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Keys to Selling Retail

Updated on January 18, 2012

It's challenging to sell retail in the current economy -- and even more challenging when you add internet competition to the equation. Several simple pointers, can increase your success of selling retail merchandise in a "real store".

The key to selling retail is, simply, customer service. Customer service is a fairly broad term: customer service means that you are friendly and approachable to your customer. Let the customer know you are happy that they have chosen to enter your store. Be available to your customer to answer any questions. Be receptive and truly listen to what your customer wants and is asking for. Make suggestions, based on your understanding of what your customer wants (including "add-on" suggestions). And, in the end, validate your customer's decision -- affirming that they have made a good choice.

The only edge that retail stores have, in this evolving economy and world of online shopping, is the personal interaction with customers. You are likely not going to be able to price-compete with etailers, who do not have the overhead and risks associated with maintaining a brick-and-mortar retail store. You DO have the edge, in that the customer can actually see an item in person; more importantly, you have the advantage of establishing a personal relationship with your customer, and providing a level of expertise and assurances that many customers find essential to a satisfactory buying experience.

Greet your customer when he/she enters your store

If and when appropriate, consider establishing a personal relationship, by offering a comment, or asking a question irrelevant to your merchandise. Some examples might be: is it getting any warmer out there? (weather-related); "I really love your shoes"(or other apparel/accessory item).

Let the customer know that you are available, but don't be too aggressive or pushy. You might ask "Is there something in particular that I can help you with today?"; but it is generally preferable to avoid putting the customer on the spot, e.g. "If there's anything in particularly that you're looking for, or that I can help you with, please let me know" The latter comment does not require a response from the customer, but rather issues an invitation to the customer, to speak up if they decide they need assistance.

Try to be close to the customer physically when possible. If you are in close proximity to the customer, they are more likely to ask for help, or to ask a question. Arrange shelves, or work in the section where the customer is shopping, so that you are easily accessible.

If a customer is looking in a locked case, or at a high shelf, give him/her a few minutes to look. Then, open the case, or get the item down, so that the customer can get a closer look. Once an item is actually in the customer's hands, they are much more likely to buy.

Have prices available and readable. Don't make your customer ask for prices. Sometimes the customer will assume that something is too expensive, when it isn't. Sometimes, customers are embarrassed to ask price questions. Don't put your customers in this awkward position. Have prices visible.

LISTEN to your customer - to the customer's wants, needs -- to even their personal stories. Many times, retail customers are looking for "personal therapy". Also, make sure that you really understand what your customer wants, and why he/she has come into your store.

Suggest alternate items, as appropriate. If the customer is looking for a blue sweater in size 10 - and you don't have it - suggest a black or gray sweater in size 10 instead; if you don't have the item, but you can get it, then offer to get it. As a final leap, help your customer by suggesting another place for them to get the item they want, if you can't get it. This won't put dollars in your pocket today, but the goodwill is invaluable .

Suggest add-on's. If the item being purchased needs a case or batteries, then suggest it. If it's wrapping paper, ask if the customer needs a card, ribbon, scotch tape, etc. If it's that blue sweater, suggest a tie or handbag that might match....

Finally, validate the customer's choice. Assure the customer that they have made a good decision and that they will be happy with the product.

Most importantly, make sure that the customer leaves, feeling good about the experience that he/she has had in your store.

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