Articles for Retailers - by Tom Shay

Problem Solving with SARA

. . . a  Proven Technique for Solving a Customer’s Needs
by Tom Shay

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an employee-review program for a local company. The company gave each of its employees great latitude in resolving customers' needs and trained each employee to use a technique entitled "SARA."

Take a look at how the acronym SARA can be adapted to your business.

S stands for scan. 
Ask customers questions about their perception of the problem or opportunity. In helping a customer, there are a number of questions that could be asked.  Often the customer has an idea of what they need.   But, too often, the customer isn’t sure and discussing their needs with an employee leads to what they really need. This is true whether what you sell is a product or a service.   Sometimes the customer wants to purchase a certain product or service.  Questions like these can help them make the best choice: Why did they select that brand?  What type of performance is expected from the item? How long do they expect the product to last?

A stands for analyze. 
From the above questions asked, an employee should be able to gather the facts and draw a conclusion.  The employee may be able to do this in 10 seconds, but continuing to discuss the product and issue can help increase the customers confidence in the employee’s ability plus the customer is more likely to appreciate the additional conversation and eventually the answer.

R stands for respond. 
Create a plan of action and as your employee responds to the customer who initiated the inquiry also realize this is a great opportunity to make an add-on sale.  Ask if they have any other needs with which your business can help.

A stands for assessment. 
Review your efforts and make changes as necessary.  What would your customers think about your business if they received a phone call a week later asking how they liked the product or service they had purchased?  More important, do any of your competitors do this? If not, this call or post card addressed to the customer will do more to differentiate you from all of the competition in your trade area.

Does SARA work, and can it work for you?  Absolutely. Think about what differentiates you from your competition. If one of the differences is price, remember that someone is always cheaper on everything you sell.

If you are using SARA, you are probably the only business in the community that does.  That makes you unique, you have no competition.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner, author, columnist, coach and speaker who has authored several training manuals for retailers that can be found in the Resources section of the NAMTA website – His knowledge of small business marketing, business strategy, staffing, and financial management have provided small business owners with the help necessary to increase their profits plus build their business for the future. You can learn more here -