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Ask About Salesmanship

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By | May 26, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

I've just taken my first job as a part-time sales person in a local store. I want to succeed at this job as I work my way through school. I hope the practical experience will help me have a career in retailing management after college. Can you tell me something about good salesmanship so I'll know what to strive for?

Sold on Retail

Dear Sold,

A good salesman is a skillful fulfiller of needs. Therefore, you need to develop the skill of learning the customer's needs so you'll know how best to fulfill them. The major ingredient of this skill is the ability to listen and observe. If you're like the rest of us, you were given 2 ears, 2 eyes and only 1 mouth. Does that give you a hint?

To make minimal use of your mouth and maximum use of eyes and ears, it is well to start by asking your customer "open-ended" questions. Don't ask, "May I help you?" An open-ended query like that produces a monosyllabic response--Yes or No--but no useful information whatsoever. They wouldn't have gone to the trouble of schlepping all the way to your store if they didn't think you might be able to help them. Rephrase your question to read, "HOW may I help you?" and then stand back and look and listen.

And to let your customer know that you really did listen, repeat back his or her response. "So you're looking for a left-handed screwdriver for your son-in-law." Then go on to elicit more detail about the need. "Tell me, what kind of tasks do you think your son-in-law might be using this tool for?" Your store has an inventory of 46 different sizes, weights and shapes of screwdrivers and you need to narrow this field down for your customer.

Keep asking and listening until you get down to heavy duty, insulated, six inches long, and stainless steel. After explaining the features (e.g. stainless steel) and benefits (e.g. rustproof), you can then trot out five different colors of that product for your customer to choose from on the basis of what color seems appealing.

You're going to have a great opportunity for success since you'll be in a small specialty store where personal service (and salesmanship is a service) is potentially far superior to your mega-mall competitors--the self-service (or sometimes even NO service) retail chains. The behemoths can dominate in the areas of vast selection, volume pricing and saturation advertising, but on the personal sales-service front, you'll be holding all the aces.

Be sure to educate yourself on the products offered by your store so you'll be able to match them up precisely to your customers' needs. This will produce a sale and also a satisfied customer--one who will return to give you more and more sales, and even send his friends in to avail themselves of your salesmanship.

Good salesmanship is rare these days and will be cherished wherever it's found. And Customer Service is the embodiment of good salesmanship. Look and listen! Give every single customer the very best service you possibly can and you will be a success--at salesmanship or anything else.

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