I remember as a young college kid (yeah, I’m old enough to say that now), I worked in a ski and patio furniture store (it was the Midwest so skiing in the winter, patio furniture in the summer). What I learned quickly in selling the goods was that most people had no working knowledge of skiing or patio furniture and it came down to a price game with our competitors.
So I educated them first and foremost about patio furniture. I explained why an aluminum frame was better, how powder coating lasted longer than any other finish, and why the manufacturer felt comfortable offering a five year warranty.
So customers weren’t given the hard sell, but an education. And that invariably turned into customers checking out the competition and then almost always coming back to us to buy (even if another store was selling the same thing).
It was about building a relationship with the customer through education.
Take a look at this Business Week Small Business article about selling through education. While it focuses on more hard-core business-to-business selling, its tenets are applicable to retail.
THE REAL WORLD TAKEAWAY
I was recently talking to a guy who runs a sporting good store that focuses heavily on biking. This guy Pete, has done a great job of educating customers and has built unbelievable relationships with them.
To boost sales, he created a women’s biking clinic. The clinic featured a night with a glass of wine, light appetizers and reps from various lines on hand to help educate the women about biking. He had a sports nutrition expert on hand to talk about how to eat right. It almost turned into an “empowering women” event.
The result. About 65 women showed up, got educated and bought merchandise (to the tune of several thousand dollars). But more importantly, Pete built a personal relationship with 65 people who will no doubt become evangelists for his brand.
Here are a few ways you can better educate your customers.
Touch each customer while they’re in your store — spend a little time explaining why a certain product or brand is unique or better than everything else that’s out there (or teach about the entire category (biking, skiing, patio furniture, etc.)).
Host a special event – Just like Pete conceptualized his event, it doesn’t have to be sales-oriented. Create educational events and the sales will follow.
Use your database and email – I’m a big proponent of emails that aren’t about selling something, but about educating someone. What’s relevant to your customer base? Speak to that and include the selling part as a mention at the end. For instance, you may want to educate your customers about sunscreen and the importance of wearing it. And then at the end just add, “here are three products we recommend.”
How are you educating your customers to increase sales?