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With more people shopping on the internet every year, many of us who work in traditional retail sales feel as if our job security is being threatened, but this does not have to be the case. There is no doubt that the majority of retailers on the internet have no trouble beating out brick and mortar shops on price with their low overhead and volume purchasing power. It is also really difficult to fight the convenience of being able to purchase something in your underwear at three in the morning as well. There is one thing that most internet retailers struggle with in comparison to their physical store competitors, customer loyalty.
Your typical internet purchase is usually centered around reading random product reviews and then price comparison shopping until you find the cheapest one and then having the ability to push the button to order what you desire. This can often lead to people jumping from website to website and looking for nothing but who has the slimmest margin and not caring at all about customer service until it is too late. This is where those of us in traditional sales have the upper hand. When shopping in a physical store with actual front line sales people, there is someone the customer can refer to and ask questions, or that can even solve problems for them. What is even better is the more often they come in, the more they recognize the associates and come to relate to them. Retaining customers is one of the most important things one can do in their sales career. Anyone can sell someone something once, but when maintain several customer relationships for years is when you know you are doing something right.
There are a few reasons that a customer will make a purchase from you, but there is only one reason that they will keep coming back, and that is trust. Trust takes time to build, but it starts with the very first meeting. There are countless volumes written on how to engage customers, so I will not bore you with that here. Eye contact and a great smile aside, customers want someone who is knowledgeable. Sure customers are wanting to know about the widget that you sell and all the specs and what not that they could obviously read in the brochure, or on the website. Customers also want to know what they cannot read so easily, such as common issues with the product and how to overcome them, technical support availability as well as add on products they may help them as well. Where many in sales lose it though is when it comes to customer knowledge. Customer knowledge is taking the time to figure out the type of person you are dealing with, and what they may want, but may not know to ask for. As an example, say you are selling printers in an office supply store. You have a customer looking for a multi-function machine to also make copies with. Through the course of your conversation you may notice that they are not completely comfortable with technology, so this would guide you to recommend a machine to them that may have a simpler usage instead of the one with a million options and 10 layers of menus. One can learn quite a bit about a customer by just simply paying attention to not only what they are saying, but also by how they carry themselves as well as react to what you are showing them.
Another way to develop trust is through building a rapport with them that will develop into a familiarity. People love being recognized while receiving consistent service, and providing that can start at the very first meeting. Many times when I meet a customer for the first time I will ask them where they are coming from. Knowing where a customer lives will help you with a few things, if they are local then you know you may have a potential regular, and it will also give you a point to potentially relate to the customer on. Say for instance they live in a neighboring town, if you have family or friends that live in their area you can use that as a lighter conversation point to get to know the customer a bit better. Throughout qualifying a customer for a product you may also ask about their interests as they pertain to the product. You may find that you have a common interest and this often will lead to being a great step forward in building rapport. It should go without saying, but throughout everything, just relax. So often we get caught up in the steps of a sale that we forget to be human and just carry on a conversation and keep it casual. Be genuine with your customers, and keep things light. You may or may not be commission, and your paycheck may depend on this sale, but your customer does not deserve or need to feel any pressure because of your need to close the deal. Sure one sale will get you a paycheck today, but building solid customer loyalty will ensure that you can keep closing deals year after year.
Those of us on the front lines in sales have so much more to offer than any website could ever offer. We are the familiar face that is there when there is an issue to resolve. We are the ones who have kids in school with our customers kids. We are the ones who took the time to show them that while one product may look good on paper, it would not have suited their lifestyle. Take the time to build a meaningful connection with your customer base and you can believe that you have done all that you can to ensure you have a long future in sales
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