Profitable Times Newsletter

Core Selling Techniques

To maximize revenue, simple, core, pro-active selling techniques should be used in cultural commerce, of all types and sizes, all the time. If visitation is low, it's one of the few things the bricks and mortar side of retail can do to increase revenue. In busy stores the same techniques should be employed to maximize base revenue during favorable visitation conditions. Appealing mission-related product selections, attractive displays and merchandising and an enjoyable store ambiance are necessary ingredients to maximize sales and enhance the visitor experience, but there is nothing like the interpersonal connection between store staff and visitor. One can always build a superstructure of progressively more sophisticated, and usually effective, selling techniques, but the focus of this article is on basic steps that are at the foundation and can be employed by everyone, regardless of age or status (paid or volunteer), with significant and immediate results.

Before initiating even the most fundamental pro-active selling program, the sales staff must believe basic pro-active selling is part of great customer service and isn't being pushy or aggressive. Especially in a cultural commerce environment, where available shopping time may be limited by an idling tour bus or tired fellow visitors, pro-active selling is critical to helping the visitor find what they want and building a more satisfying purchase with the resulting increased revenue.

To achieve any of these goals it requires, when a customer enters the store, to stop doing anything else, come out from behind the sales counter and employ the steps below.

  • Start with a simple warm initial greeting and acknowledgment of the visitor
  • Articulate an effective pro-active opening statement
  • Continue with suggestive and add-on selling
  • Handle more than one customer at a time

Initial Greeting/Acknowledgement

In most circumstances making eye contact, saying "Hello", and "Good morning/afternoon/evening" and perhaps following up with "Where are you from?" are pleasant beginnings. If you recognize the visitor, "It's nice to see you again" is a wonderful way to show appreciation for their return visit.

Pro-Active Opening Statement

In my experience, the statement made after the initial greeting is the most critical to building sales and making sure the visitor has a superior store experience. The key ingredients of this statement are asking an open-ended question that is most easily answered in the affirmative and elicits some information about the customer's purpose.

The phrase suggested for the core of this step is a close variation of "What was your favorite experience in the museum/garden, etc.?" This open-ended question almost always generates a positive response. For example, "I loved the Bowie Knife" exhibit", "the Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent paintings were my favorites", "we had a great time in the children's hands-on exhibit" or "the medicinal herb garden was very interesting". Each of these responses launches the interaction with the visitor on a positive note and helps the staff person begin to think about products to suggest that are most likely to resonate with the visitor from among all the items in the store. Of course, product knowledge is critical at this juncture.

Before we leave this section let's make sure we are clear that "Can I help you?" should never be uttered. It does nothing to encourage answers that are helpful and often results in a, "No, I'm just looking" response which, at least temporarily, ends the opportunity for further meaningful conversation.

Suggestive Selling

Getting a positive response to the "what was your favorite experience" question assists the salesperson to help the visitor define and find what they want with a resulting satisfying purchase. Using the examples above, the visitor can be directed to replica Bowie knives; paper products and soft goods with Cassatt and Singer Sargent images; activity kits or herb seed packets, greatly increasing the chance they will find something to buy that will be tailored to their interests, help them continue their education or remind them in the future of their visit. From the museum's perspective, this sequencing of interaction will increase the size of the average purchase and result in a more memorable customer experience.

Handling More Than One Customer at a Time

Finally, it's important to apply these basic sales techniques even during busy times. It's nice to have higher sales because of higher visitation, but being pro-active on busy days can turn a good day into a great day and help combat the statistical tendency for the average transaction to decrease on busier days. Five steps can help make the most of busy days.

  1. Subtly acknowledge the presence of additional customers while working with a customer.
  2. Flow from one customer to another. Put a product in the customer's hand and suggest things for them to do that will occupy their time while you temporarily move on to another customer. This makes it seem when you return, like you've been gone a shorter length of time.
  3. Tell the customer you are leaving that you'll be back with them in a moment.
  4. Pace yourself to give adequate and similar attention to every customer.
  5. When returning to a customer thank them for waiting.

A final note, please make sure customers are not referred to as "guys" as in "Can I help you guys?" or "Did you guys find everything you wanted". And for goodness sake, end the transaction with "thank you" not "no problem".

See the complete list of Profitable Times™ Newsletters.


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