With the domination of internet shopping sites like Amazon.com, retail stores, particularly those stores selling electronic equipment, have struggled to find their place in the market. Consumers tend to shop at the “brick-and-mortar” stores to get access to the product and then purchase the item at a lower price online. What could possibly change this dynamic?

The formula for success for the “big box” retailers lies in the quality of services they can provide to the customer – more specifically the quality of the relationship they can develop with the customer. What if the sale of a product at a retail store became less of a transaction and more of an opportunity to build a relationship? Can you develop enough trust and dependence on the “brick-and-mortar” store to insure that the final purchase goes through this retail channel? I believe that you can if you develop a sales organization that is willing to work with the customer to better their needs and propose the best, most cost effective solution based on the unique requirements of the customer.

The enhancement of the “big box” sales teams begins with the elimination of the phase “can I help you”. A closed-ended, yes or no question is not a way to start a conversation. “What brings you into the store today” is a better start and can allow the customer to provide some background information on what they are trying to achieve with the store visit. From here, the retail rep has to exhibit a desire to really learn about the customer. It goes beyond what products they are interested in. The rep needs to understand the motivation behind the interest in the product. A new TV? “What room is it going to go into?” “What’s the distance between the TV and the TV viewers?” “What does the current environment look like?” “Is a Blu-ray player going to be connected to the system?” “What type of cable or satellite system is it going to connect to?” “Are you an online games player?” “Is there a need for an enhanced sound system?” “How many hours a day does the TV get used?” “What type of installation support is needed?”

Once the basic information is gathered, the retail rep can work with the customer to enhance the new environment. “Are you aware of the additional level of programming that can be provided after connecting the TV to the internet?” “Would a single remote to operate all of the devices be important to you?” The retail rep’s job is not only to help the customer select the best product based on their requirements but to help the customer envision an enhanced environment based on new insight and knowledge shared by the rep. At the same time, the retail sales rep has to demonstrate a real interest in getting to know the customer and the unique ways the rep can help. The development of this type of a relationship represents a departure from the average retail experience and, most importantly, represents a differentiation between the retail and online experience.

The bottom line is this – people like to buy from people that they like and people that they trust. Price is an important buying criteria but it’s not the only criteria. As a consumer, you not only want to get a good deal, you also want to make sure you are making the best decision possible – a decision based on your unique requirements. You need to talk to a real person with subject matter expertise to make sure that “best decision” occurs. The retail stores need to make a transition. They are not there to process a transaction. They are there to address the particular needs of the people in their geography. The internet can’t do that!

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