The great british high street is quickly becoming nothing more than a set of abandoned stores and a customer-less zone. High street store closures increased last year as Clinton Cards and Game where given the shock of administration. Price Waterhouse Coopers have reported that the net number of store closures in 2012 was around 1800 almost 10 times that of 2011. January was an even harder month, more so for those of us that have fond memories of shopping for albums and cd’s at HMV. Yet HMV have been sent a lifeline as administrators and the new owners move forward with trying to re build HMV into the national treasure it has previously been in it’s last 90 something years. We have yet to see what the strategy to re build the organisation into one of the great high street brands will be, currently in a much needed cost cutting mode, what next? It is the same for any of the high street brands that each week we hear about disappearing.
I was recently working with a group of Technology people, their role is to sell their services to retailers of technology. They have to sell in training on their various products in order for the retails to be able to then, in turn, sell the product. It was an excellent week, I really enjoy working with this particular team of people because of the level of enthusiasm and passion they have for their products. Part of the workshop was for them to be able to assess their selling skills, we did this by them first making an assessment of the selling skills of others. So we sent them off out to do some mystery shopping. From the results I am beginning to understand just why so many of our high street retailers are disappearing.
Many retailers see themselves has having transactional sales teams who focus more on the customer service element of their role rather than the customer experience element of their role.
What’s the difference? Service and Experience. Well, Customer service is about being nice and making sure that the customer has a pleasant time in store and pays for their goods. Customer Experience is about ensuring that the customer has an experience to remember and will come back again to buy more.
Thats not it. By retailers focusing on being transactional then they are missing out on the much needed sales in stores, the much needed High Value sales. Oh, and this doesn’t just effect high street retailers, any business involved in selling a product needs to look at how they work with customers in order to get the sale
For example, during this mysterying shopping exercise a team went to look into buying a new gaming console. It could have been any, there are so many on the market now and it is a growing market, and, with the way that consumers use gaming consoles for more than just gaming it is set to grow even more in 2103. So they go to the retailer and say they fancy buying a gaming console and name the one they are thinking of. The Sales Assistant then says, yes we have five in stock they are over there, and leaves them to it…. They then leave the store. Sale Lost
The next store they went into, another high street retailer of many different home and technology products, greeted them at the door, found the person they needed to speak to about the specific product and that person then went out finding the best gaming console for them, the sales assistant had even checked if they were buying today or wanted to think about it. Sale Won
This is the difference between transactional sales and consultative selling. Or, winning a sale and loosing a sale. In harsher terms, this is the difference between disappearing from the high street and building a strong business.
Sales teams that adopt a consultative selling methodology can and do build stronger relationships with their clients and win the sales time and time again. It is about taking the time to find out what the customer needs and giving them the best solution to those needs. Now this is pretty easy for a high street retailer who might have 30 different options they can tie into what the customer wants really quickly, slightly harder when you just have one set of solutions from your business. However, just by asking the questions you are able to sell the specific benefits to that customer who will have no choice but to buy your product.
So, the high street is fast becoming wasteland. Yet some retailers are fighting past this storm and emerging as the best we have to offer. If you work in sales, or you are in fact a retailer looking to develop your brand and build success then ask yourself this, are you focusing on selling products or are you focusing on customers needs and matching them with products that they want? there is always a place for transactional sales, everyone will still want to nip in and buy a DVD or CD. However, what if they were just thinking of that new gaming console and today you could be the person to sell it to them.
I for one hope that HMV move past being a transactional retailer and give more of a focus on the way they consult with customers. A great british institution that would be a shame to loose like others from our high streets.