Find the Customer’s Need, Then Find a Way to Fulfill it to Make the Sale.

Can't Buy a Thrill
Image via Wikipedia

I want it all

Why are salespeople the scapegoats for unfulfilling products? Because every advertisement sells products by telling customers they will find love, success, happiness, sex, their best friend, and even a new body by just buying that product! And how do customers directly buy that product? Not through the manufacturer, but the salesperson.

Lie to me

Emotion driven ads sell. They work. They always have. They tell prospects what they want to hear.

People don’t want to know so much about what makes your product good as much as what it will do for them. Why it will make their lives better. (Thanks for that inspiring <a href=”“>Ted Talk, Simon Sinek!)

Merchandising and visual build on that drama. Their job is to entice, to sell the sizzle, to lure the customers in to take a closer look.

But, where is my pot of gold?

But what if the customer follows the scent, but doesn’t find love, happiness, and more? Sometimes, they take it out on the salesperson. Not intentionally. Not with mal intent. It just happens. Natural course of dreams unfulfilled…


Frustration breeds contempt, and the next salesperson who can’t fulfill a customer’s latest desires with product becomes, yup, the scapegoat. The customer wants to know why all the ads SAID the product would make them feel wonderful in one way or another and why it isn’t working!!? Why is the person in the mirror nothing like the one in the commercial?

This is why we have long return lines at the customer service desk…

It’s YOUR Fault?

So whose fault is it? Marketing, merchandising, sales? No one’s, really. Take a minute to understand the dynamic here. Drama derives from NEED. Customers go ballistic when a product doesn’t deliver because they weren’t looking for that product, they were looking to fill a need and apparently the product you sell did not fulfill it.

Innocent until proven guilty

So what can you do about it as an innocent salesperson? If a customer expresses disappointment, anger, or more:

  • Look beyond the drama
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Dig deeper


THEN FIND A WAY TO FULFILL IT! You don’t have to fill that need with the product they asked for. You just have to fill the need. Sales, Social Media, Ads,… it’s all the same when it comes to drawing attention.

Remember, they don’t know what they need, they just know why they need it. This even applies to items as mundane as a washing machine. Maybe they care less about how well it works than about its bells and whistles. Find out before you try to sell it!


The answer in customer service is never “No.”

Jack Sparrow
Capt. Jack Sparrow always finds a solution to what others would find a failing proposition! Image via Wikipedia

Ever been asked by a customer if you carry a particular item and give that customer a “no” in reply?

Does the customer give up? No, they expect a suggestion… just something… but nope, nothing more comes out of your mouth.

So, most likely they turnaround and leave to continue their search elsewhere. WHY do you let them go…?

Were they hell-bent on that specific item? Maybe. Maybe not. But you didn’t ask any questions to find out if you could help in any other way! WHY?


Salespeople!!!  Have you lost your mind? Especially you commission salespeople. A salesperson should never answer “no” PERIOD.

All a “no” results in is an exit and a bunch of other undesirable no’s… No ka-ching (No $$), No contact info, No established relationship, No Nothing! You’ll likely never see that customer again.

Ask, Ask, Ask!

Your answer must always be a series of questions.

Of course you may not have the item they asked for, but customers are not always sure they are asking the right question.

No, they’re not stupid. Well, maybe sometimes.

But, seriously, customers don’t often have a clue what they need for their specific purpose. They often base their request on what they have heard or seen from friends, seen on the internet, or checked out on the various Social Media avenues. But they still don’t have full scope of their options – and that is your job, to educate them on their options based on their needs.

Listen again: Until a salesperson properly EDUCATES a customer on all their options through a process of questions and conversation, customers are only asking for that which they have knowledge of. It’s your purpose to enlighten them of the available options.


Selling has become a bad word. But that is only related to the sleazy personage of used car sales persons and the like. Every profession has its bad seeds… That doesn’t mean customers aren’t looking for help from you.

Your job as a salesperson is rewarding when done right. Think about it. The last time you sold the right products to a customer that really needed your advice and governance, you smiled just as much as they did.

It feels damned good to truly help someone make the right purchase. You did it right. They were happy. They will come back.

Strike GOLD.

You know their name and they know yours. Think about it. The last time you had a great shopping experience, you knew that salesperson’s name by the time you made the transaction.

So, in turn, when you give a customer that great experience, they feel unburdened about shopping. They look forward to you helping them again. They even ask for your schedule to make sure you can wait on them again. GOLD!


Tell your customers to shop the internet all they want, but when it comes time to buy, to come to you so that you can help assure them they are making the right choice(s).

Spoil them!

And when they buy it from you, always GIVE A LITTLE EXTRA!

  • Tell them all the features of their purchase they can utilize.
  • Tell them how to take care of it to prolong the lifetime usage.
  • Tell them what their options are should there be any problem.
  • Give them 2 of your business cards and tell them you will always give them and their friends (referrals) the royal treatment.

And if they ask for a discount, meet the internet price, but no lower, and do throw in a little free item… some little accessory that will make that product even more enjoyable. The price of that accessory is only cost to you, but retail value to them, and most likely, will get them thinking about how else to enhance their purchases next time they are shopping with you.

When I was in shoes, it was always better to throw in a pair of free socks they had never tried rather than a $$ discount. They get a chance to fall in love with you again for introducing them to another product they can now love and buy more of later.

As Capt. Jack Sparrow says, “Savvy?”

Will you ever say “No” again?

Top 10 Reasons Your Staff is Blaming YOU for Their Lack of Performance

IMAGE Procrastination - Whiner Diner
Image by aronski via Flickr

Tackle Daily Operations First

The first thing you might not think to tackle in troubleshooting your business is operations – but it should be.

So, review your store’s daily operations, tools and practices. Take a good look at all work areas – front and back. Make sure no one has the ability to use any of the following excuses for not meeting their sales goals!

The list below may appear to be minor nuisances, but combined, they can build to a daily inhibitor of streamlined performance.

Top 10 excuses your staff may use for poor performance – and how to fix them:

  1. I can never find [folders, bags, pens, tools, etc] when I need them!
    Have you delegated specific staff for ordering and restocking supplies regularly?
  2. I didn’t know the schedule was changed!
    Are schedules posted in advance and maintained? Are schedule changes made only through you or your manager with all parties involved signing off?
  3. I didn’t know there was a new policy!
    Are notices prominently and regularly posted? Expired information removed or filed to reduce clutter?
  4. No one listens to my ideas to improve!
    Is there a means for staff to provide regular input, i.e., suggestion box, post meeting discussions, and review documentation?
  5. I don’t have any place to make calls!
    Is there a designated working space for staff members to contact customers and keep their own files?
  6. I could have made that sale if I knew we had it in stock!
    Is stock organized, accessible and rotated? Is new merchandise featured at meetings?
  7. I never get my customers’ messages!
    Is there a central system, message board, pad, or other method in place for all staff to easily access their messages?
  8. But I told everyone (about ___) in case I was off when my customer came in!
    See Item #7 – Decide on a means of communication for when staff has an off day to be habitually used by all: central notebook, bulletin/dry erase board, desktop calendar / notes, whatever works!
  9. No one told me they were out of stock! or When did we get that in?
    See Item #8
  10. I couldn’t get back from lunch in time because the food court was jammed, traffic was bad, etc…!
    Do you provide an eating space, small refrigerator and microwave for your staff? Many times staff would be happy to bring lunch, but are forced to leave and fight with the lunch crowds. Well worth the small investment to avoid these situations. You might also consider scheduling lunch times before and after traditional lunch times to avoid the main lunch crush and provide better service for those lunchtime customers.

Stop fueling the blame game and make these changes now.

It is very easy for staff to blame poor performance on a lack of tools and means to perform. If you are operating an efficient and well functioning business, your staff (and you) won’t have those excuses to fall back on when you ask them to justify less than acceptable sales results.

Note: Why do I blog about both Marketing and On-the-floor issues? Because you can spend all you want on marketing to get new traffic in the door, but what happens when they walk through your doors is the key to the best ROI on marketing.

Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail –

#1 rule for retail success

Attentive salepeople are key to customer retention

The number one rule in real estate is Location, Location, Location!

In retail, the number one rule is Customer Service, Customer Service, Customer Service!

Recognize who butters your bread

Splash campaigns, discount driven events, and other such tactics are great for driving new blood into your location, but they often exclude motivation for existing customers to return.

Your bread and butter customer is your best marketing tool. Reward these loyal repeat customers with birthday / anniversary rewards, holiday gift cards, and most important, personalized service. The more exclusive you make your existing customers feel, the more likely they are to spread the word about you to their friends – and that now includes their social networks.

Keep your finger on your customer’s pulse.

Do keyword searches in social network venues like Facebook and Twitter or you may miss a negative comment about your customer service. It’s so easy to return a timely twitter response to an unhappy customer’s tweet to ensure that the customer you have already invested in comes back.

So sure your existing customers are happy?

These 3 easy tactics can help you learn more about how to maximize the repeat business of your existing customers:

  1. Make an arrangement with fellow retailers and friends to secret shop each others stores occasionally. The value of the little customer service details that have been forgotten or ignored by you and your staff can’t be ignored.
  2. Spend more time on the floor connecting with your customers and observing your staff. You’ll learn valuable information about your customers, product, service, atmosphere, operations, logistics, and staff loyalty and satisfaction.
  3. Visit your competition and watch their customers in action. You’d be amazed at how much you learn about your customer by watching them in another environment besides your own.

Customer Service IS your marketing strategy and your repeat customer is your pot of gold. Treat them like royalty!

Customer service “is the new Black” in Retail

Interior of Mona Lee Frocks, Minneapolis
Image by Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest via Flickr

Lately there isn’t a day gone by that I don’t see an article on how important customer service is to the survival of a business.

So, apparently, Customer Service is in style again! FINALLY!

Some readers are too young to remember what customer service really means. Here’s what it was like for us boomers….

Remember when…?

Gas stations had full service – We never got out of our cars, attendants cleaned our windshield, checked our water, battery and oil and tires in addition to pumping our gas and we didn’t smell like gas when we left.

There were no “cattle queues” in the bank and tellers knew you by name.

Department stores had cash registers in every department and plenty of well groomed and product knowledgeable people to help you find the right styles for your shape, color, age, etc… and helped you accessorize!

When you shopped for a formal dress or suit, you went to a “salon” or men’s clothier and never left the dressing room to get another item to try on – they just kept bringing you more choices based on what you liked and had an alterations department to make it fit perfectly!

Saleswomen in the Lingerie Department had a measuring tape around their neck to measure and find the right bra for you (ok – just us gals)

In the shoe departments and stores, you didn’t have to walk around to pick out what you wanted to try on and then hail down a salesperson to get them for you. You simply came in, sat down, told them what you needed and wanted and they brought you a selection – and measured your feet!

…and many more.

Personal touches made shopping a pleasurable experience rather than the chore it has become today.

Retailers take note!

E-commerce has made retailers notice that to keep their brick and mortar locations, they need to recognize that customers still want live human help.

It really does take a long time to shop on the web unless you know EXACTLY what you want, the brand, the size, etc. and customers want to be sure of what they are purchasing. There’s a lot to be said about being able to use your 5 senses!

I say HOORAY! I am far too busy to look and look for what I need and I love having someone help me speed up the shopping process!

What kind of customer service do you miss when you shop?

3 Reasons Your Customers May Be Defecting to Online Shopping

Macy's store during 2006 Christimas in San Fra...
Image via Wikipedia

In my experience, most retail sales-floor training is “baptism under fire” with a lot of apologies to both the new employee and ultimately, the customer. And since most hiring is done between customers without proper preparation and investigation before the applicant arrives, this is truly a heartbreak since there are so many super qualified people out there looking for jobs.

Would you pick just any location to place your  business? Would you buy just any equipment for your store? Would you put just any merchandise in it? Then don’t just settle when you are hiring. And invest in good training, too!

Don’t blame e-commerce for your sluggish sales – customers may be switching to online shopping vs. your brick and mortar establishments for these 3 reasons:

  1. Poor hiring and training
  2. Lack of staff loyalty to your company mission
  3. Lack of Customer Connection

Here’s an example:

True story:

I was Christmas Shopping Sunday at Macy’s in Alpharetta, GA (a northern suburb of Metro Atlanta, GA). My growing teenage son needed some jeans, too, so while he was in the fitting room, I noticed some tables marked “Morning Special.” I looked at my cell phone and saw it was about 12:45 pm, so I assumed I had missed it, but since the signs were still up, I asked a passing salesperson when the “Morning Specials” ended. She said she didn’t know and started to walk off.

HUH?! That stopped me cold. Are you kidding me? “I don’t know!!!” ??? Which part about this was the worst…

A. That she didn’t know because of lack of training.

B. That she lacked the loyalty to her employer and therefore was satisfied to tell me that she didn’t know, or…

C. That she didn’t care about me as a customer and didn’t mind leaving me without an answer.

I couldn’t let this go. I quickly said, “You don’t know?!!!” And unbelievably, she said, “No. (pause) I guess I could find out if you want me to.” I said, “Well, yes!”

She came back and said, (and I am not making this up), “Well, it’s either 1pm or 2pm.” HUH, again!!! I was nonplussed. Surprisingly, she seemed to sense I wasn’t thrilled with her answer, and said, “One lady says it’s 1, but I think I saw in the paper that it was 2, so I think it’s 2.”

Am I really having this ridiculous exchange with her? I told her I wanted to know for sure since it was almost 1. She answered again that she believed it was 2. I told her I’d like to know for sure, so she reluctantly left again to ask someone else.

She returned to tell me (yes, you guessed it) … that it was over at 1 pm. I was SOL since it was now 12:59 pm.

Was that salesperson stupid, indifferent, or let’s all say this together…Poorly hired and poorly trained. I have seen a lot of discussions on LinkedIn lately on how important sales training is.  Is this not the perfect example?

So who is really to blame? Yes, the salesperson was negligent and derelict of duty, and she was willing to likely piss me off as a customer who might have trusted her guess that the sale was over at 2, but in the end – it is the employer’s fault.

His/Her poor choice in hiring and lack of good training and follow up allowed the risk that I would be royally upset at the register when told that the “Morning Special” ended an hour ago and I was not getting the discount. Why would I bother to return there to shop after this experience? I might as well shop online…

There are so many potentially bad results from this possible scenario that I don’t have enough room or your potential attention span to discuss. But what is equally concerning to me, is the indifference many employers have regarding employee training. Is it any wonder the staff is not loyal to your sales mission? If you don’t care if they get it right, why should they?

Your sales are based on the response a customer has to your store, your products, and how they are presented.

YOUR SALESPEOPLE ARE YOUR STORE by all accounts and purposes in the eye of the customer. The salesperson answers the phone, is the FIRST point of contact on the sales floor and is responsible for the feeling the customer has as they leave your store – in other words, the behavior and response of the salesperson toward the customer determines the likelihood of whether a customer will come back far more than the merchandise.

So, if the customer has no reason to feel that the shopping experience in your brick and mortar location is any better or more productive than an online shopping experience, why should they come back? Why shouldn’t they buy online if the experience is little different?

Fortunately, the bad taste in my mouth left later when I found a better salesperson who actually gave a damn about me as a customer – a young man who wanted to help me find some jeans with a very cheerful and helpful attitude and knowledge of the merchandise! YAY! Maybe the young lady I had earlier was temporary help for the holidays – but wouldn’t you still want to maximize your sales with properly hired and trained staff regardless of whether they are temporary or permanent?

Spend as much time researching those you employ as you do your products and marketing! And properly train them! (more on training in another post)

In these times, it is an employer’s market when it comes to hiring. Take advantage of it! Unemployment insurance is limited and quality people are spending 1-2 years seeking employment. They may be overqualified, but who better to serve your customer? They may eventually leave for something better, but the influence they have on the rest of the staff and your customers will make it all worth it. You might learn something, too!