BrainTrust Query: Time and Choices
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Views on the World of Shoppers, Retailers and Brands, the blog of TNS Retail and Shopper.
Among the teachings of Joe Girard, identified by The Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Greatest Salesman,” are focusing on the customers’ time and their choices — both of which are regularly ignored by today’s retail staffs.
One subject in his book, “How to Close Every Sale,” was that “The Prospect’s [Customer’s] Time is Valuable.”
Mr. Girard writes, “Every sales person has had it drilled into his or her skull that time is money and should be valued accordingly. So I won’t give you another lecture on time management. Instead, I’ll emphasize instead the importance of also realizing the value of your prospect’s [customer’s] time.”
Joe Girard’s perspective here is exactly the same as my own principle that, “The faster you sell, the more you will sell!” No real salesperson would ever be confused about this issue, and yet it is diametrically opposed to standard retailer desire to get the shopper to spend more time in their stores. As one senior shopper “expert” with one of the major brands told me, “We want the shopper to spend time carefully considering our merchandise.” Both the retailer’s view, and the supplier’s, have the air of thoughtful consideration of the shopper and the sales process, but both are actually sales termites. They steadily erode the performance of the store and brand by impeding rapid selections of merchandise.
The other closely-related subject in the book was Joe Girard’s “Choices of Three” perspective:
“Over the years, I have discovered that the more choices presented to prospects [shoppers,] the more difficult it becomes for them to make up their minds. While I don’t have concrete evidence backed by formal research, I have observed that when people have to choose from more than three choices, they have a hard time determining which to pick. … I recommend offering a maximum of three.”
This principle reinforces what we say about focusing on the top sellers. You can only use Joe Girard’s selling principles selectively in the store if you expect them to be effective. If you use them widely, you are trying to “sell more than three,” and your efforts, no matter how good, will be diluted severely and simply become more “noise” in the shopping environment. Fortunately, you can be pretty sure that your competition is churning out a lot of noise. This is your opportunity to provide selective selling to just a few items (a few dozen for a 40,000 item store, but a literal few — 3 — for a few dozen items in a brand or category.)
The skills Mr. Girard discusses were likely lost as retail migrated over the last century from ‘active, personal selling’ — in which a salesperson guides and expedites the purchase by a customer — to ‘passive selling,’ or the self-service environments that dominate retail today. But in many ways, the thinking of people like Joe Girard are right at the cutting edge of real selling, even in the self-service world.
- How to Close Every Sale – Shopper Scientist
- Shopper Efficiency vs. Total Store Sales – Shopper Scientist
Discussion Questions: How can largely self-service retailers incorporate some ’active selling’ techniques into their selling environments? Does retail need to rethink its approach to valuing the customer’s time as well as encouraging a few choices among the many offered?