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Extraordinary salespeople relate individually to each customer
Business, Retail

Rules of engagement

05/09/2017
By Doug Fleener
The right and wrong ways to engage a customer can determine if a sale will happen before it even begins. DOUG FLEENER presents three steps sure to help sales staff go to the next level.

One of the differences between average and extraordinary retail staff members is the ability to comfortably and effectively engage a customer. I’m not talking about the staff member who walks up to a customer and asks how they can help.

I’m talking about those who can create an immediate and effective relationship with a customer/patient.

In this age of online sales and easily commoditised products customer engagement is more important than ever. The connection your staff makes with his/ her customer differentiates a practice from its competitors, adds value to the customer’s experience, and empowers staff to discover and sell the right product(s).

These are the three Ps of customer engagement that extraordinary salespeople practice and execute well.

They are personable

They’re comfortable approaching and addressing customers. It doesn’t matter if their personal style is energetic or laid back; they’re friendly, outgoing and good conversationalists.

I’ve never forgotten the time I realised I’d made a mistake in hiring someone when I pulled a woman aside who had been with us for about two months to discuss her performance. She told me that she hated talking to people.


"Every conversation with a patient should be undertaken with purpose and a desired result in mind"
Doug Fleener, President of Sixth Star Consulting.

When I asked her why she worked in retail, she said that it paid well even though she didn’t enjoy it.

Needless to say, she did not remain in our employ very long. Extraordinary salespeople like talking with people.

One thing I hear from time-to-time is that staff don’t believe they can ‘be themselves’ when asked to work within a structured approach to engaging the customer. I don’t agree. I see a structured approach as critical to a specialty retailer’s success.

To me, such an approach is a roadmap, not a script. It guides staff through the expected customer experience outcomes but he or she is still at the wheel. Structure should have no bearing on how personable someone is with a customer.

They make it personal

Unlike staff who approach all customers the same way, extraordinary salespeople relate individually to each customer. They are truly interested in the person they are engaging. They know that the more personal the experience, the more productive their time spent with the customer will be; however, even this is not always enough.

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Extraordinary salespeople seem to enjoy that personal connection as much as the customer does and they use it to create a relationship. It’s no wonder that these are the same employees that customers request each time they enter a retail store.

Many associates might think they’re making it personal, but in the end they’re just repeating the same approach over and over. Here’s a great way to coach this; after the customer has left, ask the staff member to tell you three things about the customer. Not what products they were looking for, but three personal things they now know about that customer. That will tell you if they are making it personal or not.

They engage with purpose

Every conversation with a patient should be undertaken with purpose and a desired result in mind. Consider the initial small talk when a customer first enters the store. That initial non-sales related conversation helps breaks down barriers that naturally exist between customers and retail staff.

"Extraordinary salespeople seem to enjoy that personal connection as much as the customer does and they use it to create a relationship."

It’s almost like a verbal decompression that needs to happen before the customer and associate can form that crucial relationship. Many salespeople skip this small but important step. As a result, they struggle to initially engage the customer. Extraordinary salespeople use any initial small talk to learn about the customer.

They can discover if it is the first time the person has been in the store, what they might already own, the occasion that brings them out shopping, their name and much more. If a sale takes one hundred steps, they’re ten steps closer after that initial conversation – this is a metaphor and not an endorsement to take 100 steps to close a sale!

Every question is asked for a reason and every answer from the customer used to determine either another question or a comment. All of this information is used to determine which products to show the customer. It’s almost like a chess game, except both the customer and the employee are on the same team.

These three attributes of successful customer engagement don’t come naturally to everyone, but with practice and your coaching, all staff can learn to more effectively put them into action.

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