Tablet to Table
Technology helps serve up sales
Stephanie Richardson -- Casual Living, 9/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
As I was working on my retail displays the other day, I got to thinking about how much and how little has changed in sales techniques over the past few decades.
My sales training started right out of college. Like any eager grad, I was looking for the perfect job that would allow me to utilize my journalism and mass communications degree to its fullest. But like so many other starry-eyed, newly-educated, up-to-my-eyeballs-in-debt, 21-year-olds, I quickly got over my "purest" goals and took a crazy sales job: selling campground memberships. I can't even believe I'm admitting that in public. But it paid the bills, so what the heck.
Much of what I and my fellow sales team members learned from seminar instructors during that time was akin to selling by script. Smile, show excitement, put them in the picture, do the takeaway, sign them up.
Then came personal computers. Then laptops. Then smart phones. Then tablets. And I realized the other day, that even though technology has moved forward at a dizzying pace, many of those sales techniques I learned so long ago still hold true.
I'm lucky that I have staff for which smiling, laughing and showing excitement comes naturally. They love being here. Heck, there are days I have to kick them out of here. They even show up on days off and will jump in and lend a hand if we need. Customers notice, and they love being here too. I figure that's half the battle won.
The other half the battle is "putting them in the picture." I find that with increasing frequency, technology is our friend. I have a rule against having cell phones on the sales floor, but it's not a hard and fast rule. I would much rather have my staff use their phone or tablet as a tool to help make a sale - after all, this is the age of instant gratification, and we need to be able to answer customer questions quickly. (This scores us points for customer service.) You can't imagine how many times a week we look for specific recipes for a customer, or seek out ones that will help them use our products. And we can print them and hand them off in a minute. Nine times out of 10 those recipes generate a sale. We certainly have come a long way from paying a small fortune to a graphic designer and a printer for small four-color jobs!
Our other challenge is that we can't always give our customer hands-on cooking experience. But we can put them in the picture by pulling out the tablet and showing off photos of foods we've prepared at home. It's a little like show and tell - we can show gorgeous pictures, and we can talk knowledgeably about that specific product, which gives us credibility that carries over to our other products.
Of course like many of you, we also use desktop and hand-held devices to leverage social media to reach customer or potential customers who are not in the store. I use the computer to write our newsletter in which I chat about events that are coming up, new staff members, notable new products and more. But I also can stand on the sales floor with my phone and take a photo of new merch to post on Facebook without even having to walk back to the office. I no longer need a photographer, a prop stylist and a food stylist to have photos that dazzle our audiences. And at least once a day, someone comes in and says, "I came in because I saw your post on Facebook." That's pretty powerful stuff.
I have no idea where technology will take us in the next few years. Sometimes it's intimidating. Sometimes it's frustrating. But many of the same tried and true methods of selling still work, even though the medium is constantly changing. In short, don't take away my tablet. Sign me up!
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