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Cutting Edge Retail Sales and Training
By Scott Michelsen, Senior Consultant, DMSRetail

The Retail Management Workshop
“Cutting Edge Sales” is in and of itself a buzz phrase describing a competitive sales advantage that every retail sales associate is looking for, a bit like the fountain of youth. Like the fountain, though, “Cutting Edge Sales” is something that is more inside of oneself than something concrete to be found.

Retail sales persons and consumers have changed a great deal over the years but what makes a retail salesperson extraordinary really has not changed that much. It takes the same dedication to ones craft that has always been the mark of an expert.

Yes, the consumers are better informed. Information is more readily available and the internet has provided an outstanding research tool for all people with a need but people can still be gently persuaded.

The important thing for one to remember is that the things that worked for salespeople hundreds of years ago did just that. They worked. And they still can with the right approach and a little cutting edge retail sales training.

The change in the dynamics of making a sale today compared to yesteryear should be focused more on the retail sales associate’s delivery, not necessarily the content of their pitch. I like to use the analogy that we are delivering the same package, but we are using the newest, brightest and shiniest wrapping paper.

The outline of a sale has looked the same with little variation for eons:

Approaching the Customer (Greeting)
Identifying Needs
Presenting and Demonstrating Options
Trial Closing
Handling Objections
Closing
Sales Follow-Up

The reason this outline has stayed the same is because it has a proven record of success. How this outline is delivered by retail experts has to change to keep up with the times and that is the evolution of sales. When one understands that they can start to understand more about “Cutting Edge Sales.”

A retail salesperson today, more than ever, has to sell oneself. Consumers in general are a very skeptical lot, especially when they are spending money that is harder to come by. As a result, they purchase from those that they trust and they tend to trust those that they like.

Today, so much more time has to be spent on greeting a prospective client. So many average retail salespersons skip this step entirely, or even worse are rude. That is why they will always remain average salespeople. Even a mandatory and effective greeting like, “Hi and welcome to our store” falls flat if it is not warm, genuine and sincere. Here is where one becomes a human and not just a salesperson, therefore gaining trust and becoming more likeable. Remember the old quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Further, customers don’t want to be peppered with questions like they are undergoing a police interview. This rapport that you have now established makes for a free and easy qualifying stage and opens up your shopper to share their needs with you as well. Retail sales training consensus has always been, “A sale can not be made until the customers’ needs are met.”

Vocabulary is also a very key part to sales today. The lexicons of today vary greatly from the words of just a few years ago. It is more important than ever for retail sales associates and retail managers to continually build their vocabulary and be a wordsmith. This allows one to state exactly the points that need to be made without over talking and losing the customers attention and interest. Time is of the essence in today’s busy world.

It also helps to be “hip,” yet still formal and know more about the people with whom you are communicating. Thus, one can create the right vibe for comfortable buying which is very cutting edge.

Staying informed on the latest technology is one of the most critical parts of being “Cutting Edge.” Technical improvements over the years are too vast to list, but should all be put to good use for the expert retail sales associate.

Nothing is more important or more valuable today than real time information. Systems can provide very simple real time information and data that gives retail salespersons more tools with which to sell. Knowledge of inventory, sales tracking, delivery zoning and up to date pricing can better prepare retail sales associates to make a sale. This is a very powerful tool especially in this “Now generation” that we live in. Consumers don’t care to wait the extra 30 seconds to download an email joke. They certainly are not going to wait around long for information about a product or for the delivery of that product.

All of the instant information in the world is useless, however; unless one asks for the sale. The instant information is the shiny new wrapping paper, but asking for the sale is as old as the sales process itself.

The use of technology can also give a retail salesperson the ability to practice better customer retention and follow up by generating instant “Thank You” notes via email. Consider the impact of an instant email “Thank You” waiting for your customer when they arrive home from their shopping excursion or having them receive it on their Blackberry in the car on the way home.

It also allows customers to track “Frequent flyer miles” on line for future discounts and creates another outlet for prospecting. Researching the internet to better understand the competitions strengths and weaknesses is also a very effective practice of using current technology for retail sales training by “Cutting Edge” retail sales experts.

These are all tools that are mostly known to CEO’s and upper Retail Sales Management, but a better understanding of these tools can give a retail sales associate the upper hand needed to consummate a sale. It is another example of using instant information to utilize age old sales strategy and sales training, or an old package with new wrapping paper.

It is vital to commit to leading one’s retail field and staying ahead of the competition. The responsibility to stay atop of one’s profession is that of the retail sales associate alone, so don’t wait for management implementation. The most important concept a retail salesperson needs to embrace is that selling is life. As one evolves, learns and experiences life, they grow and improve, as it is in sales. The person that “Knows it all” can only start to degenerate, but the person who is hungry everyday for more knowledge and growth shall always stay a step ahead of the rest and on the cutting edge of sales.

You can reach Scott with your questions and/or comments at smichelsenatdmsretail.com

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