How long can a retail business survive without making any sales? Most of you would laugh at the question as a unanimous answer runs through your thoughts of “not long!” Yet, there are such businesses that exist. A recent experience at one such store brought several questions to mind about how it was maintaining and why its sales were so nearly non-existent.
I’ve gotten to know the owners of the store. They have a deep passion for what they are doing. They love it so much that they are, and have been for a long time, using other income avenues to support their store. It is a sad truth that if they were not doing so, the store would have closed its doors a long time ago.
The sales in the store are horrible. They might go an entire week without ringing up $50 in sales. A week that $200 dollars rang up was a rare cause for excitement at the high sales. They have a beautiful store. The products are truly gorgeous works of art. There is a phenomenal amount of foot traffic in the area and into the store. The area is a perfect location for the store. Everything looks like the business should be thriving.
I had the occasion to be doing some work there and it gave me the opportunity to be the proverbial fly on the wall. As I sat quietly off to the side, I saw and heard the owner cheerfully greet every customer who came in the door. They were attentive, polite, and cheerful. Then the self-sabotage immediately followed.
Everything that caught the potential customer’s attention generated a spew of apologies from the owner about the price. Even items marked down 50% off to as little as $5. The idle conversation from the owner was a consistent onslaught of comments apologizing for the high prices, remembering when things were more affordable, and expressing confusion over why the prices had to be marked up so high. It was depressing to even listen to and not surprising that the sales for the day were absolutely zero.
The experience reminded me, with resounding clarity, of one simple truth. If I do not value my work, craftsmanship, and the product that I’m selling, neither will my customer.
The individual who has walked in the door is there because something brought them in that door. Whether it is the owner or a salesperson who has greeted them, that interaction can move the person in the store to become a paying customer or out the door without a purchase.
If you don’t think the price of the item is fair, you probably won’t be able to convince a potential customer that the item is worth that price. Think about it, how likely are you to buy any product that the person selling it is standing there going on and on about how much it really is not worth the price?
Take pride in what you are selling is worth every penny of that price. Never apologize for your prices. Let me stress that further, never apologize for your prices! Build the value of items by talking about their features and benefits. Keep the conversation positive. Ask the customer what their budget is and steer them towards those items.
When you have built the value of the item up in the customer’s mind and it’s time for them to make that yes or no decision, are they going to buy it or not?
One of the most powerful and effective tools you can use is simply silence. This is the point where the price becomes the issue. Shut up and point at the price tag.
Silence is a very powerful selling tool yet so many of us (including myself) don’t use it nearly enough. I often seek to bridge that momentary pause by trying to build further on the personal connection to the customer by talking about other things not relevant to the business or their purchase. It’s good to make those connections to the customer, just not at that moment.
When the customer is making that decision about if it is worth the price, that diversion conversation is just a distraction. Silence is indeed a very powerful and effective selling tool I am trying to use more often. I’ve seen firsthand where it would make a tremendous difference for some stores.