Postaday2011 – Salesmen v customers

Having owned a retail business I am familiar with both sides of the equation, sales staff are there to sell and customers come in because they want to buy. Sounds simple doesn’t it, so why is the entire process so fraught?

If you go to John Lewis, House of Fraser or any other big department store you can try asking for discount but invariably you will receive a polite refusal. The exception to this is when they are trying to shift stuff that has either been replaced by a newer shinier version or it’s tat. Sales usually comprise a mixture of the two. “Special sale item” = stuff we’ve bought in cheap or something we couldn’t shift last time.

If however you go to buy a big ticket item from an independent dealer, and I have some experience of this having owned the Bang & Olufsen shop, the art of buying and selling takes on a whole new dimension.

One of my team went on an official B&O sales training course during which they had role play. The customer comes in, is greeted by the staff, light pleasantries follow and then the question how can I assist you or something similar. Unfortunately my chap said that customers should be given a copy of the script when they entered so they understood that they should be nice to us and buy stuff. I was told not to send him again as he was disruptive. Anyway it’s all a game.

We once had a man stand in front of a television with a clearly displayed price ticket, “how much is that telly then?” he asked me. Bending to look at the price label I advised him that it was £5200 (our top model), he could clearly see the price. “How much do you want for it he continued?” I often wondered why people bothered to ask when it was so clearly shown and the answer of course is he wants a deal, something off. Well we can all try that one. Sometimes depending on my mood I’d run with this and ask what they would be buying to complement it, some speakers perhaps or a DVD player. If they were up for more than one item we could probably do something for them to sweeten the deal. But why should we? Margins were very slim on B&O kit in those days.

Buying cars is like this, salesmen will tell you the one you want is in high demand so discounts are minimal. If you’re trading in there’s no demand for that colour / spec whatever. Come on guys you want to sell we want to buy. Why not tell me your best price up front or even better price the car at the minimum price you’ll accept and don’t do discount ever on anything. It would make life so much simpler.


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