September 5, 2010: I bought my family a fast-food lunch last week. The place was run by a hard-working immigrant still struggling with her English. Yet in the three minute exchange over my order, she gently tried to upsell me three times.
‘Would you like a large burger sir?’
‘I see your family’s with you sir, would you like large fries?’
‘What would you like to drink?’
– In the natural flow of the conversation, I didn’t feel like I was being pressured, but that she was making great suggestions to help me have a better meal. This happens, too, when I go and buy a coffee from the kind of place you find on every street corner.
The kind that sometimes employs high school dropouts.
Who still excel at sales, upselling, cross-selling.
‘What I’ve discovered is that most photo retailers…have no idea at all how to sell.’
Then I realised. That’s never happened to me in a photography shop. In fact, in my role as a photo accessory manufacturer, I’ve never spoken to anyone in photo retail who understands upselling techniques. Or trains their staff in how to do it.
I tour camera shops during my tradeshow trips. In almost every case I discover that none of our point-of-sales materials have been used. None of our staff training manuals have been read. None of our photo frame slideshows are on display and none of our videos are on the stores’ websites.
At first I assumed we hadn’t done a good enough job of our sales support, so my team and I set to work improving all our reseller support materials. But the total lack of initiative from most retailers – with a few wonderful exceptions – continues. So I began to dig deeper to find the root cause. What I discovered was uncomfortable.
What I’ve discovered is that most photo retailers – and this is the same in many other industries – have no idea at all how to sell. No idea how to train staff to sell.
Here are some thoughts….
1. The single driving force that makes any business successful is sales. There is nothing else. SALES. I’ll say it again. SALES. You exist to sell things. Your staff are wasting your time and money unless their single most important task at every moment is SALES. Yes, of course profit is important, but there’s no profit without SALES.
2. Think like a customer. If you didn’t run your store and were a customer, what would you think when you walked in? Would you have any reason at all to spend time and money in your shop? What are you offering to win and retain customers? What are you offering your customers that they won’t find online? Or from a grey importer? As a ‘bricks and mortar’ store, you have a huge amount to offer your customers. Stop worrying about what others are doing and focus on what you can do. When someone walks through your door, they’ve already made a subconscious decision to be inclined to spend. Never be afraid to leverage that.
3. Low prices make customers happy. Nothing you can do about it. No legislation will change that. Shout louder that you don’t like it; it won’t make a difference. Margins will never again be what they were. But you know what? Being treated well also makes customers happy. Being offered advice, suggestions and wisdom makes customers happy. Maybe you used to be able to compete on price, but it’s unlikely you can now or ever will again. Move on. Focus on your service. Your friendly atmosphere. Your relevance. Your creativity. And yes, on carving out product offerings where you secure big margins.
I was in Sydney, Australia recently for PMA. I needed a small, obscure part for a tripod. I went into three camera stores. Large, well-known ones. No one acknowledged me when I walked in. No one offered to help when I wandered around a bit looking aimless. No one offered to order the part in for me. In two of them, no one had cleared up for a while and I had to step over boxes strewn around. Only one of them had put any care into their displays. When I eventually found the part I was looking for, I paid and left. I wasn’t asked about my day. I wasn’t asked to join an email list. I wasn’t told about a website. I wasn’t offered a suggestion for any other products. I wasn’t even asked what kind of photography I was doing.
The only reason I spent any money that day was because I had to have the part for a meeting. Otherwise I’d have gone home and bought it online. And I LOVE camera shops.
If you’re not feeding your customer’s love of being in your store and helping them buy the gear that drives their passion, you’re going to lose them.
You probably already have, but don’t let that stop you from turning around now and transforming your business to become great at sales.
– James Madelin,
CEO Enlight Photo, and inventor of the award-winning Orbis ring flash system