Note to anyone in sales in general and especially retail sales…the following are two stories about how NOT to and then How to make a sale. For the record, I’m skipping over my experience at The Men’s Warehouse as it was excellent as usual. The inspiration for this post came afterwards as you will see as I share my story.
Three weeks ago I went to the Men’s Warehouse at Prestonwood Town Center in Dallas to look for a new pair of shoes and maybe a suit. I have done a lot of business with this particular store and they are generally my first option for dress clothes. They offer ongoing daily specials and seem to always have amazing deals.
The particular offer that grabbed my attention was 30% off dress shoes with 40% off all clearance suites. While the shoes were the priority, I have been wanting a new suite and was open to the opportunity. I had already picked out my shoes by shopping on their web site and with their standard level of quality service, was able to find my shoes and a great new suite for a ridiculously low price.
Once the tailor made his marks for the needed alterations, we set out to find a matching belt for my shoes. And that’s where we ran into a little snag. My new shoes are a unique tan color and the store didn’t have a belt in my size that matched. Assistant Manager Brian Jackson was great and openly suggested that I go to Macy’s or Dillard’s or somewhere similar and that I should have no problem finding a matching belt.
It’s not that I couldn’t have figured that out for myself, but I really appreciated him promoting a competitor all for the sake of taking care of me. So after paying my bill, I’m off for The Shops at Willow Bend to find my new belt. Starting with Macy’s, I headed back to the men’s suit department and quickly found an awesome Tommy Hilfiger belt that I thought looked great with my shoes…and it was on sale!
After a few minutes comparing my shoes with the belt, I felt good about the match and headed for the check out counter. On my way I passed an older gentlemen sales associate who I recognized from the men’s suit department. I engaged him asking his opinion on my selection and he quickly turned up his nose and said it was a poor choice.
I was so surprised by his response that I asked again if he didn’t think the shoes and belt at least complimented each other. He stood firm in his conviction that they did not match and then…just walked away. As I stood there in disbelief, it occurred to me that he didn’t ask me one single question.
He never asked how I was doing, what brought me into the store besides the belt, could he show me his latest arrivals or best deals, or come with me and let’s see if we can maybe find a better belt selection for your shoes. Good Grief! Can you say opportunity wasted?
Further, I’m dressed in slacks, a button-down shirt, and sports coat even though it is a casual Saturday afternoon and I have a bag in my hand from The Men’s Warehouse that cost me $. It’s not like I walked in his store just to kill time. I could have just won the lottery for crying out loud and he never asked me…anything.
Needless to say I bought my belt and headed over to Dillard’s out of curiosity just to see if they had any better options. For the positive, two sales associates in Dillard’s did say hello and asked how I was doing. And that’s about it. The same buying signals exist as I’m still dressed nice now with two bags in my hand and they never asked me one question about how they could help me.
As someone who’s made a living in outside sales now for over twenty years, I can tell you that asking great questions is the fulcrum point of making a sale. Questions build rapport, uncover needs, and essentially drive the selling process. Asking the right questions can lead you to the sale, while asking the wrong…or worse no questions can lead to a big fat nothing.
Just one week later, I had a totally opposite and positive shopping experience. I ran to Barnes & Noble to pick up a couple of gifts for my clients and a copy of the new Jurassic World for me…(yes, I’m just a big kid). Afterwards I stopped by Best Buy to check out their headphones to go with my iPod which I listen to daily at the gym.
Most commercial gyms play their music WAY TOO LOUD and with NO REGARD to their members and my club is no exception. Long story short, after fighting the “music war” for the past couple of years, I was to the point of changing gyms or investing in a better set of headphones in an effort to drown out the club’s music that I was assured
“will not change”. I will save that rant for another day.
As I walked in the door, I was greeted by a young man who after politely asking how he could help, then directed me back towards the section with head phones. As I made my way back I saw the display for “Beats by Dr. Dre”. From my research on Best Buy’s web site, I was looking in the $35 – $50 price range which is far below any of the Beats products.
As I rounded the corner to the next isle, I found a large selection from a variety of manufacturers including Skullcandy. They had a $35 pair of headphones that I had seen online however they didn’t have a demo of this particular pair to test drive. That’s when Isac, a Best Buy associate, approached and offered his help. After explaining my price point and how I would be using them, he directed me to a demo by Skullcandy essentially identical to the pair I was considering. These were “on ear” headphones verses “over the ear”.
My initial reaction was that they felt flimsy and that they wouldn’t stay on very well…especially in the gym environment. Further, they didn’t make that big of a difference verses the Phillips “throw-aways” that I’m currently using. I explained this to Isac and he suggested I try an over the ear version. The difference was night and day in terms of sound quality and noise reduction. And…they were double the cost of what I had planned to spend.
I questioned Isac about any less expensive options that fit over the ear and he explained that you get what you pay for and that the over the ear design comes at more of a premium price. So here is were emotion ruled over logic. I loved the way the over the ear style performed and I was looking for a solution without having to shop all over the planet.
Could I have found a less expensive pair somewhere else…maybe. Isac was so nice however and knowledgable and willing to shoot me straight, that I justified my purchase logically and handed him my credit card.
For what’s its worth, Best Buy employees do not work on commission which is too bad for Isac. I would have preferred that he be rewarded for his excellent service. For the positive, he helped solidify me as a loyal Best Buy customer.
On the flip side, the associates at Macy’s and Dillard’s work on commission and yet they received a big “goose egg” because they failed to engage me. I wonder how much Isac could have sold me from the other two department stores? I guess we’ll never know.
Take home point for my readers:
If you’re in sales you have to ask great questions. If you’re a leader (and we all are), you have to ask great questions. While John Maxwell and Jeffrey Gitomer have written many books, the resources below have been game changers for me and I highly recommend them if you’re looking to improve your skills as a communicator in sales and life:
Dale Carnegie was famous for his saying:
You can make more friends in two months by being more interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.
This is timeless wisdom that you can use daily to “win friends and influence people”.
For a more modern spin paraphrased from John Maxwell:
“Figure out what’s important to someone and then ask them about often”.
This will help you gain the influence to make all the friends…or sales in the world.