Selling What’s In-Stock. Or Not.
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.
A salesperson recently asked me if selling only what’s in-stock is good service. Her manager had instructed the staff to only show and sell what was in-stock. Some staffers disagreed with this policy, since the best product for the customer might be something not in-stock at that moment.
I told her the manager is right. I also said the staff isn’t necessarily wrong, either.
Quick story first. While traveling recently, I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant that offered homemade chicken potpie, something you don’t often see on a menu. When I asked the waitress about it, she told me the restaurant is known for the dish, which is made fresh daily and was also her favorite.
Mouth watering, I ordered the item only to be told, "I’m sorry, but we’re sold out." Talk about disappointing!
The same thing happens in stores. A salesperson gets his customer all excited about a product only to tell him it’s out-of-stock. It disappoints the customers and often results in missed sales opportunities.
But if a new product or hot seller is only temporarily out-of-stock, is it wrong to show the customer the product even though the customer can’t buy it right then and there? Not at all — if it’s done in a way that doesn’t disappoint the customer, and the customer is given an opportunity to make a purchase.
Here are a few things to remember about showing and selling out-of-stock products.
1. Only show an out-of-stock product if you know it meets your customer’s needs, or if she specifically asks for it. Too often the staff shows an out-of-stock product because it is new or they like it. A hot seller doesn’t mean it’s the right product for everybody.
2. Always tell your customer when she can purchase an out-of-stock product before you show it. This not only reduces disappointment but makes it easier to show another product and sell the out-of-stock one.
3. Recommend other products based on what your customer likes or dislikes about the out-of-stock product. "Take a look at this ABC widget. It’s got many of the same features as the XYZ, but also has the more modern style that you like."
4. Make purchasing out-of-stock products a great experience for your customer to make up for any inconvenience. Don’t tell him to check back next week. Don’t charge for shipping.
5. If your customer absolutely needs that product now, find it somewhere else. Always win and keep the customer, even if it means losing a sale.
What advice would you have for store associates in showing and selling out-of-stock product? Which tip around showing and selling out-of-stock product is most critical?