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Profitable Times Newsletter

Selling, Selling, Selling

You represent the store, and everything you do affects how visitors will remember their experience in the store and the institution as a whole. And, if the visit to the store is one of the last things a visitor does, it becomes part of the lasting impression of the institution. Most customers don't know your store well, if at all, and many are short on time, so pro-active selling is an aspect of customer service they want.

Let's first address the issue that seems to bother museum store staff the most about pro-active selling. Pro-active selling is not aggressiveness. It is not following people around the store. It is not trying to force them to purchase things they don't want to buy.

Pro-active selling is helping customers who don't know your store to make a decision. It is helping them to find product that relates to their areas of interest or of interest to someone for whom they want to buy a gift. Pro-active selling fills a need and enhances customer service.

There are many things a store staff person can do in the area of selling. Left to their own volition, however, they will gravitate to those activities that are the easiest for them to apply, but they may not be the most effective for the store. I prefer to guide staff members, especially volunteers, to do five things well.

Five Steps And Five Words To Increased Sales

Step 1: Greeting and Acknowledgment

Make eye contact with everyone coming into the store. Not only is this a pleasant way to start a relationship but it is an effective, efficient and no-cost way to reduce shoplifting. People who believe they have been 'seen' are much less likely to shoplift because they fear being remembered.

Part of the greeting and acknowledgement of the customer should be verbal. This can be as simple as "good morning", "good afternoon" or "good evening". Better yet, use the person's name if you know it. If you remember a face but not the name, a good way to start is by saying, "It's nice to see you again." This greeting acknowledges the person as a repeat customer.

Step 2: Opening Line

Practice an opening sales line that accomplishes three objectives:

  1. Is an open ended question, that
  2. Is most easily answered in the affirmative, and
  3. Elicits some information about the customer's purpose for being in the store or experience in the institution.

For example, two five-word opening lines that accomplish these objectives are:

"How can I help you?"
"What was your favorite exhibit?"

The answer to these and other questions meeting the above criterion provide your first clue as to what kind of product will satisfy your customer's needs.

Step 3: Suggestive Selling

When you make suggestions of products that meet the customer's needs you help them define what they want; find what they want; buy the best, newest or best selling, and make a more satisfying purchase.

In doing so, you help the store introduce new merchandise, can help increase the sales of slow moving items, and in turn, generate additional revenue. Three suggestive selling, five-word phrases include:

"Have you seen this product?"
"This is our most popular."
"We just received this yesterday."

The goal of suggestive selling is to focus the customer's attention on a few products of probable interest and trigger a buying decision, rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly through the store.

Regardless of how you interact with the customer, always put the product in the customer's hand. Retailing is a tactile experience. The customer must see, touch, hear, taste or smell the product to begin the transfer from your stock to their possession.

Step 4: Add-on Selling

Add-on selling is the suggestion of multiple, related products that enhance the customer's purchase. It can be as simple as the suggestion of a gift card with every purchase, or the recommendation of birdseed, identification book and whistle with the purchase of a bird feeder. Add-on selling creates a purchase tailored to the buyer or recipient, a more complete gift that includes that little something extra, and increases the size of the average purchase. It is a customer service tool because it helps the customer think about ancillary products, an activity that does not come naturally to them.

Step 5: Closing the Sale

Finally, especially for higher priced purchases, you must help the customer make a decision. There are two ways to do this. First, is to offer the indecisive customer some honest reassurance that the decision they are starting to make is a good one. For example, "That color scarf looks good on you." The second thing to do is to give them a safety net by stating a guarantee or your exchange/return policy. In general, the safety net is, "if you don't like the item after you take it home, don't hesitate to exchange/return it." This gets the product out of the store, at which time inertia sets in with the result that there are few returns.

Two more comments. First, don't forget one of the best selling tools is product knowledge. It is particularly important in the museum setting because of the role education has in the mission of the institution. So, the staff that is able to enhance a purchase with product knowledge will sell more and better satisfy the customer.

Finally, the nature of museum store retailing results in significant ebbs and flows of customers. Arriving and departing tour busses and the exiting of visitors from a performance or audio/visual show are examples of circumstances that add to this situation. As a result, handling more than one customer at a time is an important element of customer service and pro-active selling. The five key steps are:

  1. When working with customer 'A' acknowledge the presence of customer 'B'.
  2. Flow from one customer to the next. Obviously, this is how you work with more than one customer at a time. The key, however, is suggesting things that will occupy customer 'A' while you spend some time with customer 'B'. By doing so, the time you are away from customer 'A' will seem shorter.
  3. Tell customer 'A' you'll be back with them in a moment.
  4. Pace yourself to give adequate and similar attention to each customer.
  5. Thank customer 'A' for waiting.

Once a customer crosses the threshold into the store it is the store staff's responsibility to do what they can to encourage and facilitate the purchase of product. Doing the above will significantly increase the chances of a sale.

(This article was originally written for Heritage Retail and is in their fall 2001 issue. This U.K. based magazine is published three times a year and has an international focus on all aspects of heritage site retailing.)

 
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