Planning Success for
Independent Business Owners

Does Your Selling System Work? Do You Even Have One?

By James Grandillo, Senior Retail Consultant


The economic experts out there all reluctantly agree: the way things are right now is the New Normal. People are shopping less, and those that do take longer to make up their minds. We have the New Consumer who questions everything about a durable purchase – especially if it is a luxury item. Do I really need this? Will my old one last another few years? Is this item the very best one I can get for my home? Is this the best place to buy, the best price to pay, the best person to help me make this decision? The pressure is on our stores to help answer these all-important questions – and we have the selling staffs to do that.

But, unfortunately, customers HATE SALES PEOPLE!

If they could, most consumers today would wave a magic wand and – poof! – make all salespeople disappear. I mean, who needs ‘em? Salespeople are described as:

  • Pushy
  • Indifferent
  • Misinformed
  • Stupid
  • Dishonest
  • Or all of the above

These same folks would replace salespeople with helpful robots that would speak only when spoken to and would scoot off and hide as soon as they’d outlived their usefulness.

It is sad that many salespeople have earned this bad reputation. Since customers approach our stores expecting to find salespeople of the ilk described above, it is up to us as sales managers to makes sure that we disappoint them – by having a selling system that reflects our company’s core values and salespeople who are responsive to the needs of the 21st century customer.

This is no easy trick. Most companies do not have a selling system as such – an expertly-developed and consistently- performed selling process that all salespeople are required to practice, perfect, and adhere to. Some mature and forward-thinking companies do, and the salespeople in these operations produce revenues and positive customer experiences far in excess of their competitors. But the expense and effort to develop a selling system is usually beyond the resources of smaller operations. Nevertheless, what is still needed is a system developed by experts that takes into consideration the particular kind of product the store presents and the specific needs of the kinds of customers it attracts. When a store does not have such a system, each salesperson does whatever he is most comfortable doing. Some may be very good, some may not. The result of this idiosyncratic approach is an inconsistent level of service and attention given to customers. The shopping experience a customer has depends solely on which salesperson they chance to encounter – and these experiences can vary from excellent to very poor indeed. If a company cannot guarantee that every customer entering one of its stores is going to be treated in the very best possible way, they will not succeed in this new, frightening, and most competitive marketplace.

The guidelines for developing such a process are deceptively simple, yet creating a practical selling system is a job for experts. First, the company must have a set of core values against which every activity of the company is judged. Then it must understand enough about the psychology of persuasion and selling to craft an effective persona for its selling staff to emulate. Think Starbucks. Think McDonald’s. Think Ethan Allen. These companies took the time and invested the money to answer these questions: How do my customers want to be treated? How can we give them a good reason to buy from us? And then they spent decades refining what they do – and teaching, training, and managing the professionalism of the people who meet and greet customers. The success of companies that take the time to create effective selling processes and train their people to perform them is measurable and undeniable. If you can’t design one internally, there are professional companies out there that can do this for you.

The answer to creating success at retail is the same today as it was 1, 10, or 100 years ago: treat people the way they want to be treated and they will wait in line to buy from you.