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How to increase sales with the 'obvious'

By Bob Phibbs
No matter your profession, the science of selling isn't particularly deep and often the answer to improving sales is easier than you think. BOB PHIPPS discusses some obvious but often neglected areas.

One of my first jobs was in retail sales at a large department store. I was trained on how to use the POS system, perform transfers from one store to another and various other tasks; however, teaching me how to sell wasn’t a priority.

When approaching a customer I would ask, "Can I help you?" Most customers replied, "No, I’m just looking" and I would walk away. This went on for weeks, frustrating me enormously.

Worse, management tracked the parttimers and gave more hours to those who sold the most dollars per hour so I wasn’t getting any hours. I asked a friend what I should do and he replied, "Well if you don’t want that response, don’t ask that question." It was one of those Homer Simpson 'Doh' moments; the answer was staring me right in the face.

Now working as a retail consultant, I’ve seen so many seemingly obvious sales tips that still escape retail staff. Here are five which will help staff improve sales.

Ensure a consistent process

When there is a consistent sales process used in the practice, with a good script, everyone understands the plot and exactly how to get to the happy ending of a purchase.

Whether it is because of poor hiring, a lack of training or an unspoken belief by the sales staff that customers will ask if they want something, employees frequently leave customers/patients waiting. Untrained staff will often wait for the customers to ask a question or, worse these days, waiting for them to leave so they can jump back on their smartphones.

When there is a consistent sales process used in the practice, with a good script, everyone understands the plot and exactly how to get to the happy ending of a purchase.

Features aren't compelling

Unless your customers are engineers, chances are they find facts boring. When staff lead with just a long list of ‘scientific’ facts, they can often lose the interest of many patients right off the bat.

Staff must place the focus on the customer and understand that patients aren't there just to buy; they're in the practice or store to improve their lives. That might be with some new prescription lenses, so first understands their needs.

Don't forget the story

The world is full of retailers who have no soul, no point of view and no passion. Consumers – especially Millennials – are looking for a brand that is authentic from a business that is also authentic.

A retailer who can say, "I created this store because I wanted a place people like you could come and shop" will always win, as will staff who live what they preach. Train them to focus on their own stories to create a connection and show their humanness.

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Market with passion

Employees who run social media accounts or help with business advertising don’t always have the same passion or creativity as the owner.

Outsourcing social media isn’t always the best answer when it comes to advancing a practice’s brand and clogging social media with posts also doesn’t necessarily encourage visits.

Business owners usually best know who their customers are and what answers they are seeking so it’s business owners and their staff who are best placed to create social media that passionately addresses customer issues.

Avoid time wasters

Always avoid asking, "Can I help you?"
Always avoid asking, "Can I help you?"

Retailers who miss the first two stages of a buyer’s journey – making consumers aware they have a need and getting consumers to consider a specific store to solve that need – end up focusing on stage three, which is just getting customers to buy.

This usually means there's too much emphasis on discounts to convert browsers and also means stores miss out on up-selling opportunities.

Owners who keep all three stages of the consumer's journey in mind will be better placed to develop compelling videos, blogs, articles, and newsletters that focus on just one aspect of the journey at a time.

In doing this, they'll reach a broader audience. Sometimes the best sales tips are the ones right in front of our eyes. All that's required is a little thought.  

Refresh - Beware of wrong sales approach

We have all been hearing for years how traffic is down in brick-andmortar stores and how people are browsing and buying online. So when someone actually walks through your doors, they are more likely to buy.

You can’t turn all lookers into buyers, but I’ll bet that sometimes the behaviour of your untrained staff can actually turn buyers back into lookers. How do they do that? By the way they relate to customers.

People come in with the desire to buy something and whether that is a $1,000 pair of premium eyewear or $20 plano sunglasses, exchanging money for product feeds a primal need.

Watch for behaviour and words that customer’s intent to buy otherwise customers, who wanted to be buyers, walk out empty-handed ... to start looking again.


AFT Pharmaceuticals

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