Articles for Retailers - Kizer & Bender

10 Steps to Selling Smarter, Selling More!

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender

There’s a popular survey that shows why customers leave a store and never return to shop there again:

  • 15 percent leave because of price
  • 15 percent leave because of product selection
  • 70 percent leave because of the interaction with the people who work there

Let that set in for a second . . .

Seventy percent (70%) of customers will leave your store and never return to do business with you again because of the quality of the interaction with the people who work at your store. The good news is that the quality of that interaction is completely controllable by the store owner or manager. It takes observation, training, and reinforcement of what’s good, and a strong discussion and retraining about is not.

Let’s take a look at how to connect with customers and keep them coming back for more . . .

1. Keep everyone up-to-speed and ready to work with customers.
It’s your job to keep everyone informed, so hold a daily 10 minute meeting with your team before the store opens, and again before each shift. Cover what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s happening that day. Talk about new product, upcoming events, what customers have said that is important to know. In other words, discuss what your associates need to know to properly do their job that day. Get in the habit of holding this meeting every day.

2. Walk the entire store every day.
Retail happens. You receive new merchandise and move products around. If you’ve ever heard an associate to say, “It was right here yesterday!” you need to adopt our 360 Degree Pass-by exercise; a quick walk through the entire sales floor. You’ll easily notice which areas need attention, but you’ll also take in new merchandise, and see where older product has been moved. The 360 Degree Pass-by should be done by every person, every shift, every day.

3. Pay attention to a customer’s first 10 seconds of contact.
Most shoppers who come to an arts supply store are there for a reason. Have you ever wondered why people immediately say, “I’m just looking” when you’ve only said hello? It’s because customers not only create a mental image of the shopping experience, they create one for your store that’s often based on a past experience in your store, or maybe even a competitor’s store.

In our focus groups we often ask why shoppers are so quick to throw out the “I’m just looking” response. One of those reasons is because they think they are being judged the second they enter the door. Younger customers complain they are passed over in favor of older customers; older customers complain they are invisible in some stores. You can never pre-judge a customer because you never know where your next great sales will come from.

There’s a retail legend that tells the story of the farmer who visited a Sears store, dressed in overalls, his boots covered in manure. None of the full time associates wanted to wait on him, so a part-timer approached the farmer and asked how he could help. Turns out the farmer had promised his wife a brand new kitchen for their old farmhouse, and he was there to buy whatever it took to outfit the rooms. This was a five figure commissionable sale that was paid in cash. Part-timers did not earn commission, but the full-timers who did were cheesed off. It was their own fault for ignoring the farmer. Never pre-judge a customer.

Now, let’s look at it from the associates’ side because you don’t want customers pre-judging them either. Does your store have a written dress code? Dress codes make it easy for shoppers to identify your associates, and it upholds your brand to your standards. This is especially important these days because people tend to dress on the ultra-casual side. We don’t care if holey jeans are fashionable or if flip-flops are comfortable. Think of the message that’s being sent.

4. Watch how you interact with customers.
Some researchers say that the majority of how we communicate to one another is done through body language. If that’s the case, then we need to consider how customers perceive that body language. An associate who crosses her arms can be as poorly perceived as one who rolls her eyes at a customer’s question. Associates who invade a shopper’s personal space aren’t high on the interaction list either. And a two or more associates having a conversation on the sales floor – warranted or not – can cause customers to keep away from them, rather than approach when they need help.

5. Say hello!
We spend days at a time watching how customers enter stores. It’s usually in one of three ways: in a panic – this customer needs help NOW; on a mission – this customer has come for a specific thing; or on a leisurely walk – she’s enjoying being in your store. Each of these three customers has a clock in her head that registers perceived time versus real time.

We might, for example, ask a shopper how long it took before an associate approached them. The response might be 10 minutes, even when our stop watch registered just 60 seconds. That’s perceived time, and it rarely works in the retailer’s favor. So train your associates to approach each type of shopper accordingly. And check back frequently when necessary.

Our 7-Tile Rule™ will help you acknowledge every customer, and build a strong customer service perception at the same time. Smile, nod or engage in conversation each time you come within seven feet of a customer. That simple smile can make shoppers entire in-store experience.

6.  Stop saying “May I help you?”
The automatic response to that question is always “no”, so stop saying it. “May I help you?” only works when the customer is clearly in a hurry and needs immediate help.

So, what can you ask instead? How about, “Good morning, it’s great to see you today!” Talk about the weather, the customer’s kids, anything but the store. The goal of what you say is simply to greet the customer and make her feel welcome. If the customer wants to browse, let her browse. But if you sense the customer is looking for something in particular, ask, “So, what brings you in to see us today? Anything special?” This will open a dialogue.

Once you have started a conversation ask the customer if it’s her first time in the store. If she says yes, offer to take her on a quick tour of the sales floor.

7. Dig for information.
When the customer tells you why she is there it’s time to uncover what she wants and why. Open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, why or how will enable you to get a good idea of why she’s there, plus which items to show her. Customers who offer too much information, or basically none at all, will respond better to closed-ended questions that only require a “yes” or ‘no” answer. Closed-ended questions help you gather information and move the conversation along.

8. Demonstrate the product.
Show all the cool things inside that artist box, demo how that easel works, let the customer play with the merchandise – you get the point. Interactive experiences build value.

9. Always, always, ALWAYS to try add-on to the sale.
“You want fries with that?” Ummmm, yes!

A quick Google check found that a large McDonald’s fry can be yours for just $1.89. Add that $1.89 to the gazillion number of fries the fast food giant sells each day and that little add-on adds up big time. At McDonalds, adding-on to the sale is automatic. Teach your associates to do it, too.

Here’s the thing: customers won’t buy additional items if you don’t ask! Adding-on isn’t pushy; it actually helps when it’s done ethically. Wouldn’t you rather have had the cashier at the toy store ask if you needed batteries for the toys you were buying? It would have saved you another trip to the store. Think of add-on selling as a positive; it not only increases your average sale, it strengthens customer relationships, and saves them time and frustration.

10. Cement the relationship!
Invite the customer back to visit you again, tell her about upcoming classes and in-store events. Invite her to sign up for your newsletter. Tell her about the fun things you do on Facebook and other socials medias. Let her know where to find project sheets on your website. This 30 second dialog will make her feel important to you and your store.

These 10 easy steps will help you build relationships that keep customers close, lift your team to higher levels of success, and increase your average sale. And really, who couldn’t use more money in their pocket?


Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at