Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Impress Customers with Your Staff’s Expertise

When customers know you’re out-of-stock before your sales staff do, the customer might think the sales staff are dumb bunnies. So it’s of concern that in a survey of 545 retail store associates conducted by Research Now, about 55% said that mobile devices and online shopping tools are allowing customers to be better informed than the sales staff are about a store’s inventory levels.
     The survey was sponsored by Motorola Solutions, which is not a disinterested observer, considering that Motorola sells inventory monitoring tools for use by store staff. Still, the results are quite believable. A while back, a survey by the IHL Group, based in Franklin, Tennessee found customers often say the store is OOS even when the retailer thinks the store is in-stock.
     Provide your staff with up-to-date inventory information to buttress their reputations. Consumers like to deal with experts. However, because of how often the consumer has more accurate inventory information than does the staff, also train your staff to respect the knowledge of the shopper. Customers don't expect the salesperson to know everything. They do expect the salesperson to get the answer when they don't know and to do a personal handoff to another salesperson as necessary.
     A touch of humility actually makes it more likely the retail salesperson will be accepted as an expert. For example, Stanford University researchers found that expert restaurant reviewers are more influential when the reviewers say they're less than completely certain about their conclusions.
     More generally, avoid coming across to the customer as absolutely certain in the recommendations you're making because a bit of uncertainty makes the customer more comfortable in asking questions. Those questions are highly valuable when you’re facilitating the sale. You can present counterarguments or you can steer the customer towards an alternative which will better fit their needs.
     An image of expertise also can be built with an image of the employee: When we see a portrait-style photo of someone that's posted in a public location, and then we meet the person face-to-face, we subconsciously grant that person additional respect. You could benefit from this by including in advertising photos of your employees or posting an 8 x 10 in the department where the employee spends most of their time.
     Then if a staff member happens to be ignorant about current inventory levels, they still might salvage the impression that they’re worth listening to.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Monitor the Sales Floor to Avoid Out-of-Stocks
Have Staff Who Show and Share Expertise
Respect Customers Who Claim Expertise
Sell More by Being Less Certain
Praise Your Customers

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