Don’t let that customer get away!Published 9:11pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012
By Steven Kirkpatrick
My wife and I recently put a small addition on our home, and as the project neared completion, we decided to go shopping for light fixtures. We found a well-stocked local store that had a good selection, and off we went.
We actually made several visits to this store, sometimes to browse and shop, or simply to pick up an order. This gave me the opportunity to observe things — and it was very revealing. For one thing, the sales staff were nice and professional, but also very passive.
During all of my visits to this store, several prospects wandered in, browsed for a while and then left. A salesperson dutifully approached these browsers and asked if they desired assistance. The answer was usually, “No, just looking,” whereupon the salesperson offered to assist if necessary and then walked away.
This led me to ask why they were not trying to capture information from the “browsers” that could be used to turn them into customers. This drew a blank stare — so I offered a suggestion: Offer browsers a discount coupon (such as $20 off their first purchase if they buy within 30 days) in exchange for joining their mail and email lists.
Here is what the sales person said to me: “We don’t do that here.” Well, yes, I’ve already figured that out; the question is, “Why not?”
Here I am standing in a nice, free standing building in a great location, filled with inventory. I would estimate the value of the building and inventory to be close to $2 million. The owner of this business needs sales to keep this business afloat and to make a profit, and also to avoid serving as little more than a showroom for Internet shoppers.
By the way, the staff also lamented the poor economic climate compared to a few years ago, when sales were strong during the real estate boom.
Retailers know all about this one: Buy or rent a building, buy inventory, hire sales people, and invite the public to come and browse and buy. All too often they browse, go home and buy from Amazon or other online retailers. No sales tax and no shipping cost, but also no service and no human interaction.
Yes, my retail colleagues, you can compete with the Amazons of the world. But it requires effort. What I saw in the lighting fixture store was laziness and indifference, as well as a complete lack of marketing creativity. They complain about weak sales and a poor economy, yet don’t bother with the extra effort necessary to increase sales.
If you operate a “brick and mortar” business, what are you doing to capture information from those who wander into your shop? What enticements and special offers can you make to encourage them to buy?
Keep this in mind as well: those who buy from you once are much more likely to buy from you again. I like to say, “A buyer is a buyer.” Once they’ve overcome the resistance to buy and completed a transaction with you, they are far more likely to buy from you again.
Think in terms of repeat sales to your adoring fans. A colleague of mine says, “I don’t get a customer to make a sale, I make a sale to get a customer.” About 80 percent of his buyers are repeat customers.
So don’t let those “browsers” get away. Make them a great offer to get that first sale, and capture their contact information so you can do follow-up marketing and sell to them again and again.
Steven S. Kirkpatrick lives in Chuckatuck. He is a consultant and advisor to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Email him at steven@AdvantaCoach.com.