Valentine’s Day just passed us by for another year and it got me thinking about what makes for a good and/or bad Valentine’s Day.  From this, my thoughts drifted to what makes for a good and/or bad retail experience (needless to say, with thoughts like this, you can pretty much guess how my Valentine’s Day went!)…Enough about me, the point is good and not so good experiences typically all come down to the people involved in said experiences.   For a good experience in retail, this means you can’t be the kind of sales associate that breaks hearts, especially when it’s really not that difficult to dish out some retail love for your customers with just a little know-how!  So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, here’s my top 5 most heartbreaking moves I see out there on the sales floor:

Heartbreaker #1: The Disa-POINT-er

This is a real classic move.  We’ve all seen it done.  It typically happens in a big box store, but I’ve even been victim to it in smaller boutiques.  You know this one.  You ask for help finding an item only to be POINTED down an aisle.  These heartbreakers are usually polite and disguised as helpful sales associates, but they leave you feeling disappointed.  Don’t point and give directions with flailing arms.  You weren’t hired to direct traffic after all.  

Heartbreaker #2: The Naysayer

I encountered my most recent naysayer while out shopping for a new oven.  The naysayer is the associate who is full of reasons why the item you have your heart set on won’t work, or the one that puts a spotlight on all the negatives…that one won’t fit, you’ll have to go home and re-measure, there will be a delivery charge, it’s on backorder, and the list goes on.  This associate has never heard of selling solutions.  Is that not the #1 role of a sales person? 

Heartbreaker #3: The Judger

This one is inspired by that scene in Pretty Woman.  Don’t tell me you don’t remember this one…Julia Roberts reluctantly looking around the high end shop on Rodeo Drive with snide and snooty sales reps sizing her up and drawing conclusions about the likelihood of her being able to afford anything inside the store?  Those are the judgers.  You know how that scene ends, don’t you?  Julia tells them off and she and Richard Gere end up blowing big bucks…huge…just down the street, having a blast with all the sales associates!  Oldest lesson in the book here: don’t judge a book by its cover.

Heartbreaker #4: The Lousy Listener

When I think of the lousy listener type, all of my technology purchasing experiences come back to haunt me.  We skip right over the initial small talk and jump right into the getting-to-know-ya phase with lots of good questions.  I explain at length how I am change-averse and just want the darn phone, TV, or laptop to work so I don’t skip a beat and the learning curve is minimal.  The bad listener sales person then goes down a rather long and foggy path of showing me features that I didn’t mention needing and/or upselling me to a model that’s missing the key basics I wanted.  Not listening causes this ball of confusion for the customer and they will usually end up leaving empty handed.  We have a saying around here at Graff, when the customer is talking, you’re winning! 

Heartbreaker #5: The Aggressor

The overly-aggressive sales person is a real heartbreaker for me.  This approach is such a waste of time and energy.  We know that if this type just settled down and dropped the ‘sales guy’ persona and became a real person, they would make the selling experience a heck of a lot more enjoyable for the customer and for themselves.  Don’t these types know that people make jokes about this kind of selling?  Don’t be a cheesy, forceful seller even if you’re in a commissioned environment.  Learn how to be likeable.  People buy from people they like…because they trust them!  We don’t trust the aggressor!

If this Valentine’s Day lesson has taught us anything, it’s that the world revolves around relationships.  Personal relationships, professional relationships and certainly the relationships we have with our customers.  Retail is a people business and people steer clear of heartbreak, so don’t be a heartbreaker out there on the sales floor!  

Mary Gordon and Kim McCutcheon have been supporting retail front lines for as long as they can remember. A dynamic duo, Mary and Kim understand what it takes to make training work at store level and know how to inspire, coach and support retail teams in all of their training endeavours.

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