Suggestive selling is one of the most powerful tools any retail sales associate can have. Not only can it increase basket size and sales, but when done right, suggestive selling allows customers to discover things they actually need and helps them get the most out of their purchases. This, in turn, increases customer satisfaction, enables retailers to build trust, and keep shoppers coming back. Here are things to keep in mind when trying to suggest products to customers to buy:
Engage in back and forth conversations
Know each shopper before even attempting to suggestive sell. You wouldn’t be able to effectively suggest something without understanding your customers’ needs. If somebody walks into your store and you instantly start recommending products without knowing if they’re relevant, shoppers are going to feel annoyed or tune you out.
The best way to understand shoppers is to engage them in conversation. Talk to them, ask questions, and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. You’ll be surprised at the insights you get out of doing so.
“You’ll be able to pick up on little things that they wouldn’t typically say that they’re looking for. A customer can come in at 5:30 pm and say something like ‘I’m looking for a dress for a wedding, and I just got off work…’ From there, you’ll know that they’re looking for a dress but they also work a 9 to 5 job.”
“With that in mind, you can help her find that dress she wants, but you could also suggest things based on what you know about them. You could say, “Oh you work in an office? That suit would be perfect as well.”
When you gain insights into the customer’s lifestyle and combine your knowledge with a thorough understanding of the merchandise on hand, you can go further and suggest things the shopper didn’t even know they were looking for, provided that you can show the value in it and how it can improve their lifestyle.
Know your inventory inside and out
Be the master of your inventory. Having adequate product knowledge allows you to suggest items quickly and effectively.
For instance, if a customer tells you that something is out of their budget, you should be able to quickly run through your inventory and suggest something that’s similar, but at a lower price point.
Knowing your inventory inside and out also helps you and your staff drive interest and sales. Also including the story of a designer or the origin of the item going a long way in building interest in the product.
“Most of the time the customer who’s willing to spend more cares about those types of things. They care about the story of a product; they want to be able to relate it back to something and talk about it.”
Additionally, having the necessary product and stock information prevents you from suggesting things you don’t have.
“One thing that’s common is the associate suggests something, and the customer says ‘I love it, I need it in a size 6…” but then the store doesn’t have that size in stock.”
Prevent scenarios like the one above by staying on top of product and stock knowledge. Regularly update your POS and inventory management system, and keep the data handy, so you and your staff always have access to the info you need.
Another good way to ensure that all team members are familiar with your products is to set aside time to discuss your merchandise with the staff.
Treat your customer like they’re your best friend
Establishing trust is critical to suggestive selling. Once the customer feels that your staff is only after the commission and they don’t really trust the salesperson’s advice, they’ll instantly get turned off and get hesitant about making a purchase.
To build trust, treat the customer like they’re your best friend. Most customers love shopping with their close friends because they trust these individuals to tell them if something looks good or if an item isn’t right for them. Establishing a similar connection with your shoppers will go a long way not just when it comes to sales, but also in terms of cultivating strong customer relationships.
“Be interested in your customers. Know their names, treat them like friends, tell jokes, and make them feel comfortable. That way, when you tell them that something looks good (or not) on them, they’re going to trust you.”
This isn’t about being sleazy or manipulative. “You’ll find that when you start to build relationships with customers, you’ll actually enjoy the sales process that much more. You get a really good feeling when you show someone something that makes their day, makes them look good, or can make their lives easier.”
Shopping is always about the experience. If a customer feels like they’re shopping with a friend, they’re going to stay longer and feel more comfortable, rather than being in a store wherein the associate gives them the cold shoulder and only starts engaging when they think the shopper is willing to make a purchase.
Equip yourself and your staff with industry knowledge
Aside from product and inventory knowledge, see to it that your staff is also on top of the latest industry news and trends.
“Customers obviously want to speak to associates who know what they’re talking about, so make sure they have knowledge of your industry. There are easy ways to do this. You can have weekly memos that talk about what’s going in your field. That way, when a customer walks in, associates can offer tons of relevant and timely titbits.”
Be subtle when necessary
You don’t always have to be explicit with the products you’re suggesting. Depending on the customer, you could be a bit more subtle with how you recommend things.
A good approach could be to compliment items that you like (or think the customer will like) in the store. “You could say ‘I really like the colour of that bag.’ Or, let’s say a shopper wants to buy a black dress. You could mention that you just had another customer shopping for the same product and they also liked the other items in the store.”
“They key is making them aware of your other products without pushing them to buy.”
Learning how to effectively suggestive sell can do wonders for your bottom line, but you shouldn’t just do it for the sales. Practice suggestive selling to genuinely add value. Do it because want to help shoppers find products they want and need and because you want to educate them on how they can get the most out of their purchases.
“Suggestive selling should be about enlightening people on how they can improve their lives and showing them products, they can actually use.”