problems. Turn a possible negative into an opportunity to show how good you can be.
- Respond quickly to customer telephone calls. Nothing angers a customer more than to be kept waiting on the line or to not have you return a call, which forces him/her to call again.
- Maintain contact with all your customers to develop a "personal trade."
- Believe everyone who enters your store is a "customer." Don't pre-judge anyone based on his/her appearance or your perception of his/her attitude.
- Treat every customer as if he/she is the "only customer you'll get that day." Value the customer. Don't take him/her for granted.
- Walk the floor after a day off to note any floor changes or new products being brought on. Don't wait until you're with a customer to discover that you can't find a product.
- Spend time with every vendor marketing representative to completely understand products, warranties, delivery schedules and special order procedures.
- Check stock inventories daily so there are no surprises. Don't make a commitment to your customer that you can't fulfill.
- Sell for "tomorrow," not just for today, by developing long-term relationships. Be a problem solver rather than a "pitch man."
- Don't rely on the "up-sheet" or "luck of the door." Sell special orders. Have your "pipe line" filled all of the time.
- Be very familiar with the product lines your store carries. The fact that it's not on your floor doesn't mean it's not available. Know optional pieces, sizes and finish options.
- Don't just sell a piece of furniture. Sell a "complete look." Build the room. Sell the total look, life style or complete vignette. Don't be an order taker, be a consultant. Explain how all of the pieces work together to create the room.
- Show appreciation for the hard work of all associates in the store. Everyone contributes in satisfying the customer. Give recognition to the delivery guys, warehousemen, customer service and administrative personnel (office). They all contribute to your success.
- Offer "creative" ways that your customer hasn't thought of to develop a room, or use products he/she isn't aware of.
- Be a "team player:" help other sales associates by answering questions on product knowledge, store policies or special order vendor requirements.
- Keep store management informed regarding customer requests for different products, colors and styles.
- Constantly review your "open order" report to keep your customer informed of the status of his/her order. Be a good communicator.
- Develop customer files for style preference, follow-up calls for special events, new product introductions, birthdays, thank-you cards, etc.
- Make sure you know which products are advertised, where they're located on the floor, stock levels, any unique product characteristics (e.g., distressing, antiquing), and the care and maintenance of products (e.g., turning and flipping the mattress to eliminate body depressions and buying center supported frames for queen and king-size mattresses) before your customer leaves the store. It will eliminate misunderstandings, hard feelings and possible returns.
- Shop the competition regularly. You must be aware of what's happening in your marketplace. Hold a meeting to share this information with the rest of the staff.
- During any given Saturday morning meeting, share with the group any successes you've had with a product so all can learn from your experience.
- Come in at least 30 minutes early every day. You need to read your mail, check phone calls, and obtain information on advertising, new products, and policy and pricing changes. In other words, you need time to get your mind ready to do business that day.
- Take a personal interest in your customer as a person, so he/she will take a personal interest in you as an advisor. Remember, people hate to be sold, but they love to be helped. The relationship between an advisor and a client solving a problem is much different from that of a salesperson trying to sell a customer.
- One of my clients once told me, "When working with your customer, make a friend!"
In my opinion, the characteristics and elements I've covered, are the ones that make some retail sales consultants more successful than others!
Good luck and good selling (consulting).
Ron Wolinski is VP Performance Groups for Profitability Consulting. His expertise in management stems from the positions he has held such as Manager of Training for Art Van Furniture, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Contact Interiors, President of Behavioral Dimensions, Sales Education for the Simmons Company, National Director of Education and Development for Value City Furniture and most recently, Director of Education and Retail Services for La-Z-Boy, Inc. He consults with retail organizations internationally on Consultative Selling, Communications, Leadership Skills, Organizational Development, Interviewing and Recruiting, and Customer Service. Questions relating to this article or to other related topics can be directed to Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.