Front line sales strategy can often make or break an organization. The service provided is highly evaluated by the customer. If your front line sales staff is ill-equipped, the whole business suffers.
In this episode of the Praiseworthy Podcast, we hear from Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor. Phibbs has over thirty years of experience in creating and implementing retail experiences. Recently, his consulting firm, Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doc, has been named the #1 site in the world for retail tips and news.
When it comes to retail, he knows his stuff.
In working in retail all through college and after graduation, he gained insight and expertise in the field. After attending a seminar, he felt the drive and passion to chase after something unique, something that was his own. In 1994, he created the title of Retail Doctor to help businesses excel.
From jewelry stores to coffee shops, he knows retail. “I’m pretty well versed in building up a brand, what to do and what not to do,” he says.
Retail Apocalypse Myth [Skip to this Section in the Interview]
Lately, many have been concerned with the direction of retail businesses with so many store closings occurring. Phibbs says this so-called “apocalypse” is skewed. Yes, retailers may be close stores, but it’s due to a lot of reasons not just the end of retail.
“The reason you’re gonna close is because you still haven’t decided that it’s worth training your employees to create an exceptional experience,” he says. “You think product knowledge is going to save you? It isn’t.”
For his clients who choose to match their great product and company with amazing customer service, retail isn’t in an apocalypse. It’s all about service. “Either you’re up for the challenge and you’re gonna do your best, or you’re gonna say, oh there’s no hope and it sucks to be us,” he says. “Just do the best you can.”
And it’s not just up to the front line employees. The culture of determination and persistence comes through from management.
Investing in those front line employees is critical to the retailer’s’ success. While they may be the ones filling online orders, they’re also the ones to provide the in-person customer a great experience.
Retail Sales Strategy [Skip to this Section in the Interview]
In is work with retaildoc.com, Phibbs creates retail sales strategies to help his clients succeed. The strategy provides the background and necessary context for employees to thrive. It’s a step-by-step checklist to ensure the customer will have a great experience and so that the employees are all on the same page.
On his site, retaildoc.com, he provides five key ingredients to implement in your sales strategy to connect with customers, elevate value and close sales.
5 Essential Steps to Building your Front Line Strategy [Skip to this Section in the Interview]
The first step requires the initial first impression with a customer to be intentional and kind. An uplifting and friendly attitude is foundational. “Without that, we don’t know where the sale is going to go,” he says. On his site, retaildoc.com, he notes that this greeting is similar to as if you would “welcome customers like they’re coming into your home.”
Windows of Contact
Building rapport is a second step that further encourages the customer to build trust and a good relationship. “The next thing is that I have to find something in common with them,” he says. This interaction is all about honesty so trust and goodwill can be established.
The third step involves discovering why the customer has come in today and what they are trying to accomplish. Understanding the customer’s needs continues to establish a positive experience.
Features and Benefits
The two little words of “it has” provide further encouragement and understanding of the product or service. But key to tack onto the the features are the benefits, so that the customer knows exactly how this will fit his or her specific need. Customers want to know, “what does it do for me?” he says.
The final step before the official sale is including added suggestions of what could make the product even better with an add-on.
Following these five easy steps sets you apart from other competitors who may not devote the same training to their front line team. Many employees don’t take the time to slow down and actually build rapport and connect with a customer. But it’s essential.
With a fast-paced culture that’s frequently connected to phones and computers, many retailers need to find ways to encourage customers to choose to, rather than ordering from a phone, to come into a store and experience a human, face-to-face interaction. “It comes down to the feeling people have when they come to your business,” he says.
“Master the idea of coming to another human being with an open heart,” he adds.
How to deal with generational differences in retail sales strategy [Skip to this section in the interview]
Customer interactions often depend on age. Certain traits will appeal to millennials more than baby boomers, which is different for Generation X. Appealing to each of these audiences continues a positive customer experience.
For example, Baby Boomers grew up in a time where customer service was strong. Millennials, on the other hand, grew up during a recession so the trust built between customer and sales staff is different. The problem comes when Millennial employees sell a product they often can’t afford to Baby Boomers in a way Baby Boomers understand and relate to, he says.
Store vs E-Commerce
To differentiate a store from an e-commerce setting, retail is more than just finding what the customer came to look for. It also involves that essential personal connection. “If you don’t train, they’ll treat it like a warehouse,” he says. “A lot of people use that brick-and-mortar store just as a warehouse. Asking ‘what are you looking for?’ and giving it to them adds nothing.”
Phibbs emphasizes that there’s that personal element that has to be unique in retail environments. “You can either come to the challenge and think it’s fun and there’s a lot of new tools we’ve got around it, or you say it’s hopeless and we’re gonna close anyway. I don’t think there’s a middle ground. You’re gonna commit to one or the other.”
Choosing to capitalize on the front line, in-person customer service interaction is the key indicator of a direction toward success or ruin. “That’s your secret weapon: it’s your people and your serendipity,” he says. “That chance to get something that they never thought they would buy or could buy and they did it, and they’re thankful that they came to your store.”
Developing a front line strategy that focuses around establishing a relational customer experience can lead your business on the path to success.
To learn more about Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, visit his website where he offers:
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