…I am going to have to go home and think about it.

As I strolled up to the door of the store in a sleety squall, I noticed a woman in her 50s getting out of a new Lexus LS also heading for the door.  I held the door so she could get out of the weather more quickly.  (I was not being chauvinistic just courteous, I would have held the door for anyone.)

As she passed, I observed, “That is a beautiful car.”

“Do you thinks so?” she responded.  “I just got it and I love it.”

“Yes,” I said, “it is quite nice”

“Thank you,” she said as I noticed her Rolex watch.

Why do I mention the Lexus and the Rolex?  Well, anyone in sales learns to recognize simple things about their customers that might help them learn a bit more about the customers.  To me, this person was a person of means.

Once inside the store, we headed in different directions but our paths crossed later again in the camping equipment area.  (Yes, it was an outdoor store.)  While I was  looking over some product, the woman that I came in with was approached by a sales associate who offered assistance.

By Scott Ehardt – Own work, Public Domain,

“I came in to pick up a headlamp.  My friend has one and she really likes it.”

I thought to myself that she was a transactional customer with few requirements.  I figured a few questions from the sales assoiciate would have her on her way with a headlamp in a matter of minutes.  But I was mistaken.

Rather than asking her what she would use the headlamp for or what headlamp headlamp her friend had and liked, the sales associate went into an in-depth clinic on headlamps.

He talked about type of bulbs, lumens versus watts, brightness levels, strap types, brands available, run time claimed by the manufacturer, actual run time, maximum beam distance, red lens options, strobe or non-strobe functions, rechargeable, non-rechargeable and combinations of both, helmet compatibility, blah, blah, blah.  He continued to talk puking product information on her at a truly amazing rate.  As he droned on, never asking her any questions or checking for understanding, you could see the shopper glaze over and take a step back.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally stopped.  It was at this point that the shopper looked at him with a confused look on her face and said, “You have given me more than enough to think about.  I guess I am going to have to go home and think about it.”  The sales associate simply replied, “Well if you think of any other questions, I will be around” as he turned and walked away.

The woman turned and walked towards the door.

An easy sale completely messed up by the sales associate.  Here was a woman of means who simply wanted a headlamp, maybe like her friends.  Price was not going to be an issue.  A few simple questions would have gotten her a fine headlamp that probably would have more than satisfied her needs.  Instead, her attempt to simply pick up a headlamp was thwarted by an incompetent yet well-meaning sales associate.

“A little help?”

We have all been there.  Walking by a playground, a college campus, a beach or schoolyard, when we hear the call’ “A little help?”

We all know how to respond.  We immediately search the area for an errant ball or frisbee that needs to be returned to the person asking for help.  Finding the lost item, we toss, throw flip or kick it back to the owner hopefully with some accuracy.

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I sent him away

He was timid, reserved and soft-spoken.  We have all run across this type of customer before.  It’s challenging to get them to warm up to you, they can be slow to offer information and they can even be hard to hear.

I greeted him and asked him what brought him into the store today.  A rather defensive “I just came in to look” was his response.  So I told him to look around and that I would check back in a few minutes if he ran across any questions and then I set off to help others who had just entered the store.

As I circled back to him after a few minutes, it was clear to me that he that he truly was looking for something specific as he studied the hang tags and pulled garments off racks to look at. It seems that he had needed some time to decompress and check things out on his own terms when he first entered our store.  I re-approached him.

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The “Expert” – Part 2

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This second post on working with experts looks at the customer that perhaps grossly over-estimates their knowledge, is mistaken or is just plain wrong.

Marshall Field supposedly said “The customer is always right.” This is a great way to proceed with your customers unless they are wrong.

In these situation, you can turn to Aleister Crowley and his less famous quote for guidance “The customer is usually wrong but statistics indicate that it doesn’t pay to tell him so.”  So, what do you do when the customer is wrong?  The key when working with pseudo-experts is to be patient, gentle and respectful.

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The Expert – Part 1

EXPERT – Someone having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

expertThis is the first in a four-part series on dealing with experts in your retail store from several different perspectives.  For the sake of these posts, when I refer to an expert I am referring to someone who has advantaged knowledge or experience about the products being sold and their usage. Today’s perspective is dealing with a customer that is an expert.

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keep-calm-and-listen-to-your-customer-11-jpg-2

I was doing a little research today and I ran across an image that caught my eye.  Digging a bit further, I discovered the image source was from Keep Calm-o-matic.

The Keep Calm-o-Matic is the place to express your creativity, dreams and imagination. You can create, discover and shop.

They make a variety of customizable products based on the WWII poster used throughout England to encourage their citizens to carry on in spite of the rocket attacks and bombings from the Nazis. (The website is so easy and engaging I bought a customized poster and a coffee mug and I do not even drink coffee.)  See for yourself at http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

You have no idea…

optic

Last fall I was in the market for a new tent and after doing some research, I narrowed the choices down to just three.  Given my size, I like to try tents out before I buy them so I headed out to the local Mountain Hardwear shop where they had the Mountain Hardwear Optic 2.5 in stock.

Having done my research ahead of time, I knew the statistics on the tent such as dimensions, weight, packed size and materials.  I also knew the price.  At $240, it is a moderately priced tent in the Mountain Hardwear line, where tents can range to over $500.

I arrived at the store nicely dressed and freshly showered.  As I entered the store, I was greeted warmly by the person near the cash wrap as I made my way to the back of the store to the tent department.  As luck would have it, the Optic 2.5 was actually set up on the sales floor for display.  This kept me from going through the hassle of asking to have the tent set-up.  As I bent down to crawl into the tent, a clerk approached me.

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Useful POS

Dockers POS

I always appreciate point of sale materials that are both useful and well designed.

I saw this POS display designed for those of us who are a bit “fashioned-challenged” at my local JCPenney. (JCP clearly knows their target audience since not many “fashion-forward” men are shopping at JCP and many of their male shoppers made need some guidance.)

Shoppers do not need to know the lingo of the fashion industry to buy a pair of pants, they can simply look at the illustrations and read the description to decide which pants to buy.  Nice job Dockers and JCP.

Too bad it makes no mention of actually taking the pants into the dressing room and trying them on.  But that is a different issue.

Please add value

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Retailers would have you believe that Memorial Day Sales cannot be missed.  The advertisements make it sound like the stores are giving things away for next to nothing.  Caught up in the fervor, my wife and I headed out on Monday to catch the end of some of the sales.

As we wandered through one of the stores something caught my wife’s eye.  Uninterested, I continued to wander through the store when a customer interaction caught my eye.  So I moved in for a closer look. Something just didn’t seem right.

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