The Seven Steps Of Selling For Retail Professionals

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Working in a retail store is all about the customer.  When someone walks into the store, your job is not just to sell them something, but to ensure that they have such a positive experience while they’re in your store, that not only will they want to return, but they’ll also tell their friends.  Your goal is to build your business, and happy customers are a big part of that.

How do you do that?  How do you let your customers know that you value their business and take pride in a job well done?  It’s not always easy, but it’s  do-able.  Most companies have a list of steps that their employees must follow to “get the sale.”  It often varies between four and ten steps, depending on the environment the company is looking to create.  When I trained staff, I used seven steps, and in this article I’ll break them down, and explain how to make the most of them.


The greeting is the most important part of any customer interaction.  A customer wants to feel like they are important to you, and this is a good way to start on the right foot.  A good rule of thumb is the 10/10 rule.  This means, your greeting should happen within ten seconds of the customer entering the store, or  when they’ve hit no more than 10 feet from the entrance.  Make sure you smile, and give them a brief and sincere greeting. If you are with another customer, a smile and a nod of acknowledgement will do, but once you’re done, go to the customer and let them know you’re there to help.

No matter how casual an environment you work in, your greeting should always be polite and somewhat formal. Use words such as “hello, and welcome,” and not things like, “Hey, hi… what’s up.”  This is your chance to make a first impression, so make sure it’s a good one.

Once you’ve done this, walk up to the customer and ask what you can do to help them.  If they tell you that they’re “just looking,” that’s ok. Tell them your name, inform them of any specials you may be running, and let them know that if they need you, you’ll be right there to help, and politely excuse yourself.  After a few minutes, you can check in with them again and make sure they’re finding everything they need.

Determining Needs

So, you’ve welcomed your customer into the store.  What’s next?  You need to find out what it is that your customer wants.  This is where you start asking open-ended questions.  An open-ended question is one that brings about further conversation, as opposed to a yes or no answer.  One example would be “What can I help you find today?”  When determining needs, the more questions you ask, the more likely you are to figure out what your customer wants.  Shoot for three to five questions.

Presenting Merchandise

Once you know what the customer wants, take them, if possible, to the merchandise, or retrieve it and bring it to the customer.  Most people like to be able to touch and feel things when they purchase something.  Show them a selection, but don’t overwhelm.  Keep it simple.  Don’t show more than three items at a time.  Explain each item’s features and benefits.

Overcoming Objections

This part is a little trickier.  Your customer has something he wants, but is waffling.  Maybe he’s not quite sure it’s the right item, or he’s not happy with the price.  Listen to his concerns, without interrupting, and then see what you can do to allay them.  Maybe you can tell him about the benefits, and all the things the product will do for him, or explain how much value the product will bring.  Honestly, the more you know about your product, the easier this will be to do.

Selling Add-Ons 

Otherwise known as “upselling,” this is the bane of many a retailer’s existence.  Often times we worry that we are being “pushy” if we try to sell extra things to plump up the sale.  It really depends how you go about it though.  Make sure that what you’re trying to add on complements the original item.  If you’re selling a purse, offer a wallet.  If you’re selling shoes, offer shoe cleaner.  The item you’re offering should make sense with the original item.  Don’t just offer, take the customer over and physically show her something. The worst that’s going to happen is that she’ll say no.  At least you tried. 


At some point, you’re going to need to bring the transaction to it’s natural conclusion.  This often seems tricky, but it’s not, if you do it correctly.  You’ve shown the customer something, they’ve decided about it, and maybe you’ve upsold them as well.  How do you finish?  Up to this point, you’ve kept control of the conversation, and now is time to continue.  You need to close the sale.  A good closing line doesn’t need to be complicated.  It can be something as simple as, “Would you like to go with this, then?” or, “Can I take this to the till for you?”  Just like that.  

Reinforcing The Sale

After you ring through the sale, you’re on the home stretch.  You’ve done everything to give your customer a great experience, and this last step should be no different.  First, thank your customer.  The customer is the reason you have a job.   Say thank you with a smile, and let them know that you mean it.  If a customer says it first, turn it back around on them, after all they are the boss.

Once you’ve thanked the customer, invite them back.  You don’t need to beg, but you do need to ask.  A lot of people trip over this part, and it can sound forced if you don’t do it right.  The key is really  to find something that you don’t feel awkward saying.  If “Thank you, come again,” doesn’t work for you, try something like, “See you soon.” It’s simple, it’s to the point, and it tells them that you want them to return.

Practice these steps with each and every customer, and once you’ve mastered them, see how much of a difference they make.  Treat every customer like your only customer, and they’ll be apt to return.  Happy retailing.


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