Excellence on a Small Scale
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what this week's HotSheet would be about. I usually get hit by inspiration, but at the moment, I am on vacation in South Florida. And frankly, one doesn't expect to see sales excellence when on vacation. And yet, sales excellence I saw yesterday, and I want to share it with you, because it's stuff that can be implemented by the smallest retail store, but in many cases isn't even done by the largest of companies.
The place was "Lion's Lair Swimwear," in Islamorada, Florida. It's a pretty ominous sounding name for what is as regular of a swim shop as I've seen on vacation. I saw neither lion nor lair, nor anything particularly risque' about the store or its merchandise. What I did see was a small group of salespeople who truly care about their customers, and aren't afraid to communicate with them to help them get what they want. Moreover, they communicate in a much different way than most tourist-trap shops; most of them are just interested in getting you to buy something - anything - and getting you the heck out of there. Here are the stages of selling that my wife experienced yesterday in her time at Lion's Lair:
Orientation: How many times have you walked into a retail store and had to take several minutes to figure out where your size/preferred style/etc. of merchandise is located? How many times have you walked out of the store before doing so? When we stepped into Lion's Lair, we were welcomed with genuine warmth by a salesgirl who immediately explained the layout of the store and then - get this - invited us to browse as we wished. Most retail salespeople either hang out by the cash register and wait for you to purchase, or hang off your shoulder as would an unpleasant insect, not giving you space to browse. This one found the happy medium. Comfortable buying environment created.
Subtle control established: She then let us know that, unfortunately, all her swimsuit sizes were European, and didn't relate to American sizing. Hence, my wife wasn't expected to know her size. Nor did she make a ham-handed attempt to teach her. Instead, she said, "We actually keep a large part of our stock in back, and what is out front is for sizing and color selection purposes. Pick out the styles you like, I'll size you, and then I'll make sure you get the suit you need." Control established, but not in an unpleasant way. She also established that she had significant expertise and was willing to use it for our benefit.
Follow up efforts: After my wife found what she wanted, the salesgirl then introduced herself by name, and got my wife's name. It seemed like an odd time to do so, but in retrospect, it signified the sale moving to another level. The salesgirl - Suzanne - then got the appropriate sizes for my wife, and kept checking back on her to make sure that she was getting what she needed while trying on suits. At this point, she was multitasking, because she had three other customers in various stages of the same process - but she kept all the names and merchandise straight. She also reassured my wife, and the other ladies in the store, that "she didn't care if they tried on the whole store as long as they got what they wanted." After trying on several suits, my wife settled on one.
Closing: This stage - the one stage that most aggressive retail salespeople know - didn't actually happen. She let my wife move at her own pace because it was obvious that she was going to leave with a new suit. She did gently attempt an upsell by discussing other items, but at this point, her efforts were simply to make my wife feel comfortable and well oriented.
Reselling: This was the little extra that I really liked. These tourist trap shops know that the likelihood of seeing us again is pretty low, and most don't care. Suzanne did. After putting in about 45 minutes' worth of sales effort, she wanted to extend her returns. So, she informed my wife, Lion's Lair has a great website that lists all of their new styles as well as great sales. She was storing my wife's sizing information in her CRM system, and all my wife has to do in the future is call Suzanne and Suzanne will make sure she gets the right things. I'm betting that my wife will do so.
The result - my wife bought the most expensive swimsuit that she's ever bought; possibly more expensive than she'd ever considered buying. She did so because of the value-add involved. During the hour we were there, three other women bought varying levels of swimwear, cover-ups, and other stuff. This was in the early afternoon on a Monday; I'm betting that Lion's Lair does pretty well. Plus, I did hear one of the other salesgirls taking a phone order.
The point is that this is easy stuff that any business could implement - but how many do? It all starts not with books on business techniques, but with genuine caring about your customers.