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How to Step Out of your Comfort Zone to Succeed in Sales
Public speaking, asking for money, and talking to strangers all rank high in common discomforts. Unfortunately, being a sales associate combines all three.
I have had several unique experiences with sales that have led me to develop a clear idea of the "Do's" and "Don'ts" of sales. If you're new to business these tips are for you!
Things you should do to be successful
- Dress appropriately. When people step into a store they are going to judge you first by your appearance. You should have a clean, well-manicured appearance, no matter what type of store you work at. Your hair should be done, your clothes should be ironed, nothing should be poking out or distracting. You don't have to look fancy (unless that's the mood of the store), but you should appear polished. Even if you have to wear a uniform, still take care of your appearance; a wrinkly shirt with a stain is going to set a different mood than a crisp pristine shirt.
- Smile and be friendly. Be as genuine as you can, even if you're having a bad day. If you are nice to the customers, they will like you. When customers like you they feel obligated to buy--or rather, they WANT to buy.
- Be helpful, but not pushy. You can offer suggestions, but I've been far more successful when I just hang back and let the customer do their thing, rather than hover over their shoulder pointing things out.
- Be honest. If a customer asks you your opinion on a product you really don't know about, be honest and tell them you don't know. If they really want it, they'll buy it anyway. The problem with lying is that if a customer buys a product and it isn't as you promised your credibility will be ruined.
- Chat it up....a little bit. Small talk is great and encouraged, especially if it looks like it will lead to more sales. However, it doesn't do you any good to stand around the store with a customer having a conversation that will lead nowhere. Talk about the weather, how are they doing, small little things, but keep it short and sweet!
- If you're the shy type, force yourself not to run and cower when customers walk through the door. Imagine you're some amazing high profile celebrity. Pretend like you're someone who has lots of confidence and charisma. Keep doing that and you will BECOME someone with confidence and charisma.
- That's what happened to me. I was so shy, didn't want to talk to strangers at all, but I had to if I wanted to make sales. So I put on my best smile and told myself, "I'm beautiful, I'm confident, I have a great smile, I'm friendly, people like me, why shouldn't they? I'm cool, I'm suave..." and so on. I would just run a whole bunch of compliments in my head, even if I didn't believe them at first. By repeating them over and over to myself, I started to internalize them. Now I can talk to anyone who walks through the door with ease.
- Don't think about the price of things, think about the products themselves. This was my rookie mistake when I started. I was so obsessed with the cost of things I would just blurt out prices and it turned customers off. Don't talk about prices unless the customer asks or there's some sort of deal like "3 for $20" or "50% off." Ask the customer what they're looking for and what they're interested in. Get a feel for their style and what they might like, not what you think they'd be willing to pay.
- Go the extra mile. What I mean by that is, don't do the bare minimum of what is expected of you. Whatever the daily requirements are of your position, set your goal even just a little higher. When it becomes easy for you to reach your daily evelvated goals, raise the bar again. Every time you start to get comfortable with what you're doing--make yourself uncomfortable by demanding more from yourself. Comfort leads to stagnation and stagnation does not lead to success!
Take time to study your products, prices, regulations, and everything having to do with your business. A knowledgeable sales person is a successful sales person. If you show your customers you really know what you're talking about they will remember you and look for you when they come again.
Practice by striking up conversations with people on the train or just saying "hello" to strangers on the street. Overcoming shyness takes a lot of effort, but once you see it's not as scary as it seems you'll start to feel more comfortable.
Sales techniques that can lead to failure
- Being too aggressive or pushy about making a sale. Ugh, I hated this! At the first retail store I went to my manager demanded that every person that walked in the store leave with a bag in their hand. If they came in with a clear idea of what they wanted to buy he wanted us to make sure that they leave with more than they had planned. It was such a horrible experience I did not last more than a month working there.
- The problem with being too aggressive in sales is that you may make an immediate profit, but your customers will NOT enjoy their experience. As a result, they may make a purchase--but they will never return. No one likes being nagged.
- Do not follow around your customers. It sends out very negative messages. Give your customers room to breath and think. Do you like it when sales people chase you around like a puppy? Treat your customers the way you like to be treated when you shop.
- Do not be rude, EVER! Even if a customer is rude to you or has an attitude. Keep smiling, keep being friendly. Being nice will help diffuse anger. Getting angry too will just make matters worse and will not end well for you.
- Never talk bad about your boss or co-workers, even if others are saying mean things. You don't want to burn bridges in the work place, you never know whose help you'll need when trouble calls. Generally, I like to be nice to everyone, because what's the use in making enemies? That doesn't mean you have to LIKE everyone, but you should be civilized. Keeping good relationships with people may lead to bonuses and promotions in your future.
- Don't mix your private life with work. I'm not talking about work relations (alothough that could be hazardous). I'm more talking about home problems. You should have a work persona and an outside persona. If you are fighting with your husband, if you are having a bad day, if your son stole your credit card and went on a shopping spree--don't let it affected your work persona! If it has nothing to do with your job, than leave it at the door and deal with it once you clock out. Business time is for business, not personal problems, no matter if you're working at a large department store or a mom-and-pop shop.
- Don't be shy. Easier said than done, I know, but this is the determining factor between success and failure. If you are too shy to make sales, you will never succeed in sales. Try to rationalize why you are shy. Are you afraid people won't like you? Are you afraid you will be rejected? Are you afraid you will mess up? Don't be. In my experience, people are generally nice and good. They want to like you, they want to see you succeed. Of course there are a few rotten ones that enjoy making others uncomfortable, but coming across someone like that is rare. Smile and you will receive a smile back. Try it. Smile at anyone right now. Just smile at the first stranger you meet, see what happens. Humans are social creatures, we crave interaction--so interact! If you make a sale, great! If you don't, that's okay. It will happen. Don't beat yourself up.
A new tip...
Here's another piece of advice my boss shared with me recently (she's been in business for herself for over a decade now).
Don't overwhelm the customer with all your sales, merchandise, and options. Find out what they are looking for, what they are interested in, and try to assess their style from their demeanor. Then focus your sales on only a few things that you think they would be most interested in.
Having more options, believe it or not, discourages customers and as a result they buy less! This is because all the choices are so overwhelming they're not really sure what they like or where to even begin to look! Focusing in on one or two things at a time give them an opportunity to fall in love with the merchandise.
My best advice
My best advice for succeeding in sales...or even succeeding in anything...is to just be kind and keep a positive attitude. Every person gives off energy. If you keep a positive attitude, people will just naturally gravitate towards you because of that feel-good energy you give off.
If you have an off day, or even a few off days--don't beat yourself up. Evaluate the problems, determine ways you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future, apply yourself, and let go. Holding on to past failures is only going to weigh you down, preventing you from reaching future success.
Do your very best every day and you will conquer!