Frequent Mistakes of Sales Associates at Premium Brands

Filed Under (NLP coaching for retail) on 01-03-2020

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What are the most frequent mistakes that sales associates at premium and luxurious brands make? How do the mistakes deprive brands of custom and sales? And how can sales associates not make them again and increase sales?

Especially now at a time when so many retailers go out of business due to far too much competition it is tragic to see how sales associates at premium and luxurious brands let the brands and themselves down by making mistakes which may appear trivial, yet can be crucial since retail is detail. Here are the mistakes and how not to make them again:

Sales associate greet like robots or don’t greet

Wouldn’t it feel nicer, more humane, more personal if you came into a store and a sales associate walked to you and clearly greeted you? Of course it would!  Yet 90% of sales associate do the exact opposite – if they greet at all. They’ll greet immediately after you come in when you can’t see them yet because you have just walked through the door and they’re too far. They’ll greet from somewhere at the back of the store, usually while standing behind the cash desk. You sometimes won’t even hear the greeting. Or if you hear it, you’ll be looking around to locate the voice… Is this personal? Is this humane? And is this warm? Is this the best way to establish rapport? Of course not! Do brands train associates to do this? It doesn’t make sense. And since it happens in 90% of stores and brands spend big money on wanting to stand out,

here’s how not to make this mistake again:

  1. observe me as I come into the store. Watch what I do. Am I getting my bearings? Let me do so. And in the meantime slowly come to me and greet me from the same distance as you would greet a friend.
  2. Greet me with a clear greeting. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, hi, hello, hey… You can even use some NLP here: if I look formal, greet me formally. If I look informal, greet me informally. Meet me in my world. And also pace the environment in which we are. Is it appropriate to greet informally in a luxurious store?
  3. Greet first. Then start a conversation. Ask me preferably something creative first to engage me and stand out straight away. Prepare a crib list of things you could engage me with. A compliment usually works well, because it shows that you observe and is as personal as can be in the context. Just add the voice tone and body language that will make the compliment genuine. Plus, if someone gives you a compliment and perhaps even asks a question about the thing on which he gave you the compliment, you’ll immediately relax, light up, and willingly tell him all about the thing. It’s human nature. We feel great when someone acknowledges us. Hence you’ll stand out and be memorable.
  4. And now it’s time to ask what I came to look for, therefore what you can help me with…

Sales associates don’t find out what the customer wants

This mistake may sound surprising, yet is immensely easy for sales associates to make. Let’s say that I walked into a fashion store and want to buy a handbag. Most sales associates either only ask what I’m looking for and after my response immediately start showing bags, or ask very vague or too few questions at best and make statements instead of asking questions at worst, thinking that I will understand the statements as questions! And to add insult to injury they stop after 2 questions because they don’t have the courage – or creativity – to discover the detail of my taste and needs. Hence there’s no wonder that they don’t understand what I want and show products irrelevant to my needs. And, of course, it all takes far more time than it could if the sales associates knew what I want, therefore what products to show.

Another unfavourable side of this is that it makes sales associates appear as if they follow a process, though don’t genuinely care about what I want. Dehumanization again. Surely no store manager would like that from his or her sales associates!  And sometimes this fact has made me as a customer even angry. And I’m sure that I’m not alone.

How not to make this mistake again:

  1. ask me what exactly I’m looking for
  2. in what style, shape, size, colour, materials, design, patterns
  3. with what features – what features are important to me
  4. for what occasion – day, evening, formal, informal, casual, sporty, etc.
  5. if I tell you that what I’m looking for is a gift, ask questions 1-4 about the person for whom I’m shopping
  6. if I now jogged your creativity, write and memorise what other questions popped up. Retail is detail. The more you ask, the more of an expert you’ll appear. And if I happen to a customer who doesn’t know what she wants, you’ll most likely help me clarify my head!

Sales associates don’t inspire the customer about the brand

Premium and luxurious brands spend immense money on marketing their image to credibly convince customers to spend insane money on their products. Yet exactly the sales associates – the front line of the brands – so very often let all that marketing effort down with their mistakes!  Surely anyone who walks into a fashion store and is to pay thousands for a handbag wants some schmoozing and inspiring selling instead of boring robotic basic product presentation and a few incoherent, often badly timed facts about the brand with a few names thrown in which don’t mean anything to the customer who knows nothing about the brand and the world of fashion – or whatever the brand deals in!

How not to make this mistake again:

  1. think carefully at which point of my visit it would be most appropriate to introduce the brand. Here you, the sales associate, could educate me about where the brand is from, who was its founder, when and why s/he founded it, what product the brand became famous for, etc.
  2. tell me about where and how products are made while I admire and try the handbag(s) of my interest. Point out and demonstrate the iconic features for which the brand is famous. You’ll be selling the brand’s unique selling point. And link the features to benefits to inspire me to own the bag. Transport me into the situations for which I’m shopping and tell me how I’ll benefit from the features of the bag in those situations. This will be the time to show how well you listened to me.
  3. Tell me how the brand you represent is better than all the competition.

Sales associates often don’t close the sale

Every brand trains sales associates differently. But even if brands train sales associates to do something to close the sale, many associates simply don’t have the confidence or creativity to do so. They view closing the sale as pushy and don’t want to seem pushy. This is a pity, because you as an associate could also showcase your selling knowhow, creativity, and credibility at the point of closing the sale. And believe me, many customers are more indecisive than you think!  So if you gently lead them to buy, they’ll do so just because you led them to do so. And you’ll have the sale rather than the customer walking out with empty hands. This phase will be a test of how well you used your intuition and observed me. Do you intuitively sense that asking for the sale would nudge me forward? Or do you intuitively feel that I’m someone who knows best for herself, hence the situation calls for letting me decide? This is pure NLP in practice.

How not to make this mistake again:

  1. Know the products that you sell well. This is important when the customer hesitates and starts objecting to buying. The better you know the products, the more creatively and credibly you’ll address every objection.
  2. Use some NLP in this phase of retail: restate my objection casually to make me feel that you clearly heard the same objection as I raised. That will reassure me and make me feel that you’re a credible leader who listens carefully.
  3. Another way how you can use NLP is by using your intuition. If you intuitively sense that I’m someone who knows best for herself, judges and concludes, examines and evaluates, ask your intuition whether it’s best to ask for the sale or rather leave it open not to push me, because you sense that I’ll decide for myself. Or am I someone who requires a lot of your feedback, input, opinion? You’ll intuitively know, because you observed me during trying the product. If I’m someone who relies a lot on others’ feedback, confidently ask for the sale.

Sales associate don’t inform customers about the services that brands offer to clients

I called this article the most frequent mistakes for a reason. This mistake definitely figures high on the most frequent list. Sales associates, you’re there to sell the brand, not only its products!  So sell the brand through the invisible services that it offers. Some folks call them aftersales, others aftercare – you get the idea. Warranties, cleaning, care, repairs, personalisation, alterations… all those services can be the tipping point for buying especially for clients like me who know best for themselves. Why? Because these services act as assurance that if I buy the product for thousands and something happens to it, the brand will stand behind the product and help me with it. Plus you’re differentiating the brand from the competition and showcasing your credibility as a salesperson. What more could I wish for than a brand that will give me all those services with my bag and a highly credible sales associate?

So here’s how not to make this mistake again:

  1. tell me about the invisible services either while addressing my objections or while closing the sale.
  2. explain each service to great detail: how long a warranty is for, where it applies, what it covers and doesn’t cover, how many options of personalisation I have, what will be covered under repairs, etc. You’ll be using NLP and not even know it – from generalities to specifics.

Sales associates don’t clearly explain benefits in exchange for customers’ contact details

This is another unfortunate mistake which lets sales associates down even more than the brands!  If you don’t clearly tell me all the benefits that I’ll get for giving you my contact details, it makes you look amateurish. You work for the brand, you want my contact details which is a sensitive issue for many a customer of today, so you have to convince me to give them with clearly and credibly presented incentives. A facet of this frequent mistake is that sales associates don’t name all the incentives. They’ll name one or two, but there’re usually more. Sales associates, use NLP – put yourselves in my shoes: the more incentives I hear, the more likely I’ll give you my contact details.

How not to make this mistake again:

  1. tell me all the incentives
  2. explain each incentive clearly so that a person who doesn’t work for the brand immediately understands it.

…and in farewell…

I’ve seen sales associates turn around and start walking away from me while bidding me farewell. This is profoundly disrespectful and communicates that the sales associate can’t wait for me to go. Again, NLP can help here:

How not to make this mistake again:

  1. greet me exactly as you’d greet a friend. It doesn’t matter whether I bought something or not. What matters is that I chose your brand and store. And you never know – perhaps I didn’t have enough money on this visit, but would come later and buy the bag I saw – and maybe more. Or perhaps I needed to go to the washroom, but didn’t want to tell you, hence decided to end the visit quickly. But how can you tell that I won’t be back? And if you treated me well, how can you tell if I won’t tell 1,000 people? Retail is detail…. so never assume nor conclude. You don’t know who just walked out of the store.
  2. how do you bid a friend farewell? Your body is turned to the friend, you smile, look at him or her, and clearly say goodbye with roughly the same energy as is the one with which s/he greets you. That’s it!  Simple but immensely effective, because there’s nothing like making a good last impression.

Are there even more mistakes that sales associates make?

I wrote an article that will interest financial professionals in retail banking. After all, they’re also sales associates who make their own mistakes… Are you a store manager? Then you’ll have an idea of how I can coach your sales associates not to make mistakes that cost you performance points… And if you show this article to your sales associates who make some of the mistakes listed here, you’ll have done something great for them. To follow my advice will then be up to them. If I can help you and your team with some NLP coaching, let’s start a conversation.

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