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Originally published in Twice Magazine

You approach the service counter of a typical retailer, any  retailer, armed only with a defective product and the extended service you purchased on it. You recall back one year ago when you purchased the product. The sales associate spun a glowing tale of being able to take care of you and your product for an additional three years beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. You were skeptical as it was explained to you about all the time, money and headaches that you would avoid if you bought their service contract. By the time they were done you were sold. You wanted the plan, you needed that plan. It was pricey, but the peace of mind it provided was well worth the investment. Besides, the sales associate was just so darn sincere.

Fast-forward one year. As you make the long walk to the customer service counter, it starts to resemble a scene right out of a Clint Eastwood western.  You receive a steely look from the person working behind the customer service counter. You imagine yourself in the center of town on a lonely, empty street while tumbleweeds roll by.

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Originally published in Twice Magazine

Reality check: Gas is up, sales are down and things may not improve any time soon. So how do you survive the slump? Here is a four-point action plan that can help you weather the storm.

First: Recognize the opportunities that do exist. Have you noticed that as the price of gas increases, so do the number of phone calls to the store? At times like this, more people turn to the telephone to check in-stocks and ask questions. It's the perfect time to train and retrain your people on how to sell over the phone. Good sales people should recognize the telephone as an "opportunity" rather than an "annoyance." Are your people prompt in answering it? Do they qualify the customer's needs as they would in the store? Do they invite the customer to visit the store, or even set up an appointment?

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Thursday, 24 September 2009 05:00

Sales Process -Let’s Call it What it is!


Originally published in Twice Magazine

Sales Process -What’s in a Name?

It seems like everybody wants to “repackage” or “re-brand” the sales process these days. They call the sales process anything and everything but “Sales”. It also seems that everybody wants to re-title salespeople anything other than “Salespeople.”

They are referred to as “Customer Service Rep”, “Customer Relationship Advisor”, “Service Counselor”, “Customer Experience Team Member”, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for customer service, creating a great customer experience, and making the salespeople feel “warm and fuzzy” about their title and their job, but it is a sales process and they are salespeople. When did “sales” and “salespeople” become dirty words?

Sales Process - Getting Back to Basics

It’s a noble profession, when done right, but maybe that’s part of the problem, often enough these days, it’s not being done right. Today, a great salesperson is as rare a find as financially stable retailers! Could it be that all these “Customer Relationship Advisors” don’t realize that they are in sales since it’s not part of their title?

What about the sales process? Do they even understand the basics of selling? Do you think that they even own a book on selling or the sales process?  Speaking of books, I read a sales book not too long ago in which the author explained that he was against all systems of selling. His rationale was that selling systems focus on the “sales process,” which he deemed bad. I’ve spent over thirty years perfecting and teaching the sales process. I’m a big fan of it!

Sales Process -Square One, Greeting

Maybe I’m “Old School”, but I like actually being “Greeted” by someone when I walk into their store. More often than not, I’m the one that does the “Greeting”, and judging from the reactions that I get, I must not be very good at it. I guess I need to find some better way to get their attention without interrupting their personal conversations with other “Customer Sensitivity Professionals”.

Sales Process -  Qualifying the Buyer

Moving through the sales process, I’m never offended if they take the time to properly “Qualify” me, I’m funny that way.I actually think it’s easier to sell me the right product when you take the time to ask some questions about my lifestyle and my use of the product. Walking me around and reading all the fact tags may seem to be low pressure, but it’s one of the quickest ways to end our “relationship”. What happened to learning the product? When I used to sell, that’s right “sell” I took the time to actually learn how the stuff worked so I could demonstrate it to the customer.

Sales Process - Know Your Product!

Now that I think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I got a fantastic product “Demonstration”. Wait, to be truthful I do remember. I was buying a pair of shoes and the “Salesperson” was trying to “sell” me some waterproofing. She pulled a tissue out of a tissue box on the counter, sprayed it with water proofing, showed me how to hold it between my two hands, and proceeded to pour water on it from a cup she had behind the counter. I was amazed that the water ran right off the tissue without soaking in at all. She skillfully commented at that very moment, “Imagine how it will protect your leather.” All I could say was “wow”. As a professional “salesperson”, she correctly recognized my comment as a buying signal and proceeded to the next step in the sales process.

Sales Process - Closing the Sale

She “Closed” the sale by recommending that I get two cans of waterproofing with my new shoes. SOLD! Now that’s selling! I felt like throwing a fake “objection” her way just to see her work, but I didn’t have the heart. I also recognize that her time is money, as did she, since she was already starting the sales process by “Greeting” another customer while she rang me up. She was a true salesperson that really understood, that done right; the sales process will create a great customer experience, deliver exceptional customer service and forge a lasting relationship. If you are wondering what her title was, her name tag just said “SALES”.

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Originally published in Twice Magazine


Christmas is coming, and I'm sure that once again a leading consumer advocacy magazine or television news show will take another shot at the extended-warranty business.

As someone who has spent more than 20 years training retailers on how to successfully sell extended-service plans (ESPs), I'm always amazed that these outlets consistently display their prejudice and lack of knowledge toward the service-contract industry as a whole.

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Better Sales - Building a Winning Sales Team

Better Sales - Is your Team ready to Deliver?

Just like in sports, retail has many competitors but only a few great teams. Did you ever wonder why the Chicago Bulls are able to play to a sold out stadium night after night? It's because the fans know their team has an excellent chance of winning every game. Chicago works hard at putting a great product out on the court every night. That's what makes them such a great team, they have the talent and they have the desire to dominate!

Is your company one of those great teams? Here is an easy way to tell: How is your Attendance? Do the fans (customers) return to your store like the fans in Chicago or do you find your attendance (store traffic) somewhat lacking? The customers are telling you everyday what they think of your teams customer service, by the number of times they return to your store to buy something. They are telling you in the form of better sales.

Better Sales - Customer Service is important but it isn't the key to success:

Aren't you sick of hearing all the rhetoric from people who say they believe the customer is number one? I mean if they believed it and it's their business, why aren't they giving better than just average run of the mill service? Why don’t they have better sales? Here's what one retailer said:

Average you say! Why I'll have you know I bought BUTTONS for all my people to wear that say "WE CARE ABOUT YOU" and they all wear RIBBONS that are attached to the buttons that say " ASK ME I CARE!" Why we even put up a Banner that says
"THE CUSTOMER IS #1!!" We even put signs up in the employee break room that remind them to SMILE and to treat the customer like a guest in your house. And on top of that we put a customer service committee in place. Why we are the most customer oriented retailer in the U.S.A.!!

It's obvious that this person has convinced himself, but let me ask, if his service was really this good why doesn’t he have better sales?

Better Sales - What Excellent Customer Service Is Not

It's not about putting BUTTONS and RIBBONS on your people, that tell how much they care, customers want people that show they care.

It's not about BANNERS that tell the customer they are #1, heck they already know that, they're just wondering why they never get treated like #1 from your people.

It's not about putting signs up in the employee lounge reminding your people to SMILE and treat the customer like a GUEST because 80% of all signs go unread.

By now you may have guessed that better customer service and better sales has something to do with your people but it's not just about your people. IT’S ABOUT YOU!

Better Sales - Taking Personal Responsibility

The next time you wonder why you don’t have better sales, take a minute to look in the mirror and ask yourself "What did I do today to help my people?".

Did I recognize yesterdays best performers?
or; did I focus my attention and get upset about the non performers?

Did I recognize associates in front of their peers?
or; did I just tell them when rushing by?

Did I take time with an associate that is struggling, to listen and offer some guidance.
or; did I just figure they were a waste and needed to go away? Is this why you hired them?

Did I ask my people for their specific input on how to achieve better sales?
or; Did I just figure they wouldn't come up with anything of value and do it myself? Two heads are better than one big one. Don't overlook the value and insight of your people, they spend more time on the floor with the merchandise and customers than you do.

Did I personally hand them their paycheck this week, shake their hand and thank them for a great week?
or; Did I let someone else hand it out to them over a counter like a hamburger at McDonalds?

Did I walk the sales floor with my people and review the merchandise in depth?
or; Did I just do it myself to save time today and waste my time and sacrifice better sales in the future because I'm the only one who knows what I want or expect.

Do I know what each of my people’s goals and personal aspirations in life are?
or; Do I just think I know? You don't prejudge or make assumptions about your customer, so why would you do it with your people?

Did I set an example for my people greeting and shaking customers hands and actually wait on customers?
or; Did I just tell my people to do it. Do as I say not as I do management.

Better Sales - The Trickle Down Effect

How well do you really know your people and how involved with them are you on a daily basis? You may fool yourself by saying you're involved but you won't fool your customer, because you see:
If you treat your people well they will treat your customer well.

If you treat your people as if they were the most important thing to you then they will treat your customer as if they were the most important thing to them.

If you show your people you care about them and value them they in return will show the customer they care and value them. But treat them with indifference and they will treat the customer with the same. Think about what it is you do each day with your people and challenge yourself to become more involved in their growth and the attainment of their goals. Remember you will only get better sales when you first help someone else get what they want!

Better Sales Through Better Hiring

Things to remember when hiring a new associate:

The day of the interview is as good as it gets! If they are trying their best to make an impression what does that impression say? How well were they dressed? Were they open and easy to talk to or were they quiet? Can they carry on a conversation and hold your interest? What you see today is what you will see on your sales floor tomorrow.

Were they a good listener? Go back and ask questions about something you explained earlier. This should tell you something about how well they will listen to your customers.

Did they express an interest in working in a particular area? If the person has no real interest and says they can work anywhere then point them to the pizza place in the mall. How good can anybody be at selling anything if they have no real interest.

Do they have ENTHUSIASM? If they don't have this then you don't want them on your floor! By enthusiasm I don't mean they have to be a cheerleader. They should have and show a desire, a fascination for the product and for selling. You can teach product knowledge but you can't teach personality, and better sales is a personal thing!

Selling is a people business, it's more than just the interaction between the customer and the salesperson, Its the more meaningful interaction between you and your people and the example you set on the floor that will determine the quality of service your customer gets and the success your business will enjoy. So the next time you ask yourself why you don’t have better sales, take a look in the mirror and see if the reason isn't right there in front of you!

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Stuart & Associates • 8 Angel Trace • Brentwood • Tennessee • 37027 • 615.289.0007