February 13, 2017

Most consumers only visit your store if they have a need or a problem to solve. The reason could be as simple as stocking up on pet food or as complicated as having concern for an older pet’s health. What you do when a customer asks for advice could either lock them into your business as a loyal customer or drive them away, never to be seen again.

Want proof? Look at Yelp. It amazes me when I look at a retailer’s Yelp review page where one review is one star and the next is five stars. You can read between the lines and know that some sales people deal well with normal business situations while others don’t, letting customers leave their store with a displeasure that they share with the world on Yelp.

Have the Answers
Ask yourself these questions: What makes a loyal customer who will give you repeat business? How would you like to be approached if you were visiting a store for a solution to a problem? What is the consumers’ perception of the service or products that you offer?

Engage your customers by taking the time to understand their issues—don’t just point them to a product. Be sure they understand the product, and be ready to suggest alternative solutions to their problem if necessary. The differences between you and the big-box store is knowledge and personalized service, so be prepared to supply both.

Retailers who think their only job is to inventory and sell products will probably not thrive in current market conditions. If that was all customers needed, they could just click a mouse and order online. The successful retailers must know how their products work and be able to communicate that to their customers.

Most new customers value a hassle-free first visit and, if needed, a little TLC from the retailer. If they have questions and have them answered competently, they will not forget the experience. “Do you have something that will work for (fill in the blank)?” is one of the most asked questions by customers. There’s nothing worse than being given inaccurate information or being fobbed off with a cookie-cutter answer. Any customer treated like that will probably not give your business a second chance.

What They Need
Hobbyists know what they want before they step into a store. The majority of consumers aren’t hobbyists, and they won’t buy if they don’t understand what they need. Product knowledge easily equates to sales and profits. Signage and displays show the products and should suggest projects that will enhance the customer’s lifestyle. Displays are a key to selling anything if you’re looking to increase volume, but taking the time to confirm that you have what it takes to solve their problem will close the sale.

Keep in mind that most customers never make a purchasing decision based solely upon price alone. Example: Say you’re at a baseball game and you’re thirsty. There are two vendors selling soda. One has his soda priced at $1 and the other has his at $2. So, naturally, you go to the vendor that is cheaper. What if once you get up to the counter you find that the guy behind the counter was dipping the cups into a big bucket of soda and flies were buzzing all over the place? Would you buy it? The other vendor has a clean and inviting counter with a dispensing tab. I would pay more because the value is obvious; the same thing applies to pet services and supplies. The only difference is that pet retailers have to make an effort to explain as well as show why the customer should pay the asking price.

Remember, and never forget, that people don’t like to be sold. What they want is someone who will listen to them and solve their problem or provide them with reassurance that their purchase is the right one to fit their needs.

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