Recently, I found myself dealing with a retail salesperson who was attempting to explain to me the benefits of the item I was looking to buy. As I stood there listening to him, I was struck not by what he was saying but how he was saying it. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the person I was dealing with was either a new salesperson or new to the department we were in. Needless to say, I wound up leaving the store without purchasing anything.
Later, I found myself reflecting on the salesperson and the struggle he had making a sale. He clearly knew what he was talking about, he was able to respond to my questions and, on a couple of occasions, he elaborated far more than he needed to. However, the reason he was unable to close the sale was because he didn’t have any confidence in what he was saying and he was very uncomfortable talking to someone who could have been twice his age.
Retail sales is all about providing the customer with an experience, and that experience must include having confidence in the salespeople you are working with. In my case, the salesperson had product knowledge but not sales knowledge. He didn’t need to be incredibly “sales savvy”, just confident in what he was explaining to me. After thinking about it, I realized that every question I asked was to help me gain the confidence that he failed to initially convey. The problem was that he viewed my questions as my desire to know more about the item, when, in reality, I just wanted some assurance in the purchase I was thinking about making. If he would have merely spoken to me using a full and firm tone of voice, avoided using “um” and “ah” frequently, and shared his thoughts regarding my potential purchase based on his knowledge of the product and my input as to what I was looking for, he probably would have been able to close the sale. In the end, we both ended up wasting our time. More importantly, the retail clerk’s self-esteem probably dropped because he wasn’t able to complete the sale.
This situation occurs frequently and it’s unfortunate because nothing good comes out of it: for the store, the employee, or the customer. Circumstances similar to what I’ve just described are one of the primary reasons Retail has a high turnover rate.
Store managers need to take the time with every salesperson to teach beyond just product knowledge. All new salespeople can benefit from being walked through the entire sales process in a manner that allows them to build up their self-esteem. Store managers should challenge themselves to be committed to regularly instilling confidence in each of their employees.
In the end, I decided that I probably would have purchased the item if I had been dealing with a confident person who was not quite as knowledgeable. Retail clerks need to learn to be self-assured and proud in the service that they provide to customers. Although product knowledge is important, it is not essential to “know it all”. They need to develop the ability to confidently engage the customer with the knowledge they do have.
In summary, I believe a confident salesperson will become a top performer, and it’s the top performer that shows up for work everyday.
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