To set yourself apart from your competition and build a memorable brand, you have to think about HOW you’re going to sell as much as or more than you think about WHAT you’re going to sell. For example, it’s great if you have a policy for consistently greeting every person who walks through the door, but creating a successful customer experience goes far beyond a simple “Hello, how are you today?” It’s a process that involves sincerity, active listening, problem-solving, and offering service rather than pushing a sale.
Five important steps comprise a successful customer interaction. To make the process easier to remember, we created an acronym to help guide you:
- Present yourself to each customer.
- Ask about needs and listen to the answers.
- Recommend some solutions.
- Trigger the sale.
- Say goodbye with sincerity.
Present Yourself to Each Customer
The right kind of greeting can create a customer for life; the wrong kind can cost you more than you think (68% of customers who leave a store do so because they feel ignored). First of all, if you can’t be sincere, then don’t bother. Customers can sense when you don’t mean what you say. A lack of eye contact or a smile, for instance, is a dead giveaway that you’d rather be elsewhere.
Make the connection within a short amount of time. Decide what that is for your store (some experts recommend 15 seconds), but whatever you do, don’t let a customer wander around without being acknowledged (a doorbell can help). Also, stop whatever you are doing and stand up to make the greeting; no one wants to feel like an afterthought.
Some specific actions you can take include smiling, shaking hands, and stating your name. Be positive, upbeat, and make it clear you are glad the person is there. Also, learn your customers’ names and use them in your greetings whenever possible. If you remember what they bought last time, ask them how it’s working out. This helps to build personalized relationships.
Though often offered with good intentions, the question “Can I help you?” is one of the worst ones you can ask. Why? Because if the person says, “No, I’m just looking,” you have lost him. Something brought him in, and it’s up to you to find out what it is. But be relaxed about it and give the person space: you don’t want to be too intense or badger him into leaving.
Open-ended questions (those that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”) usually get better results. Here are some examples that give you a chance to discover a customer’s needs and tell him what you have to offer:
- “Welcome to Parts Pro, my name is Jesse. What brings you to our store today?”
- “It’s good to see you again! What are you working on today?”
- “Have you been here before?”
Though the last example is a yes/no question, it will give you an opportunity to introduce a new customer to your store, tell him about any specials or hot items, and offer your assistance.
Ask About Needs and Listen to the Answers
Note that at this stage, you still aren’t trying to sell anything. In fact, asking questions and listening to the answers is your only job. To succeed, take your time and give the customer your undivided attention. Do not overwhelm him with questions. He wants to know that you care more about helping him with his issue than you do trying to make a sale. As mentioned earlier, this approach is called solution selling, and it creates a reputation for your store as a place where problems are solved by experts—not simply where products are sold by salespeople.
Questions should address what the customer is trying to do and wants to accomplish (here’s where knowing your product selection really comes in handy). If you start making recommendations without taking the time to fully understand the customer’s needs, he will see your efforts as self-serving instead of customer-serving.
Recommend Some Solutions
After listening carefully to what the customer has told you, take a moment to show that you understand by restating what you have heard. A customer might want information instead of a product on this particular visit. Give it freely. Doing so will build the goodwill required to generate future purchases.
But if the customer does intend to buy, now’s the time to make your recommendations. Show him what his options are, and be sure to communicate the pros and cons of each product you suggest. Explain how they should be installed and used; don’t assume that the customer already knows.
Uncovering Expectations True selling matches a customer’s wants with his expectations—even if he isn’t exactly aware of those expectations in the moment. That’s where a trusted advisor (you!) can help. Take price, for example. Most customers want the best available price, but they also expect quality, dependability, and service after the sale. If the right product is also the least expensive, then great! But underselling just to make a sale can backfire in terms of quality, warranty, status, or features. Taking the time to determine both wants AND expectations will allow you to make a lasting recommendation—and impression.
This is your chance to demonstrate your expertise. Many consumers research products online before heading into a store. Establish yourself as an authority by moving the customer to the next level of knowledge.
Note: Employees should never speak from a place of false authority. Encourage them to consult with you, other coworkers, or a supplier if they’re struggling with a particular situation. This demonstrates integrity and a desire to deliver what is promised.
Trigger the Sale
At this stage, you literally want to ask for the business. Show the customer your willingness to put everything together for him. Some good leading questions here include:
- “Would you like to take that home with you today?”
- “Can I place that order for you right now?”
- “Can I hold that at the counter for you while you shop?”
Make sure that the customer feels good about his selection by fully addressing any reservations. Discuss options for return or exchange (if any) to help build confidence in the sale. Little comments like “I have that at home; I really like it” or “This gets great reviews” or “This is one of our most popular items” do a great job of reinforcing the purchase decision. Just be sure that the statements are true!
Adds and Ends After the customer has settled on a product, suggest add-on purchases based on what you have learned so far. The credibility you have built by following the P.A.R.T.S. process will allow you to make suggestions of convenience without seeming too pushy. Your job is to help customers succeed with their projects, and this involves making sure they have everything that they need—whether they know it or not. Shine in your role as a trusted advisor by sharing your expertise in our industry.
Say Goodbye with Sincerity
This step might seem automatic on the surface, but you shouldn’t take it for granted. This is your chance to carry through the sincerity you established upon first greeting the customer, as well as an opportunity to generate some positive press and additional business. Here’s how.
Smile, thank the customer for coming in, and ask him to return. If he’s had a positive experience, encourage him to share his satisfaction with friends and via online review websites (many people rely on sites like Yelp or Google to help them choose community retailers). Though people are quick to go online to complain, they are less likely to go out of their way to offer praise. You’ve got to ask for it. Finally, invite him to ask for you the next time he comes in.
If you’ve successfully followed our P.A.R.T.S. sales system, then your customer will leave your store feeling great about their purchase and will be much more likely to refer their friends and family to shop with you.