GEAR “Relationship” Part Three

We’re nearing the end of our series on GEAR. We began with G, or “Get Involved,” where we divulged our tips on engaging with your customer. Next, we covered “Edit,” during which you go beyond engagement with your customer to determine their needs and desires. Through “Appeal,” we discussed how to help create a vision for your customers, a vision in which they were the happy owners of their new product. And last month we began to discuss the final, perhaps most important, piece of the GEAR puzzle: “Relationship.”

All the preliminary steps of GEAR lead to this final integral piece, and in truth they all are this piece. Creating a true relationship of trust and genuineness with your customer isn’t just the most important part of this interaction, but countless interactions to come. Last month we discussed the process of initiating the sale with grace and authenticity; that’s the first of the last steps to navigate in creating a strong, foundational relationship with your new customer.

The next piece of Relationship is another “r” buzzword: “recommend.” This is admittedly one of the trickiest aspects of the retail sphere. You know our thoughts on gimmicks, sales pitches and so-called “closing techniques,” and it’s so easy for this step to fall into one of those categories. Of course you want to increase the sale, and there are genuinely products that the customer before you could benefit from, but there’s a fine line you must maneuver to maintain that strong foundation you’ve worked so hard to establish.

So how do we sell additional products to a customer if they’re looking for just one thing? The problem here lies in that tricky, single-syllable verb: “sell.” That word makes everyone involved uncomfortable. You don’t want to sell in the traditional ways to your customer, and they don’t want to be sold to.

Our first step is to alter our ways of thinking. Rather than approach the entire process as a sale, instead think of it as what it is at its core: helping someone get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer! For someone to truly enjoy their experience, it’s your responsibility to outfit them with all the tools and materials they’ll need to make the most of their new sport. Throughout your conversation you should be recommending other products they’ll need.

As you ask questions and listen to their answers, you’re discovering those additional needs to be filled with recommended products, plus you’re earning your credibility as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source. From that first introductory question—how can I help you?—and the way you responded to their answer, you’ve been recommending. There’s no reason to stop now! When you helped them find the answer to their initial question you established yourself as a reliable source, so recommending now is just the next natural step.

We understand that it can still be awkward. The last thing you want is to alienate a customer by pushing products they don’t want into their basket. Here are a few of our best tips for navigating those knotty waters:
-Recommend in context. If you’re listening closely and asking the right questions, opportunities for recommending will naturally present themselves. When a need arises, which it inevitably will, insert your recommendation with the smooth suaveness of the anti-car-salesman.
-Ask great questions and listen carefully. Through every step of GEAR, it always comes back to these two simple skills. As you ask, listen, and respond appropriately and knowledgeably, you establish yourself as an expert and a resource. Once that’s established, it’s simply helpful and natural for you to recommend additional products that could help them.

The most important goal to keep in mind through every recommendation, and in fact through the entirety of every interaction, is the customer’s comfort. Their happiness is a priority. Know how to gage their comfort, and how to manipulate your own actions to ensure their happiness. If at any point they seem uncomfortable or stressed, move on. Always make sure their needs are met and that they’re happy.

Another facet of recommending that’s important for retailers to remember is that it doesn’t guarantee a sale—and that that’s ok. By recommending these products to your customers as part of your interactions, you continue to establish yourself as a trustworthy and well-informed source; again, the relationship you establish with this customer is key. And just because they don’t purchase your recommendations today doesn’t mean they won’t do so in the future. When they realize you were right—they did need those socks or helmet—they’ll trust you even more for offering them sound advice all along.

About the Author:

As a freelance writer and editor, Emily has the luxury of being completely mobile—but there’s nowhere she’d rather be than right here in Asheville (though she’s on the road more often than not). You’ll find her work in a variety of publications around town and the country, as well as in our monthly newsletter. In her free time, Emily enjoys exploring the mountains and valleys around Asheville and the cocktail bars and restaurants within it. 

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