As specialty retailers, the most important part of our job is ensuring our customers have the best experience possible when shopping in our stores. At the Mann Group, that means following GEAR, a process we’ve been breaking down in our monthly newsletter. We began with “G”, or “Get Involved” with the customer and engage them in genuine ways; then we talked about “E,” or “Edit,” during which you determine the customer’s needs; and last month we began to discuss the A of GEAR, or “Appeal.”
To “Appeal” to a customer, you need to provide them with a bona fide experience with the product. Rather than relying on blatant “closing techniques” that tend to ward off customers anyways, simply provide a way for the customer to interact with the product and experience that charming feeling of ownership. You don’t ever have to “sell” a customer—it’s something that just happens naturally if we do our job well.
As they begin to experience the product (nice work!), conversation will arise. They have questions, and as a knowledgeable salesperson, you have the answers. But here’s where it gets tricky.
When talking about a specific product with a customer, we suggest the easy acronym FBI to guide your talking points:
-Features: Discuss the technical features of the product, like what it’s made of, how it’s constructed and how it works.
-Benefits: Explain the personal benefits the product will have for the customer and how it will positively impact their sport and life.
-Imagery: Create for the customer the visual imagery of them enjoying this product.
Seems easy, right? The problem is, most sales associate tend to concentrate on the “F,” or the technical features of the product—and it’s not hard to see why. We’ve been thoroughly trained on the detailed aspects of pretty much every item in the store; it’s our job to know the ins and outs of every product we sell. And when a customer asks about a product or tests it out, it’s our time to shine—we produce every statistic and component down to the finest minutia.
The problem is, for the novice (or even experienced) customer, this can all be very overwhelming. It’s impossible for them to absorb all that technical information at once. But even worse, it can distance the customer, making it difficult for them to connect with the product on a personal level, or even prompting them to feel unknowledgeable or simple, since a lot of that information might go right over their head.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t share these technical features with the customer—you didn’t receive all that training for naught—you just need to make sure you balance the technical details with the benefits and imagery.
For some sales folks, it can be difficult to distinguish between a feature and a benefit. Once you’ve established the differences between the two, it will be easy to discuss them separately with your customers. Whereas features cover the dry details of a product (what it’s made of, how it works), benefits cover the personal impact of the product on the customer.
Take, for example, a pair of merino wool socks. The features of these socks are obvious: they’re 100% merino wool (in fact, that’s probably a fact that’s blatantly stated on the label). The benefits, however, are a little less tangible, and probably not clearly stated on the front of the product label. When you discuss the benefits with the customer, you might mention that merino wool wicks moisture away from the body, keeping the feet drier, and that it also provides a better fit for less irritation—both of which, in turn, allow for longer, more comfortable hikes.
Unlike the feature, which isn’t directly applicable to the personal life of the customer, the benefits are easy for them to not only grasp, but to envision benefitting them on a personal level.
The third factor in FBI, “Imagery,” is directly linked to the benefits. Once you’ve laid out the general benefits of the product, relate them personally to this specific customer and their requests. Essentially, it’s time for you to take up your role as a storyteller and set the scene for their own enjoyment of this product. For example, if the customer mentioned earlier that they tend to get blisters when they hike many miles, you could easily reference the preferability of these merino socks for them. Help them envision long hikes on the trail unfettered by blisters or discomfort, thanks to these new socks. Not only does that make it easy for the customer to envision the positive impact of the product, it also proves you were listening, building that valuable sense of trust.