Sunday, November 29, 2009

Golden rules between customers, salespeople

When I was a college student in the mid 1980s, I walked into Brooks Brothers in Boston and was met by an engaging salesman who introduced himself shortly after I walked through the door.

His name was Fred Martin. He was impeccably dressed, had decades of experience and clearly knew how a suit should fit. After about an hour of his time, I purchased my first suit from Mr. Martin, a gray pinstripe. I left the Brooks Brothers store knowing that I got not just a quality suit, but quality service.

I also knew that I was coming back to see Mr. Martin next time.

In years past, a clothing salesperson who earned the respect of customers over the years generates loyalty that is unique to that salesperson. Relationships are developed over time. In Mr. Martin's case, he took time to know my name, what my preferences were, and contacted me without being intrusive if there was something at the store that I'd be interested in. In return, I would ask for Mr. Martin by name, so that his colleagues understood that I was his client.

That understanding is not always honored nowadays. Customers are less patient and need someone to assist them as quickly as possible. Experienced salespeople who initially helped potential customers one day may see the same customer another day -- with another salesperson.

Having been on both sides of the relationship, I recognize the importance of developing loyalty, which over time becomes mutually beneficial.

As a customer, I get to know my sales associate. I only give him/her the information that's necessary for him/her to help me the most effectively. I usually am notified in advance of upcoming sales. I sometimes have items held for me a few days if I need more time to decide on something I'm interested in. The sales associate becomes my ally, not an interchangeable part.

As a salesperson, I often ask customers how I can help. If the response is, "Just looking," then I'll reply, "Let me know if you have any questions. Take your time." A smart salesperson will not crowd the customer. After the customer has a few minutes to look around or expresses interest in an item, the salesperson might ask, "Any questions so far?" Whatever the customer's reply is, the goal is that he/she feels at ease to shop.

A good customer/sales associate exchange takes place when the customer shares details about what the customer's needs are, if the customer is traveling, whether there are items on sale. The more information the customer gives, the better able the sales associate can serve the customer.

What do sales associates get out of this? In most stores, a commission for their efforts, which is their livelihood. Experienced clothing professionals will not sell just anything to anyone; they offer options specific to the customer. That takes time, and the sales associate's credibility is on the line to get it right, or else the customer moves on to someone else (s)he can trust.

There are situations where a customer waits for a specific salesperson who did the legwork on the customer's initial visit, but then the customer goes to another salesperson, saying that the person who initially helped is too busy. I actually confronted such a customer when this happened, and (politely) explained that had I known that she was in the store, I would have accommodated her shortly. She was slightly embarrassed but understood that if I can show loyalty toward customers, that I hope it can be reciprocated.

Granted, customers do what's best for them, but courtesy is a two-way street. You'd be surprised, however, at how sales associates remember customers; it's not unlike waiters who remember the patrons who do not tip.

So let the sales associate help you. There's no obligation to buy, but if (s)he can understand what you want and can deliver solid customer service, it's a win-win. Maybe you'll come back to that same person next time.

1 comment:

Ngo said...

Hi.

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Sales associate job description

Tks again and nice keep posting
Rgs