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Don’t Businesses Want to Make Money?

     I don’t understand it.  I walk into retail stores and restaurants every day and no one seems to want my money.  Employees hardly greet me.  They seem annoyed if I ask a question or even approach the counter.  And they are all behind the counter, usually talking to each other. Yep, talking to the only people who are NOT going to give them any money.  I’ve walked up to restaurants 30 minutes before closing time only to be turned away.  The dessert tray seems to have become a thing of the past – too much trouble.  There is not a human alive who at one time didn’t get sucked into buying dessert because the offer was made.

     I worked retail for many years and was often my store’s top salesperson.  It’s not hard.  But I rarely encounter anyone who sells in a retail setting.  Business owners – I hope you are reading this.  Because you have got to change the way you do business or the only place we’ll have to shop in five years is Walmart.  And I find that incredibly depressing.

      Here’s what I think:

 1. Your people are not being trained to sell.  They say something ridiculous like “Let me know if you need anything” and then wander off.  If your frontline people are saying “Can I help you?” they just shut down 95% of all customer interaction.  Would you welcome a friend to your house by saying “Can I help you?”  I say that to people I want to go away.

 2. Your people have no incentive to sell.  If you don’t have your people on some kind of performance based pay, you are a crazy person.  The people that move product and make you money should get paid more than those who don’t.   

 3. You have the wrong people.  You need to hire people who really like what you sell and are eager to share their enthusiasm.  If a waitress tells me a dessert is the best thing ever, I almost always try it.  I’ve bought things just because a store employee came over and told me how something was made or how much they liked it.  If all your people want to do is go home, get new people.

 4. Your people don’t understand what their job really is.  Is it to restock shelves and   man the register or is it to sell merchandise?  Do YOU know what their job is?  I am hard pressed to think of any frontline jobs where the real job isn’t selling (and this is true for service businesses as well).    Yes, you have to keep drinks refilled and stock and straighten and clean.  But all that won’t matter if you don’t make money.  Your people can do all that AND sell if they are trained well.  I think they often do all that to avoid selling.  Tell people about specials?  Solve their problems?  Make offers?  Interact?  Eww!

 5. Your people think selling is a bad thing.  This cannot stand if you need to make money through sales (and who doesn’t?).   Selling is a blast!  It’s not about forcing people to buy things they don’t want.  It’s about solving their problems, bringing fun or beauty into their lives.  It’s about helping them get what they want. 

 We had great stuff in the store where I worked.  But if you weren’t there every day, it could be hard to find things.  We had items customers wanted to handle before they could decide to buy them locked in cases.  We had to make sure customers knew we would be glad to show them these things.  You have to make buying fun and easy.  And no, people are not going to hunt down one of your employees to show them something.  They are just going to walk out.  With their money.

 My favorite stores call me when things come I might like or when they have a big sale.  Often stores are so packed with merchandise most of us need help finding what we want and employees are a great resource in pointing things out.  I love to hear about the specials at restaurants or what the most popular items are.   All of this is great service (and it’s selling!).  I hate stores where the employees aren’t excited about their own products.  They can’t seem to wait to get out of there and, as a result, neither can I.  My money and I leave quickly.

 6. Your people don’t know their merchandise.  Good restaurants have wait staff try the specials.  Good retailers make sure their people know all about the merchandise.  It is hard to sell what you’re not familiar with.  It’s easy to sell things you know and love.

    Please, please make money and save us from Walmart.

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Len R. Gehl
9 years ago

I believe that there are two types of people in the world. Someone who is good to have a beer with and someone who is good to work with. Both are good at something, but I only want one of them on my payroll. Finding the right people is the key, you need someone that wants to be good at what they do. You can train a lot of things, but you can not train someone to give their best effort. These are the diamonds, the people you can build a dynasty on. The challenge is to not miss the… Read more »