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Commercial Selling - The Truth
Commercial Selling – The Truth
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
I have worked in retail sales many times in my career: as a salesperson, a sales manager, a store manager and a national sales training manager. In my day there was a level of ethics in selling and it was an honourable profession. I taught basic techniques in approach, attitude, closing as well as product benefits, and presentation and communication skills. It was all about professionalism and servicing back then: focusing on the customer and attending to their needs, paramount. Sadly, much of the integrity I experienced is today no longer an aspect of many retail establishments.
This prompted me to search out the important factors and to right the wrongs of the many misled establishments that continue to push the boundaries to make sales and maintain their businesses.
Firstly there is a simple understanding that must be stated in respect of any business and its mission statement. All businesses need to be profitable, otherwise they’re out of business, but it should never be at the expense of the customer to do so. Our world, including businesses, exists in a sate of balance. You give out positive energy, be well presented, smile, be kind and attentive, then you’ll have customers that are happy to buy from you and will come back again and again. You give out negative energy, look like the cat dragged you in, don’t want to be there and poorly treat a customer, then you will fail. These customers will be dissatisfied, won’t buy and will tell everyone they know not to shop at your establishment. It’s simple: if you are helpful, kind and happy that’s the customers you get, you attract. If you are the opposite then you attract similarly.
It’s so simple, but that one truth will either make or break a business. Selling is not about products per say, it’s about how that product will make a customer feel. When a customer walks into a shop, say a clothing shop, they have a vision, an idea in their mind. They don’t look for a particular article, rather something that will fill a need, something that will make them feel good, look attractive and confident. The salespersons job is to firstly let the customer feel comfortable, then gently and kindly approach and listen, discover what their vision is. Then, it is simply a matter of knowing the stock and presenting product ideas that fit in with the customer’s vision.
This gentle approach may not produce a purchase every time, but it will bring the customer back and eventually it will pay off, again and again. Pressure selling on the other hand, either scares the customer away or creates uneasiness and even if there is a sale, it’s likely to be the last.
Let me give you an example about attitude and kindness regarding customers. A close friend of mine owns a women’s clothing boutique and has a straight return policy, regardless of reason. Some would say a poor business decision, even stupidity. I beg to differ. Remember Balance?
A customer comes in about a recent purchase of a dress. Some of the fine beading has undone from a loose stitch. The dress is replaced without question and after thinking about the scenario of returning the dress for credit or repair at the wholesaler, the owner gives back the minimally damaged dress to the customer for free, and once again apologises for the inconvenience. The woman was so taken aback and thrilled with the gesture she spent another three hundred dollars on the spot and left a customer for life. There was no loss of profit - the new sale more than compensating for the free garment.
So, positive out, positive back; this is no new idea, it’s simply how the world works. I just can’t believe there are businesses that still stoop to tricks, lies and deceit to close a sale. Not only is this practice unethical and archaic, but it just won’t sustain a profitable business. Of course there are many necessary aspects to address to run and maintain a profitable business. But if the attitudes and training are not right regarding selling, based on kindness, service and professionalism, then how can a business be successful, long term?