The Sales Staff as Marketing Tool
By Lew Brown
With the recent move by Circuit City to eliminate commissioned sales people, the third largest CE retailer has joined the rest of the top 10, as well as the majority of our industry, in selling products at retail without the aid of commissioned sales people. As non-commissioned selling becomes standard industry practice, the specialty dealer's emphasis on knowledgeable sales help — usually commissioned — has become an increasingly important point of differentiation.
Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Sears and other giant retailers have publicly announced their desire to sell the higher-end products and services that are currently the mainstay of the specialty retailer, like HDTV and plasma. To sweeten the deal for their customers, they're gearing up to full in-home delivery and installation services. When these amenities are no longer protected turf for the independent operator or regional specialty chain, how can they profitably compete? By protecting and building on the last bastion of differentiation, one that the mass merchants have clearly given up on — the investment in high quality, well paid, well-trained sales people.
With the bulk of the industry moving away from investing in people, and moving instead toward investment in fixtures, signage, display, and in-store marketing vehicles to facilitate the purchase process, the human connection becomes the remaining value differentiation that the specialty retailer can consistently deliver. These retailers must not only market to and service customers that expect this level of service, but also use this unique advantage to create the interest, enthusiasm, education and excitement for products and technologies.
What are the key elements that specialty dealers must teach their team to create a great consumer sales experience?
1. To truly engage and care about customers. This has to translate from rhetoric to reality. You cannot always teach people to care, but you can recruit with that in mind and set the example, and communicate the standard by how you treat personnel and all of your constituents.