Home Truths: Return to retail


Lesson #6: Return To Retail… The Last Detail

I was so distraught on hearing the recent news that the man in the mirror had passed through it that I accidentally wandered into a mobile phone store to cheer myself up. It didn’t work.

For the record it wasn’t any mobile store but one that is run by a very, very large organisation. The sort of organisation, which probably has ridiculous numbers of highly-paid middle managers involved in managing sales activity.

Managers who themselves couldn’t sell a pie to a hungry man and have never been belly-to-belly with a live prospect.

(Except once, on the compulsory ‘Back to the Floor’ day several years ago, when they arrived late, left early and spent most of their time as far from the till as possible delivering an Oscar-winning performance as someone too busy and too important to be spoken to whilst also demonstrating Olympic-medal winning ability in customer-eye-contact avoidance.)

You know the sort I mean. If you are unlucky enough to be caught up in one of their many sales strategy meetings, you either leave or resort to playing bullshit bingo to make the time pass quicker. Meetings filled with rehashed cut-and-paste PowerPoint presentations but bereft of common sense, allocation of responsibilities or, heaven forefend, accountability.

“At this critical moment in time I am your leader and I’m right behind you. We need to pull together, touch base and apply some holistic blue-sky vision and value-led thinking to the challenge before us. Make no mistake; this is a no-brainer.

“In fact we are going to need to get our ducks and drakes in a row. The competition is gorging itself on our low hanging fruit. It’s overtime for an idea shower. And never forget retail is detail.”


On the evidence of my recent forays into stores, here is one minor ‘detail’ they still miss. It doesn’t matter what else you get right if you don’t show the person who is the face of your company, the person who actually meets your potential customer, what to do.

I don’t mean send them on a tick-the-box induction course run by one of those ‘you-don’t-have-to-be-able-to-sell-to-be-a-great-sales-trainer’ types. (Fact…you do! I’m pleased to be able to burst that bubble.) I mean really work with them so that they are capable of consistently reproducing the desired behaviour in live situations.

Silly me, maybe I was assuming that you know what that desired behaviour is!

Quick test.

Question: What normally happens when someone who looks like a sales assistant walks up to a potential customer in a retail environment and says, “Can I help you at all?”

Answer: “No thanks I’m only looking.”

Is that the desired response? Why do you still allow it? Is it just me? Is all the work that I did years ago a complete waste of time? I suppose I should have been pleased they didn’t ask and then answer the question for me at the same time, “Can I help you at all or are you just looking?”.

The follow up was a classic in it’s own right. “Is there anything in particular that you are looking for?”

If after all these years we still struggle to even engage potential customers in meaningful conversations then there are not going to be many profitable conversions over and above those that were going to buy anyway.

Even if you don’t improve any other part of the sales process, if we attract more people to the front of the funnel more will drop out the other end.

It is not the customer’s responsibility to open up to us. It is our responsibility to make them want to engage with us. The technique for doing this is proven, has been in mobile for over 15 years now and is based upon a basic scientifically-supported study of human behaviour.

To be frank I cannot be frustrated with the ‘assistant’ in question. I’d wager my Michael Jackson O2 tickets that they like so many others would love to have the opportunity to learn how to do it properly. The most frequent comment I have heard over the years, having had the pleasure of passing on the knowledge and skill, is…. “If only I had known that years ago.”

I was very lucky; I was shown it years ago when I first started selling, by an organisation that truly invested in it’s front line people. Not in PowerPoint presentations or annual reports but on the ground.

Therefore, I blame the decision makers in these organisations who deny their front line staff access to the very best that is available.

What has this got to do with unified communications? Simple. There is still time to up-skill the front line people before these new products and services hit retail if you act now.

Maybe you should look at yourself in the mirror and ask if you are providing the very best for your people. If not, beat it.

n.b. This column is not available as a PowerPoint download.

Full article available in the printed version of Mobile News only. Home Turths appears every other issue.

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