Doug Fleener's

The Day Makes the Year


Retail's Got Talent

Mar 20, 2024


Every interaction between retail associates and customers leads to either triumph or defeat.

Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but it does lead to either a big purchase, a small purchase, a missed purchase, or no purchase. The interactions can create impulse purchases or cause planned purchases to be canceled.

Far more of the power in making the sale is in the hands of associates than most know.

That's why engagement consistency is one key to specialty store success—consistently taking the actions that drive an engaging sales experience and avoiding the things that cost the store sales and customers.

Think of sales as performers on the grand stage of "Retail's Got Talent." Just as singers, dancers, and magicians step into the spotlight, hoping to win the audience's favor, salespeople face their customers armed with products, enthusiasm, and the power of conversation.

However, lurking in the shadows of this performance, much like the dreaded red X's and accompanying sound in "America's Got Talent," are the sales-stopping actions that can abruptly end the performance.

"Retail's Got Talent" isn't just a show; it's the everyday reality of navigating the delicate dance of service selling, where the right questions can turn a routine interaction into a standing ovation.

Here are the ones I see where the judges/customers are sure to hit their sales-stopping buzzer.

"How may I help you?"

That's an X and buzzer in the first few seconds of the performance! (Did you hear that buzzer go off in your head?) Customers are trained to say we're just looking. This one could get you three Xs and off the stage.

Instead, just welcome the customer and tell them something about the store, like what new products are in, what sales are happening, etc. Let the customer know that you're available to help them and that you'll check back with them in a little bit. If the customer wants help right away, they will ask. 

"Would you like to try it on?" or "Would you like to see it?"

NEVER ask a customer if they want to engage with a product. The ability to touch, feel, try on, use, play with, etc., is the physical stores' most significant advantage over online competitors. We also know that purchase intent substantially increases when customers physically engage with products.

Instead, get products in customers' hands (when possible) and then suggest product engagement. "Let's go to the dressing room and see how it looks on you." Or, "Looking at the back of the box, you'll see…"

"Will there be anything else?"

Wow! That buzzer seemed louder than before. This question is a big-time sales stopper. When customers are asked that question, it is a sign that it is time for them to check out.

Instead, keep showing and suggesting items until the customer says they're done. This simple skill separates the average sale/performance from the big/winning ones.

What other actions in your store will bring out the red X and stop the show/sale?

So let me ask three questions:

  1. Have you ever considered using a smoke machine and dramatic lighting to reveal a new product, or is that just for the grand finale of ringing up the sale? (I like to use them when entering my living room in the morning.)
  2. If Retail's Got Talent had a Simon Cowell, what brutally honest feedback would he give about your last customer engagement? Without the above, he will likely give you that sly smile, pause, and tell you how awesome you are!
  3. What are the one or two improvements you can make to turn your customer interactions into winning performances?