Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hey, just ask if you need anything....

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

It's business sacrilege.

I don't pursue every sale.

Oh, I'm open to every sale, but I don't pursue every sale.

I figured out after many years of business that I want the customers who want me, not the ones I have to aggressively pursue. I don't want the customers who don't want me.

If I lose 10% of my sales, but shed 90% of the aggravation, it's a fair deal.

Sales aren't everything. Job satisfaction is at least as important. Bringing enthusiasm to work every day. Especially if you want to last not just a few years, but decades -- a career.

I've always said, burn-out is almost equal in danger to not making money.

Let me give you an example. I had one of my tech friends in the store yesterday (who always seem puzzled that I can't figure out my POS) and while we were talking a Mom and a teenage girl came in.

"Do you have any manga?" the girl asks.

I point to my 3000 volumes. "Right over there. By the way, if you buy 2 you can get the 3rd one free."

"Wow!" the girl exclaims. "Neat!"

So the friend I'm talking to looks at me with a thumb's up smile.

But inside, I've already done the calculation. Because I've done this calculation all summer long. The reason manga is on sale, is because I've given up on it. I've quit ordering all but the best-sellers.

So inside, I've already figured there is a 95% chance this girl won't buy anything, despite my offer. So I keep talking to the friend.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later, the girl and Mom quietly leave.

Why didn't I go after them? you ask. Because I know from experience it probably wouldn't have mattered.

I tell you what. I'll give you this: If I aggressively pursue every customer who walks in the door, dote on them if you will, butter them up, talk them up, ferret out their interests, explain and cajole, and on and on....I probably would end up at roughly 10% more sales.

For 90% more effort.

One of the advantages that new businesses have is they still have the energy to do that. They are bright eyed and frisky and bushy tailed and they haven't quite figured out that they will have to triage if they don't want to wear themselves out.

Another example. As I started writing this, a 12 year old buy came in on his own and started looking around.

"If you need any help, let me know," I say.

"Thanks," he says.

As I'm writing this, he's looking around. He asks, "How much are the Star Wars figures?"

"They are all individually priced," I answer.

"Oh, now I see that...."

He wanders around for another couple of minutes, and starts heading to the door. Should I follow him, say, "Hey, anything you were looking for we didn't have? I know where everything is, so just let me know."

Sometimes I do that.

For 12 year old boys coming into my store alone, I don't. Because I know that 90% of the time they won't buy anything.

But what about the 10% of the time they do? Well, 90% of the time that they do, they'll actually buy something anyway, even if I'm not talking to them, chatting them up. They'll pick out what they want, and come up to the counter.

My senses are very finely tuned at this point. I know within a minute or two if you are likely to spend money. I try not to throw up any roadblocks, in case I'm wrong.

The most important thing, I think, is to have an intuitively organized store, the smooths the transition between browser and buyer. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to find what they want, and be open to any questions.

But pouncing on them, doing the whole salesman thing, while it might bump up short term sales, in the end just would wear me out, and wear out my welcome with the customer.


Duncan McGeary said...

I swear I can tell by the way the door opens, if it's a sale or not.
A regular will open the door more forcefully than a browser.


Then I can tell by the trajectory if the customer meant to come in my store, or wandered in my store.

A customer who 'meant' to come in my store is an 80% sale, a customer who wanders in my store is a 20% sale.

It's tiny little signals, words used, body language -- after 30 years I've become finely attuned.

I can still be surprised, of course, which is why you leave open the possibilities.

Anonymous said...

"It's tiny little signals, words used, body language -- after 30 years I've become finely attuned."

That's why I rarely go in - I know you'll spot me for a cheapskate the moment I walk in the door!

Jason said...

You know, I noticed this too. Ironically, it was just the opposie at the hotel; if someone came in forcefully, they were probably not going to stay.

I wish I knew why.

Duncan McGeary said...

Cheapskates welcome if they're interesting,..

Barney Lerten said...

Duncan, you should assemble these into a book. If I could write like you, I'd have already written one;-) Marvelous!

Duncan McGeary said...

Funny, I almost didn't post this, because I thought it might be perceived as 'dissing' the customer.

dkgoodman said...

I think your system makes a lot of sense.

Also, some customers, like me, are often repelled by aggressive salespeople. If the salesperson truly likes what they're doing, and likes people, I can usually tell and I'll engage. But an aggressive salesperson who is simply interested in sales will drive me away. Some stores I avoid entirely because all the salespeople are rabid.

Owen said...

Duncan, well said! I've always been an adherent of the philosophy that sales without pressure from me will happen naturally. It's too much hassle otherwise; and honestly takes all the fun out of it. On some level I think that if I pressured any of my customers, trust and respect would fly out the window. BTW, great meeting you finally last week!

H. Bruce Miller said...

"If I aggressively pursue every customer who walks in the door, dote on them if you will, butter them up, talk them up, ferret out their interests, explain and cajole, and on and on....I probably would end up at roughly 10% more sales."

I'm no retail expert but I suspect that kind of treatments turns off at least as many customers as it turns on. I HATE it when a "helpful" salesperson hovers around me. I want them to be able to answer my questions if I have any, but otherwise to leave me alone. I've sometimes gone into a store intending to buy something but walked out without buying just to escape the prattle of the "helpful" salesperson.

Owen said...

There's a store I've been to twice. Huge, fascinating place. They have been so helpful though that as soon as I come in they hook me up and I'm out of there. I wonder if I'll ever get a chance to browse around, see what else they have that I didn't know I needed.