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Schooled by a Shoe Salesman PDF Print E-mail
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Sales Cycle - Discovery
Written by Tim Wackel   

Tim WackelTurning a Simple Shopping Trip into a Great Learning Experience

 
My wife and I are the proud parents of two great kids—a teenage son and daughter. Our daughter is getting ready to start college next week, and our son is like almost every other 15 year old, living life large with lots of attention on comfort and few worries about appearance.  
 
Last week I promised my son, Nicholas, that I would take him to the mall to buy new shoes. He loves to wear athletic shoes (or is still okay to call them sneakers?) and prefers to wear them until they fall apart at the seams.  
 
This shopping trip was going to be different because Nicholas decided he would expand his closet and buy a pair of Top-Siders (seems that these are making a bit of a come back on high school campuses). I figured we could find these at almost any department store but was surprised to find only one store in the mall that carried a variety of sizes and styles that he was interested in. 

I find myself standing in Nordstrom’s shoe department surrounded by hundreds of pairs of shoes and a few well- dressed, professional looking salesmen. One of the younger men working in the department approached us and asked, “What brings you into the store today?” What happened next was one of the better (and least expected) lessons in “selling” that I’ve experienced in quite some time.  

 
I have to confess that I’ve never thought of retail as being much of a selling environment. Point customers in the right direction, answer a few questions about sizes and availability, ring up the order and you’re done. So what valuable lessons did I learn in Nordstrom that day? Here are the four principles that everyone will recognize but very few consistently apply.  
 
#1. Open questions close more business
The question that you are asked most often when you walk into a retail store is, “Can I help you?” This is a bad question, plain and simple. It’s closed and requires no thinking on your part. Most shoppers will simply blurt out “no” hoping to avoid premature pressure to buy something.
 
Let’s go back and look at what the Nordstrom shoes salesman asked:”What brings you into the store today?” Not exactly rocket science but this question encouraged me to share that Nicholas was interested in divesting his collection of athletic shoes and wanted to look at some Top-Siders. A conversation was born… what style, size and color? When did he plan to wear them? Looking for something dressy or just something to kick around in?
 
Ask questions that are thought provoking, not mind numbing.
 
#2. Make it easy for customers to decide  
Nicholas had pretty much lasered in on one particular style of shoe, but when the shoe salesman returned from the stock room he had several boxes in tow.  
Nick immediately tried on his favorite style and began walking the floor to check out the fit. I could tell by his expression that he felt the shoe looked better on the shelf than it did on his foot. The salesman also picked up on this and suggested that Nicholas try on one or two of the other styles that he had taken the liberty to bring out of stock. After all, they were right there and it wouldn’t take but a minute to check them out.
 
The second pair generated a more favorable response but the third pair was a home run. Give your customer painless choices. What looks good in the window doesn’t always look good on your foot. Think ahead and develop contingencies. You’ll be glad you did.

#3. Look for unidentified needs  
Nick had picked out the right shoe, and we had the right size. We were ready to leave when the salesman asked permission to show us what he had in the remaining boxes he brought out of the stock room. He politely mentioned that he couldn’t help but notice how much “good use” Nick had gotten out of the shoes he was currently wearing. He then asked if my son would be interested in seeing some brand new athletic shoes in the latest back to school styles—need I say more?
 
Want to be more successful at up-selling? Read (and re-read) #3 above.  
 
#4. Would you like some fries with that?
Nick and I have our purchases picked out, and we’re ready to leave when the young man pulls something out of his back pocket. As we walk to the register he shows me (the economic buyer) a shoe tree and shares facts about how these beautiful cedar appliances will extend the life of Nick’s new shoes (assuming I can get him to use them!). I hadn’t expressed any interest in shoe trees but this sales professional picked up on my frustration with how fast Nick could destroy a pair of shoes. He had the courage and the smarts to offer something we both knew had value. What was the worst thing that could happen?  
 
I left the store that day with a lighter wallet but I got a real "deal" on some great sales training. These four simple (but powerful) lessons have been around for a long time, but very few reps consistently apply them.  
 
Are you looking for ideas on how to take your craft to the next level? If not, you should be. You'll be surprised by what you can learn and amazed at where these lessons can take place.
 
Speaking of Sales is about finding, winning and keeping customers for life. If that’s part of your job, then you won’t want to miss the next issue.  
 
Best Wishes For Your Continued Success!  
 
Tim Wackel  
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
214.369.7722  
 
Tim Wackel is hired by sales executives who want their teams to be more successful at blowing the number away. Tim’s “no excuses” programs are insightful, engaging and focused on providing real world strategies that salespeople can (and will!) implement right away. Sales teams from BMC Software, Cisco, Fossil, Hewlett  Packard, Allstate, Thomson Reuters, Raytheon, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Catalina Marketing, Philips Medical Systems, Red Hat and TXU Energy count on Tim to help them create more success in business and in life.