LisBiz Strategies: What I’ve learned from the big boxes

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Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Many of you know I conduct market research for various companies around the holidays every year. Typically, this means I demonstrate a new product at a supermarket opening or other large store event. My job is to be friendly and get the sale.

The companies I work for do business with all kinds of manufacturers, including kitchen products, household appliances, etc. If you’re visiting Walmart or Bed Bath & Beyond, or attending a car show, it’s likely the people doing the demonstration are hired by these companies. They are looking for outgoing, friendly people who connect well with consumers. They also provide training on the product in addition to sales.

Most of the product demonstrations I do are in the big box stores. I have been doing this since 2008 and it’s been very eye opening. My time spent at the big boxes has allowed me to observe and analyze their ways. Following are some opportunities smaller retailers can capitalize on.

Associates should always have an answer or know where to find the answer. I’m always amazed at the sales associates who work at Bed, Bath & Beyond; they can always either find the product or the person with the answer. They may have to ask three or four people, but they will ultimately get the answer. And the managers are always available to answer questions.

The most effective sales associates are the ones who stop to turn and look directly at the customer before they hunt down the item in question. This makes the customer feel welcome and understood. The other associates turn around and head toward the shelves with the customer in tow. It seems extremely impersonal.

Make suggestions and recommend add-ons to your customers. When I’m working, I’m there to sell product. If I think a customer needs to buy something else, I explain why it is better for her. Customers are always thankful and most times take your opinions into account before choosing the right product. Your experience with products is very important to them because as a salesperson, you know what works and what doesn’t. It is always better to share your knowledge with the customer because I can see they place high value on experience and expertise. Don’t forget to say it with conviction.

Excellent sales associates often listen first and then repeat the customer’s request. This prevents any miscommunication. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t actually know what the customer asked for. This is probably something you already know but might not place enough emphasis on.

If the customer asks for a cheaper price, most associates can’t give it to them, but what they can do is suggest a cheaper product. This is where many associates tend to fail. Most places are so short staffed the associates barely have time to think, and they miss out on significant opportunities.

Don’t teach your employees to just be efficient, teach them to be friendly and knowledgeable about what other customers are buying and why it works.

I have also noticed associates shaking hands with customers or touching their arms. This is a very interesting piece of body language. I notice that each time I sell a product I either shake hands with the customer or put my hand on her arm with a smile.

Making sales comes down to connecting with customers. Be sure to treat your employees with respect as they may recommend their friends to your store. Some business owners forget their employees are customers and will shop where they are well-treated. This is an opportunity many businesses overlook. I always tell my friends where I’m working and where I think they should shop.


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