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Thursday, 01 December 2011 11:07

Building Sales is About Building Relationships

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Over the last few months I have been working with clients in 11 countries. All of them have had economic difficulties. Some retailers are looking at the state of the economy and complaining about lost sales whilst others are looking at the same economy and seeing business opportunities.
Some of these retailers are in the same retail sector and it is interesting to see how attitude can make a difference, but apart from attitude there are other important points that create the point of difference.

Customer Service Is Not the Answer
During my travels I've come across sales staff who were exceptionally good and others who were just interested in processing the client and sending them on their way.

While presenting at a conference in Australia, another speaker from the Australian Retail Association gave an excellent presentation on customer service and why it does not work. She introduced the concept of day makers. In this new economy the aim of someone in retail should not be to serve the customer, but to make their day. This concept stuck in my mind as I travelled and visited various retailers. It is the day makers that actually grow sales for businesses.
Making a person's day is about recognising them as an individual and listening to their needs. The irony is that you can be a day maker without having any product knowledge. Day makers can relate to the consumer and ensure that the consumer leaves the business relationship with a bigger smile than when they entered the relationship

Care for Your Community
In recent months I have seen a shift in marketing; businesses are now connecting more closely with their own community and helping local causes. This has always been a part of marketing for businesses, but in recent months there has been a change of focus. Research indicates that consumers want to support local businesses and especially those local businesses that support local communities. Retailers and suppliers need to look at what are the needs and wants of the local community and how they can help improve the local situation. A caring business will be a growing business.

Providing the Consumer with Value
Consumers have started to look for value; many retailers are looking at discounts and confusing this with value. More expensive items can provide value to the consumer. For instance, after talking to our local electrician, he mentioned that we could purchase some light bulbs from our local supermarket. Then, he followed that statement by mentioning that we could also purchase light bulbs from the local electrical shop that were about 10 percent more expensive, but they would last three times longer. Obviously, the more valuable proposition is initially the more expensive proposition, but it will soon provide a return on our investment. Astute retailers realise that value and discount are two completely separate things.

Confusion Can Reduce Sales
While in America I worked for some garden centers; where I found out that 75 percent of the new plants entering the market did not exist ten years ago. One retailer told me of the challenges his center faces as a retailer when the plant he offered last year as the best in the market for its type, has been replaced by another improved form this year.
If this phenomenon happens occasionally the customer can understand upgrades and improvements, but when it happens at such a rapid and regular rate the customer starts to get suspicious and feels it is a ploy to get more money.
As retailers we need to be careful about how we introduce new items if we are to keep building a strong relationship with our customers. This is especially important at present when consumers are looking towards nostalgia items rather than the must have new items.
Building relationships with consumers is a high priority for retailers at present. It is time to invest in relationship building before it is too late; resulting in the customer deciding it is less stressful to go online for all of their shopping needs and wants.

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