September 1, 2016
tom shay
tom shay

A simple strategy for retail sales success

Control the questions

With the exception of overtime, you know the game is over when the horn blows. In our industry, there is a different sound that indicates the game is over: “What is your price on...?”

When you hear that from a customer, the selling is over. The customer has decided there is no further value you, as a salesperson, can add. This comment may come as soon as you have shown a product or it may be after you have answered many questions. It is not necessarily a sign that the customer is ready to buy; she just wants to know your price. And there is a good chance you are not going to make the sale.

Perhaps this is where many get the idea that most customers are price shoppers. Add to that how much information, pricing and products can be found on the ’net, and it is a fair assumption that we cannot compete in this situation. Let’s change the game.

When a person walks into a garden centre, when the landscaper is talking with a customer, the customer needs to do the most talking in the form of answering our questions. Simply said, whoever is asking the most questions is the person who is controlling the conversation. We should be asking questions: “Why did you pick that item?” “What are you expecting this to look like after the landscaping is completed?”

Definitely, we cannot be saying, “Can I help you?” or “What do you want a bid on?”

The more we ask, the more we learn from the customer. And, the better we can direct the customer to the best solutions, which often have better margins.

There is also the issue of customers who take your information and, using a phone app such as RedLaser or ShopSavvy, decide where to shop. If you are a price shopper, any of these apps are great; find the item you want and then look it up to see what businesses are selling it for. If you have the time, you can always find someone that has an item for less.

However, what we can do is eliminate that one-on-one comparison. Think about how many items we sell that require the purchase of other items. Most anything in the yard or garden requires a pair of gloves. Nothing is installed without a shovel. Any plant requires fertilizer. The list is endless. What if every shovel, rake, hoe, or garden tool came with a free pair of gloves?  What if every plant came with the appropriate amount of starter fertilizer?

How is the customer going to price-shop these comparisons?

In our short time and space today we recognize the game can quickly be over, if we let the customer dictate the game according to price. If we want to win, we have to change the way we play the game. 

Tom Shay comes from a small business background, and has dedicated his life to promoting profitability for business owners, especially those in retail. A popular Congress speaker, he headlines the Congress 2017 Garden Centre Symposium, set for Jan. 11 at the Toronto Congress Centre. Register at