10 steps to educate employees & increase store sales

Build Relationships-web

If you’ve been in the retail furniture business long enough, you’ve probably heard or read this oft-quoted survey that shows why customers leave a store and never return:

  • 15% because of price.
  • 15% because of product selection.
  • 70% because of the interaction with store associates.

Let that set in …

The good news is that the quality of that interaction is controllable by the store owner or manager. It’s not easy. It takes observation, training and reinforcement of what’s good and a strong discussion about what’s not working. But knowing there’s a problem is half the battle.

Consumers are looking for that great customer service experience. They talk about it with friends, online, on social media – you name it. Most of the stories they share aren’t great. Retailers who are in the “transaction business” – getting as many people through the checkout as quickly as possible – probably don’t care about that 70 percent statistic as much as you do. That’s because you’re in the “relationship business.” Each customer, and her in-store experience, is important to you and the continued growth of your store. This means that every associate on your sales floor must be a consummate professional who knows his way around your store and everything it sells, is comfortable selling to customers, knows how to add on to every sale, and can build relationships that keep customers coming back.

It’s a big job that’s easy when you follow these 10 steps:

1. Keep everyone informed

Hold a daily 10-minute meeting with your team before the store opens, and again before each shift. Cover what’s new, what’s hot and what’s happening that day. If a new shipment arrives, talk about the new product. If you’re having upcoming events, remind employees to tell customers. Are customers sharing informationthat might signal a trend? Your staff needs to listen. In other words, discuss what your associates need to know to properly do their job that day.

2. Walk the entire store every day

Retail happens. You receive new furniture and move other furniture around. If you’ve ever heard an associate say, “It was right here yesterday!” you need to adopt our 360 Degree Pass-by exercise, a quick walk through the entire sales floor. You’ll notice which areas need attention, but you’ll also take in new merchandise and see where older product has been moved. This should be done by every person, every shift, every day.

3. The first 10 seconds

Have you ever wondered why people immediately say “I’m just looking” when you’ve only said hello? It’s because customers create a mental image of the shopping experience that’s often based on an experience in your store, or maybe a competitor’s store.

In our focus groups, we ask why shoppers are so quick to throw out the “I’m just looking” response. One reason is because they think they are judged the second they enter the door. Younger customers complain they are passed over in favor of older customers; older customers complain they are invisible in some stores. It’s a sales adage that bears repeating: You can never prejudge a customer because you never know where your next great sale will come from.

Do customers prejudge your sales associates? If you have a dress code for associates, it will be easier for shoppers to identify them, and it will uphold your brand to your standards. Who wants to buy an expensive sofa from someone wearing flip-flops?

4. Watch your (body) language

Some researchers say that much of how we communicate is done through body language. That means we need to consider how customers interpret our body language. An associate who crosses her arms can be as poorly perceived as one who rolls her eyes at a customer’s question.

Associates who invade a shopper’s personal space aren’t high on the interaction list, either. And two or more associates having a conversation on the sales floor – warranted or not – can cause customers to keep away rather than approach when they need help.

5. Say hello!

We spend days at a time watching how customers enter stores. It’s usually in one of three ways:

  • In a panic – this customer needs help NOW;
  • On a mission – this customer has come for a specific item;
  • On a leisurely walk – she’s enjoying being in your store.

Each of these customers has a clock in her head that registers perceived time versus real time.

We might, for example, ask a shopper how long it took an associate to approach. The response might be five minutes, even when our stopwatch registered just 90 seconds. That’s perceived time, and it rarely works in the retailer’s favor. So, train your associates to approach each type of shopper accordingly and to check back frequently.

Each of these customers has a clock in her head that registers perceived time versus real time.

We might, for example, ask a shopper how long it took an associate to approach. The response might be five minutes, even when our stopwatch registered just 90 seconds. That’s perceived time, and it rarely works in the retailer’s favor. So, train your associates to approach each type of shopper accordingly and to check back frequently.

6. Stop saying, “May I help you?”

The automatic response to that question is always “no,” so stop asking. “May I help you?” only works when the customer is clearly in a hurry and needs immediate help.

What can you ask instead? How about, “Good morning, it’s great to see you today!” Talk about the weather, the customer’s kids, anything but the store. Make her feel welcome. If a shopper wants to browse, let her. But if you sense the customer is looking for something in particular, you might ask, “What brings you in to see us today? Anything special?” This will open a dialogue.

Ask for the customer’s name and use it. People like to be addressed by name, so offer your hand and introduce yourself. Once you have started a conversation, ask the customer if it’s her first time in the store. If she says yes, offer to take her on a quick tour of the sales floor.

7. Dig for information

At some point, it’s time to uncover what the customer wants. Open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, why or how will enable you to get a good idea of why she’s there, plus which items to show her. Closed-ended questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer also help you gather information and move the conversation along.

8. Demonstrate the product

People need to be shown what a motion sofa or recliner can do. If your coffee table has a USB port, show it! If the dining room table’s leaf is easy to install, install it in front of the customer. Then let her try it herself. Experiences build value and sell product.

9. Always, ALWAYS try to add on to the sale

“You want fries with that?” Ummmm, yes!

A large serving of McDonalds fries can be yours for just $1.89. Multiply that by the gazillion fries the fast-food giant sells each day and that little add-on adds up big time.

Georganne remembers training her son and his 7-year-old buddies working the concession stand at a high school football game to ask each customer, “Which refreshing beverage would you like to go along with that hot dog?” Sales went up just because they asked.

That’s the thing: Customers won’t buy additional items if you don’t ask! Adding on isn’t pushy; it helps when it’s done ethically. Wouldn’t you rather have the cashier at the toy store ask if you need batteries for that toy you’re buying? It will save you another trip to the store.

Think of add-on selling as a positive. It not only increases your average sale, it strengthens customer relationships by saving them time and frustration. So, the next time they buy that living room set, remind them of the lamps in your lighting department.

Why not make our Gimme 5 exercise a part of your daily store meetings? Pick a piece of furniture and ask associates to call out five items that could be added on to it. Pretty soon, adding on to the sale will become second nature.

10. Cement the relationship

Invite the customer to visit you again. Tell her about upcoming classes and in-store events. Ask her to sign up for your newsletter. Tell her about the fun things you do on Facebook and other social media. This 30-second dialogue will make her feel important to you and your store.

These 10 easy steps will help you build relationships that keep customers close, lift your team to higher levels of success, and increase your average sale. And really, who couldn’t use more money in their pocket?

RetailerNOW is changing.

Insights Magazine will be replacing RetailerNOW as the official publication of the Home Furnishings Association. With this change, you will be able to find the same great content on the HFA website. All current members/subscribers will automatically receive the new print editions. You can continue to view content on this website until January 2020.