Four daily reminders

ReminderWant a simple way to increase your sales every single day? You can. Just take the list appearing here and post it by your cash register or POS system. Then begin each day by reviewing the list and thinking about how you can integrate it into your daily interaction with customers. (A link to download this list in PDF format appears at the end of this article.) Here is the list:

  1. The first reality of selling is you have to actually be there (physically and mentally) before you can sell anything.
  2. Salesmanship is more about listening than it is about talking.
  3. The surest way to lose a sale is to try to convince a customer he’s wrong.
  4. Don’t wait for the customer to close the sale for you.

You Have to Be There

The first reality of selling is simple enough: You have to be there. You’ll never sell a thing when the lights are off and the doors are closed.

If this seems painfully obvious, ask yourself how many times you’ve stopped by some other small retail establishment, during its posted business hours, only to see a sign that says Back in 30 Minutes, or, We’ll Open Today at 3:00. Sorry.

Dive retailing isn’t something you can do when it’s convenient. If your store has advertised hours (and it should), stick with them. Nothing looks more unprofessional to customers than posting hours and not keeping them.

If customers find your store closed (or the phone unanswered) during what are supposed to be normal business hours, they are going to be understandably pissed. You just cost them their single most valuable possession: their time.

What do you think the odds are that customers will return, having discovered you are not always open when you said you would be? After all, you’ve already fooled them once…

There is More to “Being There” Than Just Being There

Even when the lights are on, the doors are open and you are physically present, you can still fail to “be there” for your customers. For example:

  • Last year I stopped by to visit a store that, ironically, occupies the same retail space as a pizza parlor I used to take students to after class, 30 years ago. I had not been to this store in some time, and wondered how it had changed.
  • When I walked in the door, there was no one in sight. There were, however, open boxes and plastic bags strewn everywhere. Clearly the store had just received a large shipment from one of its major suppliers.
  • From the back room, I could hear the sound of someone opening more boxes and moving equipment. After a minute, a disembodied voice said, “Let me know if you need help with anything…” I replied that I was “just looking.” No response.
  • I spent the next five minutes walking around, scrutinizing regulators, closely examining dive computers and playing with masks and fins — clear buying signals to anyone who might have been there watching me. But no one did. Worse, I could have walked out the door at any moment with an armload of expensive merchandise, with no one to stop me or provide my description to police.

Customers who walk in the door deserve as much of your undivided attention as you can provide. Sure, from time to time, you have to deal with ringing phones and other customers who may be present. So long as you do so as efficiently as possible, must customers will understand. What they won’t understand is:

  • Why talking on the phone with your friends or “shooting the breeze” with vendors is more important than they are.
  • Why cleaning the store or stocking shelves is a more valuable use of your time than waiting on them.
  • Why finishing a regulator repair takes precedence over their needs. (Hint: Never make your repair technician do double duty as your store’s only available salesperson. Either hire a dedicated technician to do your repair work or schedule time for it before or after normal store hours.)

Customers always come first. Without them, there is no need (and no money) to do anything else.

It’s More About Listening Than Talking

The stereotypical salesperson is a smooth talker. In reality, the most effective salespeople are better at listening than they are at talking.

Identifying customer needs is the essence of salesmanship. The more accurately you identify those needs, the better you can meet them.

Good salespeople ask questions. Lots of them. They then listen to the answers, carefully.

  • Is the wet suit you are looking for going to be for warm or cold water?
  • Is there a particular style, make, model or thickness you are looking for?
  • What colors would best match your other equipment?
  • Are there any specific features you want your wet suit to have?

Questions such as these enable you to restate your customer’s needs in a way that allows him to confirm that you have a clear understanding of what he wants. In other words:

“So, if we can put you into a 3mm Hyperstretch jumpsuit with either blue or gray accents, that will be what you’re looking for…right?”

So long as you have (or can easily get) exactly what the customer is looking for, the sales process can be surprisingly easy. Most importantly, you won’t waste your time — or the customer’s — trying to put him into something he neither wants nor needs. And you will close a lot more sales.

The Surest Way to Lose a Sale

It’s one thing if a customer walks into your store and asks for a product you don’t carry and can’t get.

You’d be surprised, however, the number of times customers walk into dive stores, asking for products that are sitting right on the shelf (can you say “Guaranteed Sale” here?) — only to be told, “No, you don’t want that.”

We’re not talking about situations in which newly-certified divers come in asking for double tanks or rebreathers here. No, we’re talking about situations in which a customer comes in asking for a perfectly good BC, regulator, computer or other piece of equipment, only to be told that “It’s not what you want…” simply because that’s not what the salesperson prefers.

The surest way to lose a sale is to try to convince a customer he’s wrong.

Every year, the dive industry loses hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales because, rather than give customers what they ask for, misguided dive store salespeople insist that everyone should be a clone of themselves. Yes, we all have our personal preferences when it comes to equipment; however, the satisfaction of being “right” all the time won’t put food on the table or send your kids to college.

So what if the occasional customer purchases a product that is not 100 percent right for them? The worst that is likely to happen is that they learn to ask for your advice next time.

It beats losing sales due to stubbornness.

Don’t Wait for the Customer to Close the Sale for You

The hardest thing for any of us to say is, “I want to give you my hard-earned money.” That’s why, after carefully assessing your customer’s needs, presenting the best possible solution to those needs, and getting a lot of buying signals in return, you still can’t expect customers to come out and say, “I’ll take it. Let me give you my money. I want it to go home with me now.”

It’s estimated that the number one reason so many salespeople fail to reach their potential is that they simply don’t ask for the sale.

Think about it:

  • Have you carefully assessed your customers’s needs (including whether or not they were in the market to buy today)?
  • Did you restate those needs to the customer, to get confirmation that your assessment is correct?
  • Did you present the best possible solution to those needs?
  • Did the customer give you one or more buying signals, such as wanting to hold or try on the product, asking whether it comes in his size or color, asking whether you had more than just the display model or asking what credit cards you take?

If you can answer Yes to all of these questions, then why aren’t you asking for the customer’s money? Doing so can be insanely easy:

  • “Will that be cash, check or charge?”
  • “Did you need (any add-on items) to go with that?”
  • “Will there be anything else today?”

If the customer still isn’t ready to buy, he’ll let you know. As often as not, customers really want to purchase what you’re selling (if not, why did they drive out of their way to see you?). They’re just waiting for you to make it easy for them to say Yes.

Keep It Simple

Just to re-cap, if you want to sell more, every day, you need to:

  • Be there, both physically and mentally.
  • Listen more, talk less.
  • Don’t try to convince customers they’re wrong.
  • Remember to ask for the sale.

There is, of course, a lot more to salesmanship than what’s been outlined here. If you are serious about selling, there are numerous books, videos, courses and other learning opportunities that can vastly increase your effectiveness and your bottom line.

Nevertheless, if you want something simple that can increase your sales today — and every day thereafter — make it a point to remind yourself of these four things on a regular basis.

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