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  • Upscale Selling, Part 1

    Most shoppers have a purchase in mind when they walk through your door: Unless you're out of stock, or you treat them poorly, you're well positioned to make a sale. But your sales work only begins when a customer enters the shop.

    Your task, and that of your employees, should be to satisfy the needs of your customers and the needs of your business.

    The two best ways to ensure this task are through:

    Active selling — showing your employees how to exceed customers' expectations.
    Silent selling — attractive displays and signage.

    Active Selling

    You know plant and floral material so well that you may forget some customers feel anxious about making selections. Once you've listened carefully to their first remarks, put them at ease with reassuring statements such as, "We have exactly what you want," or, "Everything will be perfect."

    Unless they're buying something for themselves, praise them for being so thoughtful. "What a nice thing to do." "Won't she be surprised?" "That's a great idea."

    Praise has several benefits. First, it makes the customer feel good, and second, it gets them to volunteer more information about the recipient. It's a great transition into a discussion of the specifics of their purchase.

    Focus on Customers, Not Price

    Through discreet questioning and careful listening, you can get a thorough understanding of what the customer wants and needs.

    A word of caution — sometimes customers don't know they want an item. In this case, you should discreetly help them. A young man may say he wants a small bouquet for his girlfriend, but watch his body language. If he's eyeing a much larger arrangement in a fancy vase, you may need to discuss it.

    The best approach is to start at the high-end and work down. Offer some choices and avoid discussing price.

    One good technique is to surround the best option with higher and lower priced items. You will find that 75 to 85 percent of your customers will select the middle option.

    Make sure the item you put in the middle represents a good profit for the shop and a good value for the customer. In many markets, a $40 to $45 arrangement makes a good middle price.

    The choice-among-three approach makes the customer feel good about you because you've offered a lower priced item. This approach also makes them feel good because they haven't selected the lowest priced item.

    Important — show the top of the line alone before you offer options. Some customers will buy it without hesitation.

    Remember you're not only in the flower business; you're in the customer satisfaction business. Customers come back again and again if they are treated well and they have bought something that has made someone happy.

    A Most Common Mistake

    Avoid, at all costs, beginning the sales process by asking, "How much do you want to spend?"

    This approach makes the financial side of the purchase — rather than the customer's need — the main consideration. Often, it automatically rules out any chance to provide a higher priced item, which may suit the customer's needs better and will better serve the shop.

    Avoid Price Competition

    Consumers' thirst for exceptional service is seemingly endless. Fortunately, many are now willing to pay for that service. Catering to this crowd is a worthy pursuit. It takes more work but the profit margins are higher.

    Consider that the majority of your customers are ordering by phone. They want to save the time it takes to come into your shop. If you deliver a good product and you do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it, in most cases you won't have to use price to compete.

    Almost without exception, their employer has trained good service providers and salespeople. Employees will always be more successful if they are taught how to work with customers. The necessary skills are not difficult, but some basic concepts and lots of practice are necessary.

    Invest in Your People

    Never put a new employee on the sales floor without an orientation and assessment of their sales skills. Ask every person who handles sales, no matter how experienced, to commit to sales training. If they are exceptional in sales, enlist their help in teaching others. Listen to new employees when they take phone orders. After each call, discuss the person's technique.

    One excellent way to accomplish this is to lead an in-house sales training session. First, demonstrate a skill, and then role-play. Have the employees observe you in action. When you think the person is ready, put him or her in the sales seat while you watch the role-playing.

    When the individual's encounter is over, offer a critique. Always try to give more positive than negative feedback. Keep doing this until you're satisfied with each employee's sales skills. 

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