Gain trust with your customers by not trying to sell to them. In fact, un-sell some of your products if you don’t truly believe the customer needs or wants it. Trying to convince a potential customer that they need something that they don’t, might, at best pay off in the short term with a bigger sale, but they certainly won’t thank you for it later and they won’t build trust in you or your brand.
Think of the long term instead. If you only sell them 1 thing instead of 3, but they go home after a great experience and love what they got and don’t feel that they overspent, they will have a positive feeling about your store and will be much more likely to come back and even better, to recommend your store to others. The long-term value of a happy client is exponentially better than a short term bigger spending but unsatisfied client.
I used to have a sales man in one of my stores that was very good at being very persuasive to clients on selling some pretty expensive items. Initially we were very happy but then a pattern started to emerge of a much higher rate of returns and even some complaints. He was even found to be twisting the truth about a product at times to get the client to buy something and that certainly wasn’t the reputation I had built up of my brand. Unacceptable.
“So how do we effectively un-sell something whilst keeping the client engaged with our brand?”
To quote the wonderful Seth Godin:- ‘Empathy means that the outcome is important enough to you that you are willing to exercise effort to get that outcome. You don’t have to like the other person. In fact, if you do like them then empathy isn’t really required.’
Listen to what the customer actually wants.
Listen to the words they might be using when shopping around your store. Do they ask for prices or check price tags a lot? Do they say how nice something is but mention it’s a little expensive? You can often gauge a customer’s budget by simply listening and observing. Creating a friendly conversation is the best way to help make a customer feel relaxed from which they will be more likely to tell you things. Don’t focus on selling to them. Focus on just welcoming them, empathising with them about the traffic / the weather for example and having a friendly conversation. The selling will happen much more naturally that way. Don’t ask closed questions like, ‘can I help you’ as soon they walk in. Give them chance to enter and feel at ease with you and if they need something they will then ask. Be available for the customer but not hovering around them, or worse still, not watching them shop.
Giving a referral.
Let’s say the customer wants some earrings to go with the outfit but your store doesn’t yet carry earrings. One reply might be ‘I’m sorry no we don’t have earrings’. Not rude, but also not very helpful. Another way to answer could be ‘I’m sorry we don’t yet sell earrings although we are currently considering it. Perhaps you could try the other boutique 3 doors down as she usually has a nice range.’ Now you are sending your client into the throws of the competition however imagine how good that customer feels that you helped her, you even went out of your way to tell her the name of another store. She will remember that.
Unless the product is a requirement, and they have an urgent need for it, people need to feel good to spend money. In some big fashion stores, they play loud energetic pop music to make their customers happier. Their theory being, if their target audience hears their favourite song played really loudly, endorphins will help spur them along to buy things they may not need. Obviously this doesn’t work for most retail stores but knowing your customer type is a huge help.
In my baby boutique, new parents-to-be were a dream client. Generally speaking, most parents want the best for their baby and better still, they get told by everyone and anyone about all the things they will need. The baby business is a booming industry with new crazy gadgets coming out all the time. It can be very overwhelming for first time parents. My philosophy in our store was to give non-pushy advice about the necessities, what was worth the extra dollars and what wasn’t. Some products for sure, like in any industry are purely a nice-to-have. So rather than tell the client they absolutely need the automatic baby bottle making expresso machine to help them through those midnight feeds, we simply advised them that whilst it was a fantastic product, there was nothing wrong with manually making that bottle and warming it in a cup of hot water, the old-fashioned way, nudge-nudge wink-wink. Sometimes the client would appreciate the advice but still wanted the latest and greatest gadget on the market and of course we would happily sell it to her, others were grateful for the honesty and saved those dollars for something more important. Either way, we were building a trusting, hopefully longer term relationship with that client by being honest rather than pushy.
Sometimes, when you tell somebody they don’t need something, they like to disagree and give themselves the reasons that they do. Magic.
In summary, gain loyalty and trust with your customer base by advising them as you would a friend. Independent retail is generally founded on regular customers not huge footfall so focus on making each and every customer walk away with a positive experience rather than the feeling of a pushy sales person.
“Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it’s a product Apple doesn’t carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don’t want or need it. That doesn’t enrich their lives, and it doesn’t deepen the retailer’s relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.” – Ron Johnson, former Senior VP of Retail at Apple