Selling is an art.
Like athletes and singers, store assistants aren’t born into their professions. They undergo vigorous training, devote their time and energy to their profession, and are passionate about the career they’ve chosen to pursue.
Whether you’re a newcomer to retail or a veteran with over 20 years’ experience under your belt, you should familiarise yourself with the basic ideology that goes into the making of a leading store assistant.
First thing’s first:
There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Team’
Retail is indeed a highly competitive field, both between rival companies and between coworkers. Pushing for the most sales may result in a big, fat juicy commission for you, the coveted Employee of the Month award, or even a much-deserved promotion. A little competition never hurt anybody, but you need to remember that you’re part of a team. If you’ve adopted an every-man-for-himself attitude, you need to quickly dispel of it.
Know Your Product
This goes without saying, but how can you sell your product if you don’t know anything about it, or worse, don’t believe in it? If that’s the case, you’re not only lying to your customer’s face, you’re also lying to yourself and evidently in the wrong line of work. Read up on the literature, do your research, and perform some testing so that you can give your customer a complete and resourceful presentation of the product you’re selling.
Know Your Customer
This is especially important for repeat customers, and no, I don’t mean knowing their family or medical history. Say you work in a bookshop, and one particular customer has been shopping there for over two months now – you should know by now her name is Susan and she likes 19th century romantic novels. This “intelligence” allows you to build a rapport with her and to suggest one or two titles for her to read (never, ever use the word “buy”) the next time she pops in. You’ll become her favourite assistant, and she’ll start singing your praises to your supervisor.
Go to a Seminar
There’s always room to learn new things or go over the basics, no matter how good you are at, or how long you’ve been doing, your job. Most companies encourage their employees to attend sales seminars and additional training courses, and some even offer them on-site for free. If the company you work for does offer such seminars, it is highly recommended that you take full advantage of them to build and develop your skills. These seminars will also look good on your CV and may just bag you the job when you’re next job-hunting.
Deliver Excellent Customer Service
The golden rule to any sales profession! Go out of your way to help your customers, offer them advice, and don’t forget that a smile goes a long way. Be attentive and ready to answer any questions they might have, and generally treat them the way you’d like to be treated as a customer. Forcefulness (“you should really buy this”), indifference (“it’s over there”) and ignorance (“I don’t know”) are all major deal-breakers, and you should avoid words that make you sound insincere (“honestly”, “frankly”).
Honesty is the Best Policy
I used to work in retail for six years, and one thing my customers frequently praised me for how honest I was with them and how much they appreciated that. Customers aren’t stupid; they know when they’re being lied to and when they’re not, and needless to say prefer the latter. Be honest with your customers, even if it means selling them the cheaper product. Yes, you have your sales targets to meet, but you can add to your commission once or keep a customer for life. Moreover, selling them a product that’s the “bee’s knees”, when in reality is poor quality, will land you in trouble and the company will lose business.
Keep Your Personal and Professional Lives Separate
You may be having a really bad day, but do remember one thing: your customers are contributing to your weekly wages. No matter what you’re going through – a divorce, the death of a loved one – you need to keep your personal and professional lives separate, however cold and unsympathetic that may sound. If you really feel you cannot face the world today, phone your supervisors and explain to them why you can’t go in to work.
The Customer’s Always Right
No matter how difficult, annoying, rude or mistaken your customer is, your job is to portray a highly professional image of the company. If your customer has submitted a complaint about a product or your services, deal with it in a calm, polite and sympathetic way. Do not raise your voice – even if he’s yelling at you. Letting him blow off some steam will make him more receptive to a solution. Work with your customer to come up with one that works best both for him and the company. If things get out of hand, call in the cavalry (your supervisor).
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Okay, so that guy in the hoody looks a bit suspicious, but there’s no need to follow him around the shop like you’re a prison warden and he’s a convicted murderer. There’s no evidence to suggest he’s going to steal, and you should treat him like you would any other customer. Discriminating him in any way may put him off shopping with you, which could result in losing out on a big sale (he could be Bill Gates in disguise, for all you know). By all means, keep an eye on him, but don’t be obvious about it: keep your distance and organise the nearby shelves.
Whether it’s coming from your supervisor, a coworker or a customer, embrace it. All feedback, good or bad, is of paramount importance and extremely valuable for any store assistant wishing to develop their skills, knowledge and approach.
Rome wasn’t built overnight, and no one expects you to become the best store assistant on your first day on the job. It takes time and a willingness to learn, and before you know it, you’ve even memorised prices and stock availability.
Do you work in retail? Share your tips and tricks with fellow store assistants in the comments section below!
All images via iStock