By Gordon Hecht
There are many
habits on and off the sales floor that can lower sales and also
The Vernal Equinox isn’t a Chevy SUV, it’s the start of spring. This
year it arrived on March 20 at 11:33 am.
Warmer weather, light rain, and blooming flower buds remind us that it’s
time to start the “Honey Do” list, as in “Honey, do me a favor and clean
the flower beds,” or “Honey, do me a favor and paint the deck.” After a
few springs, the task list becomes habit, and each time we complete a
chore on the Honey-Do list, we make life a little nicer for ourselves
and our families.
I’ve heard that anything we do for 21 days in a row becomes a habit. In
our retail world, we can develop habits too. Unfortunately, some of
those actions keep our businesses ordinary. They become sales prevention
habits rather than serve to build sales, service and profitability. I
call these the Honey-Don’t List.
Sometimes negative behaviors manifest because they are expedient, and a
good portion of these are not customer friendly. Look and listen around
your retail empire and check how many of the following are happening in
A shopper enters your store and asks for a specific department or
product area. Since your sales team is familiar with the store layout,
they POINT the customer in the right direction. It seems like a sound
practice, but it opens up the possibility that your shopper will get
lost again, become frustrated, and leave without buying.
Nordstrom grew from a local Seattle department store to a national chain
because it paid attention to customer service. Pointing was a forbidden
practice in their stores. Instead, associates were encouraged to walk
with shoppers to their desired location, even if it was the restroom.
Help your shoppers out, walk and talk with them rather than send them on
a Lewis and Clark adventure.
The Fast Talker—Part 1
Even in this age of emails and texting, an amazing amount of
communication still occurs voice-to-voice via the telephone. Many
customers don’t pick up incoming calls from unknown numbers to avoid
phone scams, so many follow-up calls from retailers get shunted to
It seems like the goal for many sales and service people leaving
messages is to win the race for most words spoken per minute. The result
is that shoppers hear a garbled name and a return phone number they
can’t understand. They need to play it back several times and some
people get frustrated and just give up. It leaves the caller clueless
regarding why their calls are rarely being returned.
Instead, when leaving messages, callers should always clearly state
their name and the business name. Then, slowly pronounce their phone
number. Finally, help your shopper out by repeating the message starting
with “Once again, this is Jenny Tutone from Bob’s Bedding at
203-555-5555. Please return my call.”
The Fast Talker—Part 2
Your website, print and electronic advertisements feature your store’s
phone number so that people can call your store to get information about
your products and services.
Good phone etiquette starts with a happy greeting. It can be off-putting
for shoppers to hear a rush-job greeting such as the business name spit
out in 2.4 seconds. It’s better to thank the caller, state the business
name and the employee’s name, and then ask a simple question. Some
stores post the script next to the telephone. You can write your own or
start with “Thank you for calling Sleep Central. It’s Tim Ticketwriter.
How can I help you?”
The mobile phone carrier I use instructs its customer service people to
finish their greeting with, “How can I make your day sparkle?” It makes
an impression, don’t you agree?
Clear The Vulture Pit
Your shopper has seen your ads, gotten the phone information they
requested and braved traffic to visit your store. They pull open the
door and see several salespeople gathered near the front door, seemingly
ready to swoop on to the next victim.
Retail sales is a social event, and it can be fun to socialize with the
other team members. Shoppers are there to buy, but they generally don’t
want to be sold something. Although they don’t want to be ignored, most
don’t want to confront a barrage of RSAs upon entry.
Make it a practice to keep the salesperson who is on point near the
front door. Everyone else should clear away. One successful store
manager I know would hold his fingers out in V formation (like the
victory or peace sign) to remind his team to break up the “Vulture Pit.”
It may be lonely waiting by yourself, but you’ll remove another barrier
to making a sale.
Habits are hard to break and may require that same 21-day period of
practice. Store leaders can ensure a remarkable shopper experience with
training, coaching, observation, and reinforcement. So spring forward
this season by ending the Honey-Don’ts and rewarding the Honey-Do’s.