Think about the last interaction you had with a customer at your store.
How did that go?
Did the customer make a purchase, walk out of your store empty-handed or complain to your store manager that you were “utterly inefficient”?
A lot can go wrong during the holiday shopping season for retail sales associates. This season, holiday spending is projected to rise by 4.5% beyond the $11.7 billion in 2017 (Source: Alabama Retail), with nearly 70% of shoppers planning to shop at retail stores (Source: RetailMeNot). That’s a lot of customers to deal with and a lot of effort to keep them happy. Retail salespeople play an important role in increasing sales by providing positive experiences.
But let’s face it: retail salespeople work in a face-to-face environment. This means facing a day full of unforeseen circumstances and a store full of diverse customers. Although an exciting job to have, dealing with different characters on a daily basis is not easy.
Moreover, as a retail salesperson, you’re left with no choice but to be prepared to meet the demands of your job and be accommodative of your shopper’s in-store behavior. It’s time to put your festive face on and make a sale.
How do you do this?
Start by understanding the type of customer you’re dealing with, and learn how to either make that sale or walk away from it. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the four most common types of customers seen at retail stores, and how best to handle each.
1. The angry shopper
Angry customers are a nightmare. Although this is the most wonderful time of the year, as a retail salesperson you’ll still encounter some irate shoppers. Some customers may walk in angry, but truth be told, others could be influenced after walking into your store. How so? Pushy salespeople, loud music, messy fitting rooms, and long lines, to name a few.
If you work as a retail salesperson this season, make the British slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” your mantra for the next few months. Whatever the reason for shoppers to be angry, patience will take you a long way and help avoid mishaps on your job.
Be observant. You can spot an angry customer from a mile away. Their body language is one of the first warning signs and then comes their tone of voice. It’s even advisable to approach the customer proactively before things spiral out of control and cause other shoppers in your store to get uncomfortable.
Unlike dealing with an angry customer over the phone, where expressions of annoyance are dealt by rolling your eyes at the salesperson next to you, handling the situation in a store full of customers is altogether different. Remain calm and hear them out. Then, empathize with them. Customers want to be heard and understood. Apologize and offer them a solution. This gives you a chance to turn an unhappy customer’s day around and make that sale happen after all.
2. The happy shopper
Oh, the merry ones! Happy, cheerful customers brighten up your day, don’t they? Although some of us get stressed about shopping during the holidays, there are those who are determined to spread the holiday cheer. They are the ones who’ll make your retail sales life easier this season.
You know what they say about happy customers? They return. Your challenge with this group is—you have to keep them happy, whether they purchase or not. The cost of happy customers turning unhappy comes with its adverse effects on your business. Delivering an excellent in-store customer experience lies with you.
Make conversations and build rapport with happy customers. They could be visiting your store for the first time, so tell them about your products and services. Give them attention and be kind. Delighted customers provide opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. So, go the extra mile.
3. The window shopper
You’re going to have plenty of this kind walk into your store this season. If you have retail experience, you’re already aware of the potential to turn window shoppers into customers. People who look eventually do buy. People walking across the street, mall goers, tourists, young adults, and the other indecisive shoppers are looking to buy, just not yet.
If they walk into your store, there was obviously something that attracted them. It could be your window display, discount banners, online ads, etc. Now that you have their foot in the door, start off with a warm welcome and make them feel important, even if they’re just looking. Ask them if they’re looking for anything in particular. If their answer is an invariable – “No, I’m just looking”, don’t give up and walk away; don’t lurk either.
Most customers these days are informed of your offerings before they walk in. As a retail sales associate, you should be on top of your game. Know the ins and outs of your store. Learn your shopper’s needs through a casual conversation. Engage with them by pitching your new products and services, present choices, offer free samples, talk about in-store promotions, etc. Be persuasive without being pushy. If they’re ready to buy, great, but if not, let them go with a smiling face. Although your mission is to close sales, providing excellent customer experience is the only way to get there. Offer to send them in-store offers via email as a way to get their contact information and nurture them. So, try not to neglect window shoppers and instead engage.
4. The loyal shopper
In today’s world where most retailers carry similar products in-store, the real differentiator is customer experience. It’s what makes customers return to shop at your store instead of going elsewhere. It’s what brings you those loyal customers for whom price is not an issue, and who truly love doing business with you. They love your brand and they love your service.
Loyal customers are a result of a job well done. You have to continue to keep them satisfied, appreciated and loyal forever. Don’t take them for granted and focus on selling only to new customers. Especially during this season when foot traffic to stores is high, there’s potential to lose customer loyalty due to negligence. Keep a lookout for your loyal repeat customers and make them feel extra special. Show them appreciation by offering loyalty discounts for your in-store merchandise, surprise them with a little holiday gift for shopping with you, and thank them for coming.
The bottom line
Care for your customers and keep them happy.
It’s natural that as a retail salesperson you’re inclined to only focus your efforts on simply closing sales and increasing your incentives during this prime shopping time. But, it’s also important to be honest, friendly, patient and helpful even though your ultimate goal is to sell. Read customers, listen attentively, learn their needs, and sell with confidence.
Selling is not a natural talent; anyone can sell. It takes time and training to get better at your job. So, attend sales training, learn from your mistakes, and challenge yourself to be the best retail sales person this holiday season and every other time too.
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Cover illustration by Anandh Ravichandran.