Our son recently got married. In preparation for the wedding, my wife needed to purchase a dress for the occasion as mother of the groom. In our local market area, there are some major shopping malls with the big, well-known retailers as well as many specialized, boutique style shops in smaller, upscale shopping centers. I was a member of the search committee, along with one of my wife’s close friends, in our trio’s endeavor to find the perfect dress for the occasion.
After visiting a few stores, we happened to pass a well-known local boutique. Curious about what they might have to offer, we went inside. There we saw rack after rack of dresses. The sheer volume of choices was overwhelming. It was only after we were greeted and approached by Rosemarie that everything fell into place. Rosemarie welcomed us to the store and asked what had brought us in that day. This led seamlessly to a discussion of the kinds of dresses my wife had been considering.
My wife started to look at the selection. She really liked one particular dress at first. Interestingly, Rosemarie didn’t try to sell it to her. Rosemarie thought it wasn’t quite right for her, but she expressed her opinions tactfully, in a way that allowed my wife to reach her own conclusions without jeopardizing any of the rapport that had been created. When Rosemarie suggested a different style of dress, my wife felt very comfortable and trusted her guidance. Rosemarie led us to the register, and we paid. Successful transaction, based on the personal touch of a real-time human interaction. We would recommend her store, and her, in a heartbeat.
Want to create the kind of differentiation Rosemarie did? Good. Let’s start by reading the following phrases, none of which Rosemarie used. Answer honestly. What is your gut reaction, as a consumer, when you encounter them?
- “Are you planning on buying this item today?”
- “What will it take to get you to buy?”
- “If I am able to get you a lower price, would you take it today?”
- “This sale won’t last long. You should buy it while we have it in stock.”
- “This is a very popular item. It is an excellent seller, and it’s available right now.”
If your reaction is like mine, you may find yourself thinking of the unwanted pressure these sentences produce. They make you feel manipulated. Simply put, these kinds of communications are code words, expressions that boil down to one not-so-subtle message: Buy now! That’s called the hard sell—and it doesn’t work. It puts buyers under too much pressure.
The real question here is how an effective retail salesperson can have better conversations while reducing pressure. How do we make that happen in retail?
With that question in mind, consider a simple concept that will help you do exactly what Rosemarie did: take all of the pressure off, help your prospect feel comfortable, and instantly distinguish you from the competition. Ready?
Let customers close themselves.
In other words: Stop trying so hard. Get out of the way of the sales process. Using just a little bit of physics to demonstrate this concept, let’s look at two of Isaac Newton’s famous Laws of Motion.
Newton’s First Law of Motion says: An object in motion tends to stay in motion; an object at rest tends to stay at rest.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion says: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
These laws, with very slight revisions, also happen to govern the world of retail selling. A prospect in motion tends to stay in motion; a prospect at rest tends to stay at rest. For every action by the retail salesperson, there is an equal and opposite reaction by the retail customer or prospect.
Here is my point: My wife was already interested in buying a dress. Rosemarie knew that. Her mastery lay in never getting in between where the prospect was and where Rosemarie wanted her to go. She never pressured my wife, never tried to sell her anything. She simply asked good questions and supported a good conversation. Call it the Law of Prospect Motion. Any time we make a conscious effort to pull the prospect into the “Sold” position, the natural reaction is always going to be for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. Pressuring the prospect always does more harm than good!
Rosemarie knew the three most important words in retail selling: Nurture, nurture, nurture. We can ask ourselves a million questions about whether a given person is ready to buy. The truth is that we really do not know. So what we want to do, instead of applying pressure, is find out. And the only good way to do that is to start a conversation, and then support it … nurturingly.