Boston, MA—I’m not your guest. I don’t want a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I will not be taking my shoes off or putting my feet up. And if the football game is important to me, this is not where I want to watch it. I’m particularly partial to oatmeal raisin cookies but I don’t want or expect to find them in a retail jewelry store. This is not where I want to hang out and, while I might enjoy an ogle at your fish-tank, I can really do without the distraction.
Here’s the deal. Are you listening? Here is what I want: I want to go into your store, I want to engage with someone who is smart enough, empathetic enough, and driven enough to help me figure out what I’m looking for, ‘cause I’m damned if I know what to do, and I want to get out as quickly as I can. It’s that simple.
Please do not try to make me your friend. Just professionally and efficiently help me to accomplish the one goal I have in life right now, which is to get out of your store as quickly as I can. If you do that, I might just pay you the compliment of telling a whole bunch of people how satisfied I was with my experience and I will likely pay you an even higher compliment by coming back again in the future and giving you even more of my money.
I do not want you to sic your product-knowledge hound on me. It’s great that he knows all that stuff but the information dump bores and irritates me. I really don’t want to have “Show-me Sally” throw all sorts of product at me and, with each successive piece of jewelry she piles onto the counter, make my life ever more miserable. I don’t want the quiet shy type, who takes out a piece of jewelry and backs away, leaving me to figure this stuff out by myself, even as I wonder whether the ring she has presented is radioactive! Such is her reluctance to embrace and champion its cause.
I don’t eat at Cheesecake Factory: too many SKUs. I don’t eat at McDonald’s, either: too many irrelevant SKUs. I go into a restaurant with the expectation of getting great and efficient service, an appropriate amount of choices (SKUs) and hoping that the waiter will guide me and ensure a pleasurable experience. I don’t care if it costs a little more. I want to be satisfied and I am happy to pay for an effortless experience. Give me the salesperson that recognizes that. Give me the salesperson that cares enough to listen to me, who has intuition enough to figure stuff out for me, and who has the confidence and conviction to tell me what I need to do.
Dixon, Toman, and Delisi wrote in their wonderful book The Effortless Experience (the next best book to Hiring Squirrels!), “We love the Apple Store – but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s open and airy, sleek and cool, filled with enough technological wizardry to occupy even the most shopping-averse person for hours. But we’d argue that one of the keys to the Apple Store’s success – why they’ve been able to bring in more revenue per square foot than any other retailer on earth – is because Apple has focused ruthlessly on making its in-store experience is a low-effort experience.”
When a dude walks into your store there are two things you can be fairly certain of: 1) He doesn’t want to be there; and 2) If you do not take care of him and satisfy his needs (whether he was able to articulate them or not), you have failed him.
So please, save your beer, your cookies, and your guest-language. Listen to the dude, take charge and ask him for the sale. Good things will happen if you do…for both of you.
Peter Smith, author of Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions To Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, has spent 30 years building sales teams at retail, and working with countless numbers of independent retailers as a brand-executive, to offer his counsel and advice on personnel matters. A graduate of Boston College, he has served on the Advisory Board of Caliper’s Global Conference and is a contributing panelist on the KR Executive Group’s Talent Blog. Smith has worked for Tiffany & Co., and was executive vice president of brand development for Hearts On Fire, where he authored the Menu For Success, a roadmap for retail success. He is currently executive vice president of Schachter & Co., a division of Leo Schachter. Smith’s book is available in print or Kindle digital edition on Amazon.com.