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Monday, April 27, 2009

Guestpost: Lead Domination's Jamie Klein on Improving Customer Experience in Retail Selling

How best to improve the customer retail experience? I'm pleased to share with you perspective from Jamie Klein, president of The Lore Institute and author of Lead Domination.

What I particularly appreciate in this guest post is the focus on how retail selling plays such a critical role in improving the retail experience for customers. And the solution has nothing to do with the hard sell -- something that our core women consumers particularly abhor!

Improving the Customer Experience in Retail Selling
by Jamie Klein

In a difficult market where many retailers are seeing their staff levels shrink and wrestling for more limited consumer dollars, what can you do to improve the experience being provided to your customers? An interesting insight to this question is revealed in a survey completed by The The Luxury Institute in January 2009. This wealth survey on sales and marketing practices was responded to by over 500 consumers representing the top 7% of income earners in the U.S. In the sales portion of the survey, consumers were asked to rate their experience with sales personnel when inquiring about purchasing. One of the lowest scoring categories was as follows: the consumers being surveyed felt that sales people were much more interested in making a sale and less interested in how the product they were selling would satisfy needs that the consumer has. [C.B.: emphasis mine] In fact less than 30% of the respondents rated this question favorably.

It has been our experience that this has always been an under-performing area in sales. It is important that sales people before they start selling their products fully understand if the client they are addressing has specific needs for the product they are being shown. By doing this, the clients will feel that the sales person is concerned about their needs as well as concerned about the product being able to satisfy their needs rather than just being able to sell the product. Below are eight items that should be focused on to turn this challenge into an opportunity.

8 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve Your Customer Sales Experience

1. Write down discovery questions that will reveal your clients potential needs for your product. For example if you are selling shoes, try to understand why the customer is looking for shoes. Are they for work? Are they for evening wear? Are they looking for comfort or style? What is their price range?

2. Practice closed-ended questions. These are questions that are answered with a “yes” or “no”. These questions work well with less talkative clients and to begin a discovery process. Following the example above, you could ask “are you looking for shoes for work?”

3. Practice open-ended questions. These are questions that allow your clients to speak openly about the subject matter and tend to reveal much more relevant data on how your product may satisfy potential needs the consumer has. These are outstanding questions for clients that are out-going and talkative and tend to build rapport more quickly when they can be utilized.

4. Discover essential needs. Listen carefully to any needs that client shares with you that are essential in their minds for purchasing your product. These essential needs are the key to delivering great sales experiences and increasing sales.

5. Be able to understand in a discovery the difference between the essential needs mentioned above and incidental needs that are nice to have but clearly not a reason to purchase your product.

6. Be sure to practice your discovery questions so that you know what questions to ask, why you are asking the question and most importantly, what data you are looking to obtain from each question. This will also drive whether or not to use open or closed questions.

7. Listen effectively. You’ve probably heard it said that it is easier to listen your way into a sale than to sell your way into a sale. This is true in retail as well. Ensure your sales team knows how to listen thoughtfully and is actively engaged with their customer. This can be measured by the quality of eye contact they are making with their customer and their body language. When the client is talking, do not interrupt. In fact, try to expand the conversation by using phrases such as: “tell me more”, “that is interesting”, “can you explain further so I understand”. Allowing your clients to talk while you listen is always favorable in the customer’s experience and in your selling experience. Always remember the person in control is not the one talking, it is the one asking questions.

8. For sales people that are dedicated to delivering better sales experiences with as many customers as possible, they should keep track of the customers they speak with and write down as a the essential and incidental needs that were discovered during their meeting. This best practice will help sales people deliver presentations based upon consumer needs rather than their desire to sell the product and will improve their sales and the consumer’s experience at the same time.

In today’s competitive retail environment, delivering an outstanding customer experience is more crucial than ever. Take time to understand your customers needs and they will reward you with their purchase and their loyalty.

Thank you, Jamie!

In his new book “Lead Domination,” Jamie Klein covers in detail the 8 topics above – as well as twenty other applicable strategies! Jamie has over 30 years experience in the lead management sales and marketing profession. He has launched luxury ownership business enterprises, lead management initiatives, and sales and marketing operations for luxury brands including the Marriott, the Four Seasons, and St. Regis. He speaks frequently at national conferences and is one of the premier real estate sales and marketing experts in North America.

Jamie recently
presented on this subject at The Florida Luxury Marketing Council. According to Chris Ramey, he was very well received in both Miami and Palm Beach. What also came through is how well Jamie Klein understands the process of effective database marketing and management.

What do you think about Jamie's retail selling recommendations? Have you implemented similar practices? How have they affected your customer experience?

Related Articles:
+ 7 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve Your Business Right Now (Jamie Klein) from Drew McLlellan's Drew's Marketing Minute

+ 70% of money invested in generating sales & marketing leads wasted from Harish Keshwani's Business Works

+ The Iconic Jamie Klein and The Lore Institute from The Resort Trades.

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Ted Hurlbut said...

I appreciate Jamie's comments, but in my work with smaller retailers, I've found that it all boils down to a very simple principle, and that's to employ people who genuinly enjoy other people and are good at engaging them. This may not be a very quantifiable skill, so Jamie's points certainly help define the skillset. The real challenge for larger retailers is that from the top down they do not create an environment that views customers-facing employees as essential to the sales process; rather they see them as an expense item to be controlled and minimized.

CB Whittemore said...

Ted, I'm sure you are familiar with the Zappos' approach where they encourage new employees to leave if they don't have what it takes to genuinely interact with customers. It's absolutely having the right people that will enable retailers to create the high touch experiences that you brought up in a previous comment. Again, thank you for sharing your perspective.

Neil said...

Great article. Thank you for sharing this important book with people. I have worked with and met Jamie on several occasions and find him to be a truly gifted sales and marketing expert which a genuine care for the people and customers he interacts with.

CB Whittemore said...

Neil, thanks for sharing that insight. Best, CB

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