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Selling advice: Why customers may not always come back

These are the famous last words LEONARD ZELL hears all too often. It’s because salespeople are born optimists. This is a good thing, except when a customer walks out, because salespeople want to believe the customer’s empty promise to return and make the purchase at a later date.

So often, salespeople genuinely believe the line: “You gave me more information and spent more time with me than anyone else. When I buy it, rest assured I will get it from you.” I ask my students when they tell me that: “Who was selling to whom?” That brings them right back to reality and I tell them: “We salespeople are the easiest people to sell to because we appreciate a ‘good selling job’ regardless of who tries to sell to us. Therefore we have to be aware of our weakness.” Unfortunately, those salespeople allowed themselves to get snowed by their customers and let them walk. However, after listening to me they put two and two together and knew the problem.

 They were in denial that they were losing the sale and should have turned it over, or asked for assistance before the customer walked. When I hear them tell me: “I gave them my card with all the information on the back and even a brochure on diamonds which they appreciated.” I said, “You did not give them your business card you gave them your ‘I give up card.’  You implied, “I give up, I don’t know what to do.” Or “Where to go from here? Here’s my card, go home and think about it, and come back when you make up your mind.” Is that selling? Not even close. Salespeople must understand there are many reasons why a customer says, “I’ll be back.” Here are the main ones:

  • Placing too much value on your business card

Your business card is worth about the price it costs to print and is no guarantee a customer will come back. Customers either throw it out or don’t look at it. Let’s face it. Isn’t that what you do when someone gives you their card? On the other hand, if you personalised the sale by introducing yourself and remembering your customer’s name throughout the sale, then your card has power and your customers will keep it. You are no longer a piece of paper.

  • Attitude

Lack of a smile and enthusiasm which implies to your customer you don’t really care if you make the sale. Customers come in for happy occasions. How many of your salespeople show happiness when selling? Take a look at your salespeople and you will see only a few are smiling briefly and mostly do not smile at all. No store owner likes to admit this, especially when I point this out to them. However, when I ask them to follow me down the shopping centre and look at the other jewellery stores they see the same thing. You jewellers who think that price or selection is the best way to compete had better compare your salespeople to others. This is the fastest way to increase your sales without discounts or increasing your inventory.

  • Redundancy

Repeating the same cliches over and over again like, “I know she’ll like it,” “Isn’t it beautiful?” and “It will go with anything.” When the customer heard this the first time, it wasn’t even convincing then. When I ask salespeople what goes through their minds when a salesperson tells them the same thing, they all  agree, it’s nothing but a line.

  • Lack of selling knowledge

Customers notice that right away and when they see you are  in doubt about the jewellery you are showing, that could turn them off. They want the salesperson to lead. They don’t want to lead. You should always ask your manager or store owner for assistance.

  • Too much jewellery showing

This happens in every store.  More than three and many times five or six pieces of jewellery are showing.  Nothing stands out, the customer cannot make up their mind and thanks you for showing such a great selection saying, “I’ll be back.”  This also happens. You finally get it down to two pieces of jewellery and the customer ask which one do you think is the best? You have a 50/50 chance of guessing right. Why is there so much jewellery showing?  Because your salespeople do not have the knowledge how to put it back when the customer shows no positive reaction to it. Their excuses are, “What if they want to compare it?” “If I put it back it looks like I don’t trust them.”  Do not anticipate it, or you’ll have too many pieces showing again.

  • Poor hygiene

Bad breath from garlic or cigarettes. No customer has the nerve to tell a salesperson, nor store manager. It’s up to them. This is where you store owners must step in. Your reputation can be harmed and bad word of mouth can happen if you are not aware. I recommend you constantly remind everyone, especially about smokers’ breath. Make sure their clothes don’t smell from this either.

  • Appearance

Salespeople should look in the mirror before they leave for work. Do they look like they should be selling in a fine jewellery store? Men, if you have a beard, do you trim it every day so there are no scraggly hairs? If this is too much trouble then give it up, because customers see this all through the sale and you are sure to get a “We’ll be back.”  Women, is you hair neatly brushed, or did you have to go to the back room of the store to do it because you were in a hurry? I recommend you store owners have a full length mirror so salespeople can see themselves before they go out on the sales floor.

Be careful, because if you sell any of these ways you could get a “We’ll be back.”  You are implying you believe in the double standard. “It’s OK if I sell this way to you, but a salesperson better not sell this way to me.” When I tell my students this, a light goes on and they realise this could be them. Those that have told me this and changed said they noticed an immediately more positive attitude from their customers. They rarely walked, instead they closed more sales and had more repeat customers. You will too.  


This feature first appeared in the September 2014 issue of hotel owner.

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