October 24, 2017

Times have changed. Retailers can no longer just turn on the lights and stand behind the cash register waiting for customers to come through the door. You need to be a salesperson, because if you’re not selling yourself, your business and your products’ features, your customers will buy online.

My firm is focused on aquatic and herp stores, so we’ve seen a lot of people enter the pet industry because of their passion for their hobby. Some would admit that they are weak on sales technique but know their products and how to best care for the animals they sell.

Selling is not all about technique. In reality, if retailers can tell a compelling story about the product or service available, and if they can make customers comfortable with their personality and knowledge, they can be successful.

“Great salespeople are made, not born, and no one achieves success in life without knowing how to sell.” That quote has always stayed with me and motivated me. I believe we’re all sales people in life, even if we are just trying to persuade a son to clean his room or convince a daughter that it’s character-building to sell Girl Scout cookies.

If you feel comfortable in your approach to your customers, they will, in turn, feel comfortable and receptive to what you have to say. The following are the six most important elements to any sales approach.

1) Be the person you would buy from. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to sell something to someone who doesn’t like you or is skeptical about your knowledge level. First and foremost you need to know your products.

2) Make it about your customer. If you’re smart, you’ll “really listen” to the customer. You should pay attention to the customer’s wants and needs, allowing them to completely express themselves. Use the 2:1 Ratio Rule. Ask two questions for every one value point you share about the product or service on offer.

3) Know what is realistic for your customer. If a customer comes in to your store to buy a $20 aquarium heater and you try to upgrade them to a probe-sensor digital heater that costs $75, you’ll probably turn them off. Make sure that whatever you’re selling fulfills your customers’ needs and is realistic for them.

4) Solve a problem. Nine times out of 10, the customer is in your store in an effort to solve a problem. Using your expertise, be their problem solver and let them know that you’re there for them to help in the future. Share your email address with them so they have a personal connection with you.

5) Keep it simple. If the customer does have a problem or is thinking about a new project such as setting up a marine tank, they don’t need to be told how difficult it is, or how much it will cost. They need to be captivated by an in-store display as well as reassured that you are there for them every step of the way. Everything becomes simpler if there’s someone with the right expertise to help them.

6) Follow through. Once a sale is made, live up to the customer’s expectation that you are the expert and will be there for them. If what you told them about support are only words with no follow through, you’ll lose that customer and potentially others who read their negative review online about you or your business.

Speaking of online: An important tool available to all retailers nowadays are such online review sites as Google+, Yelp and the Facebook Review App. Having good reviews and responding to any negative reviews you receive is a powerful sales tool. More consumers are using these sites to educate themselves about the quality of products and services available to them. They may very well form an opinion about your business using these sites before even crossing the threshold of your store.

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