Take my money

Our correspondent found stores unwilling to help him buy a much-needed bed.

The time had come when my wife and I needed a new bed – or at least a new mattress. So I embarked on a search of bed shops in Salisbury. I found six. The results were truly unbelievable. Of the six, two of which were national chains, two ‘salespeople’ actually got up out of their seats to speak to me; three spoke and pointed me in the direction of their beds. One actually gave me the grand tour, but not one asked me any  questions, not one. Not even about the size of bed I was interested in buying. 

Surely in order to sell to a prospective customer the ‘salesperson’ should actually talk to them and put them at ease. At that moment in time, I was the easiest target they had ever had: I obviously needed a bed. I’m – how to put this? – showing signs of wear and tear. My hips, knees and back are all giving me jip, not to mention my shoulders and neck. Not only did these employees not speak to me or ask questions, they didn’t  appear to notice I was struggling to get around the store.

I have often been told that selling is ‘just a numbers game’. It’s embedded in the marketing and advertising. Heavy advertising by the big names will get enough people into your stores, and enough will buy to keep you in business. No one knows how many potential buyers enter stores on a daily basis, or weekly even. No one. No company knows the conversion percentage, certainly not the ‘salespeople’. Most salespeople will convert between 10% and 20%, if you are lucky. The fact is that no owner or senior manager knows the rate for the company, a single store or an individual. 

I know that a competent salesperson will convert 40% come rain or shine. 

You may be worrying about turnover being down. Maybe you have nightmares about it. Close your eyes now and picture this: your store is heaving, as it did before the pandemic. Listen to the chatter. Now look at 40% of that crowd buying – that’s just four in 10. That would be a nightmare. All that administration… jammed warehouses arranging deliveries…

Think of all the money spent on advertising to bring all those hordes into your stores and 80%-90% walk out without buying. What a nightmare. Combine that with your discounts and it could be the end of your business. Your biggest sale could be your closing-down sale.

Think of all the money spent on advertising to bring all those hordes into your stores and 80%-90% walk out without buying. What a nightmare. Combine that with your discounts and it could be the end of your business. Your biggest sale could be your closing-down sale.

were totally honest. Few actually have  much product knowledge, and those who do, don’t know how to use it. The rest make it up as they go along, relying on numbers not selling skills. 

I never lied to a prospect, there is no point. Apart from the sale, the most important objective of getting the sale is gaining a customer – that is a point usually missed. The greatest satisfaction for a salesperson is for a previous buyer to return to them and say they were so pleased with their sofa/bed/mattress that they would like to buy their next item from you. This relationship could last the rest of your selling career. That is the ultimate goal: repeat orders from the same customer and recommendations to their friends. 

I retired in 2009 and I still meet people who bought from me and are still pleased with their purchase. 

Andrew Adamson is a retired furniture salesman

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