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From browsing to buying
A customer is only a customer once they purchase a product or service. Until that point they are a browsing visitor or a target consumer, bursting with potential and possibility. The trick is in knowing how to tempt this person, how to communicate with them, draw them in and hook their interest in order to clinch a sale.
These skills however need to be perfected not only by you but also by your staff, the day to day faces of your brand and the direct influencers on customer perception. Your retail staff play one of the biggest roles in the success of your shop. With the correct training and skills they will help you to increase the amount of people who actually purchase in your store and even increase the amount people spend.
The first and most important technique is 'effective engagement' - the initial contact you have with a consumer can make the difference between a solid purchase and a swift exit. As the consumer enters, allow them time to relax and feel comfortable in their surroundings, to browse for a space of time and even pick up a few products. The next step is the key, your initial engagement with the consumer will be more effective if it is an open, indirect question.
Can I help you?
Instead of this often-used question, pose one relating directly to the item they're looking at or holding. For example, if the consumer is looking at a collection of fragranced candles, greet them and ask: "What's your favourite fragrance?". There is no abrupt answer to this and this is not a sales question. The consumer will relax and without them realising you are discovering information which you can utilise and turn into a direct sale.
This informal gathering of information also allows the salesperson the opportunity to 'upsell' - a method which allows them to lead the customer to purchase a more expensive item. For example, if the customer reveals they like vanilla fragrances, this opens up the opportunity for the sales person to pick up a larger vanilla candle and talk about the benefit of a longer burning time and value for money.
Effective engagement needs to be maintained by product and brand knowledge. However, it can be an endless task to keep up to date with the latest developments for the brands you stock. So combine product knowledge with staff motivation and enthusiasm by assigning 'brand ambassadors'. For each member of staff, award them the ambassador position for brands they are passionate about. Encourage them to go to the brand's retail seminars or to visit trade shows and talk to the company representatives face-to-face. The knowledge and history they discover will be passed on to customers, positioning your shop staff as engaging and interesting to communicate with.
The rapport your retail outlet builds with your suppliers will not only lead to a better understanding of the brands you're selling, but also open ways to discuss terms. The brand ambassadors might discover point of sale materials and graphics you previously were unaware of or loyalty schemes and discounts.
The right products
All this emphasis on your retail team will be wasted, however, if you are not offering your customers the products they desire. It may seem simple, but you would be surprised how many retailers fail to offer consumers what they are looking for at exactly the right time they want it. Although it's important to bring new products into your store, it's equally important to revive and refresh current stock and displays. Just as important is making sure any products you sell are right for your shop and consumers. Do you really know your target customer? Does your shop have a theme and is it really of interest to the locality?
The most successful gift shops offer a good collective mix of products which hit a variety of price points and gift solutions. Remain true to your cash cows (those products and brands which steadily sell throughout the year), these are your best sellers which your staff can become expert in, but don't be afraid to experiment with brand new innovations into the market.
One final word of advice is to remember that stripped to its core, selling is effective communication. Whether it's through displays, branding, marketing or discussion, it's how you communicate yourself, your brand and your products to your customer that will ultimately clinch the sale.