How To Build A Client Base In Retail, And Always Have Them Coming Back For More
I was just reminiscing about my days as a salesperson, and this article was born.
One important piece of advice is "DON'T STEAL THEIR MONEY!" I'll explain that later.
This article is directed to salespeople and small shop owners, who want to build and keep a client base, I might add build a loyal client base.
I worked retail for about six years. I worked for a department store called J.Jill and for Nordstrom. In both I was a top salesperson. Nordstrom has something called, "Pacesetter." This is the highest rank you can get as a salesperson in the company. In a store of about 500 employees, there's sometimes less than 30 employees throughout the entire store, covering all departments, who reach that status. One of the years I reached that status, there were only 22 of us, from our particular store. I say all of this not as a way of boasting, but just to lend credence to my advice.
I don't think it's a secret that Nordstrom's is a commission based company, as is other high end stores. So, to work on commission you must acquire, and retain a good personal customer base. Working on commission is very challenging, to say the least. I won't hang around this territory, as anyone working in, or have worked commission retail can testify to the validity of that statement.
These are the things that helped me reach the "top of my game," in retail. I'm sure there's more expert advice to be found, but just follow these few tips and I'm sure you'll find a measure of success, in building, and keeping a good client base.
To begin with working retail is not easy. Especially because you're dealing with the public, and not everyone wakes up on the right side of the bed each day. To be a successful salesperson, you must always, or at least give the impression you did. I've had customers come in, and declare they were "mean," and proceeded to demonstrate their declaration. However, I was always undaunted by that, as a matter of fact they become a project, and guess what, I won in most cases. You see most people only want to be understood, and in some cases understanding them is knowing when to speak, and when to keep quiet. I must admit, I am a "people person." Meaning, I like to be around people, and engaging with them. Actually, if you are not the sort of person who appreciates talking to people, then this is surely not the career for you. Oh, you can make it a temporary job, but success as a salesperson quite possibly won't be yours.
- Put on your smile first thing in the morning, and wear it all day long. Customers can't look across a room and see a frown, and when they approach you suddenly break out in a toothy grin. You don't have to walk around looking like a Cheshire Cat, but just have a pleasant look.
- Greet, sincerely, you must consider everyone who walks into your store/department as potentially a friend, if appropriate introduce yourself, and ascertain their name. Think about your best friend, or favorite relative, and picture that's who just walked in the door, and act accordingly.
- Offer your service, ask if they need help, don't pressure them. If they say they'd like to look around, let them. Don't follow them around, and every few seconds approach, and suggest something. Busy yourself doing something else, and periodically look over to see if it appears as if they need your help. This is especially true for small shop owners, don't make them feel as if you don't trust them to walk around your shop. Of course, there are instances where this might be the case, however, these are not the customers you want to return anyway.
- This point is especially important In clothing departments/stores, don't lie to the customer, remember I said, "DON'T STEAL THEIR MONEY." Well, lying to a customer and encouraging them to purchase an item just to make a sale, is tantamount to stealing their money. For instance, a customer chooses something that you know is not flattering, and after trying it on they ask your opinion, or you notice them wearing the item, what would you do? Remember you want them as a repeat customer. You wouldn't be so bold as to say, "Oh no, girlfriend/man that looks awful." Or you shouldn't say, just to please them, Oh, I like it, it's you all over," knowing it's not right for them. Believe me, there is someone that's going to tell them the truth, or at least let them know by their reaction that it's not right for them. And you've probably lost a potential customer, (oh yes they're going to remember you sold it to them). You could say something like, and I used this often, "I think," suggesting something else, "this might be more flattering for your figure or physique." If nothing else is found, point out places where it could fit a little better, or you could say something about the color and their complexion, eyes etc. At any rate, get them out of that outfit. Even if you don't make a sale that day, you will have a repeat customer. That's how I got most of my customers, if it looked good on them, I'd point out why I said that. If it didn't fit, I'd likewise let them know. Overwhelmingly, my customers said that they appreciated my honesty, some would not shop on my off days.
- If you don't have it and know a competitor who does, there's nothing wrong with suggesting they try the other store. I used that technique also. To my knowledge I didn't lose a genuine customer that way, as a matter of fact I gained them. There was this one instance where a man came in looking for something specific for his wife, and we didn't carry it, but I knew who did, so I steered him in that direction. About an hour later he came back and bought something from me, as he said, just to say thank you.
- On the way to making the sale. Make the customer feel comfortable. One way to do that is, address them by their name, remember you've gotten their name, you did that initially, if not, ask now and use it. Another thing, listen, yes listen even if what they're saying is not related to a sale. Of course, you're trying to make money, and you can't spend all of your time with just one customer, however, most people can see when you need to move on and they usually will excuse themselves. If not, you can discreetly point out that you must go and give them a nice send off with something like, "have a good day, see you next time (their name). I can't overemphasize how important it is to call a repeat or potential customer by name. Think about it, don't you appreciate it when someone calls you by name, especially in a setting such as that.
- Another little tidbit that I learned, or rather I learned I was doing, that really worked for me. I'm naturally a touchy feely type of person. That really came in handy in retail. I read in a magazine once that when a salesperson touches you, you bond with them. I think it served me well. I use to lightly touch them on the shoulder, or upper back. I had my huggers, and I did that too. Of course, some people prefer not to be touched, and you must discern who they are and act accordingly.
- Now, when the sale is made, and concluded, don't just send them away, walk them to the door or out of the department.
- If you're anything like me, and your memory is bad, write down something pertaining to the customer. Actually, we were encouraged to do that at Nordstrom. Because when that "good customer" returns you'll want to remember them, and again treat them like your best friend, or favorite relative.
- One more thing, make concessions, according to your ability to do so. By that I mean, if the customer has a complaint, and you're allowed, do whatever it takes to please them. If you're a shop owner, and if it doesn't break the bank, why not do whatever it takes to make the customer happy, including, and up to taking a return against your policy. I can't tell you what one bad report can do to a Mom and Pop shop. For instance I only heard about a very objectionable incidence that happened at one of my favorite "variety stores," and I haven't shopped there since. I've actually seen formerly successful neighborhood shops change hands, and the new owners were not customer friendly, have to close their doors. So I say, remember from whom you make your living, the CUSTOMER!
So, with these tidbits from my very limited repertoire, I hope you've found something that can help you build a client base, and also become the super salesperson that you want to be. Now go get 'em champ!
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