Most People Want to Buy Local
Most people want to buy local—but you need to give them a reason to. I have heard a lot of business owners say, “They should buy from me because I have a business in town!” Those owners are right. Customers in your area should give you a chance. What you do with that chance is up to you.
You spend money sponsoring organizations and donating to every organization representative who walks through the door, and you wish the town would support you more in return. The key is to capitalize on every person who walks through the door.
It is best to treat each person who enters your store looking for a donation just the same as you would a customer. If the person is already a customer, then you should be happy that a customer is there asking you for a donation. If the person is not a customer, you should be positive—because he or she might become a customer.
When people visit your business, you have your chance to make a great impression from beginning to end. How you greet the customers is important, as is your process for trying to sell them your product. How the customers feel when leaving your store is also very important. If you don’t want to be there or you act like their business doesn’t matter to you, then the customers will know it.
Our process for communicating with visitors to our store is very simple; we teach our process to every salesperson who works for us before he or she talks to any customers. As our salespeople start interacting with customers, we review each contact the salespeople had. We review how well the salespeople stuck to the process, and we critique everything they said. After a couple of months, they know to follow the process every time because the process makes them more money and makes the customers happier.
So, what is the process? First, you have to greet your customers in an enthusiastic, positive way. Let them know from the beginning that you are excited they are there.
Next, try to build some rapport, find some common ground, and find out what they are looking for. When a customer says, “Just looking,” you must be proactive.
“Great!” you should say. “What are you looking for?” You should then offer examples of the products you sell. For instance, in the car business we might say, “Great! What are you looking for—a car? A truck? An SUV? A van?”
The customer always responds with one of those vehicle choices. It is a little hard for them to say that they are “just looking” at this point. If, however, they say “I’m just looking” again, that’s their signal that they need some space. Give it to them, but remain attentive.
Once you get the customer talking, it becomes a good time to talk about anything else than what you are selling in your store. What has always worked best for me is finding that common ground. (We’ll explore this in greater detail in chapter 12, “Getting to Know Your Customers.”) Usually with just a few questions, I can find some common ground. Perhaps this new customer is the friend of one of your existing customers. Finding that sort of common ground is huge; it makes your customers feel comfortable knowing that someone they know is already doing business with you.
After you have found some common ground, you show them your product. With automobiles, we show them all of the features on the interior and exterior of the car, the engine, and all of the new technology. You must sell customers on what you sell in your store.
After you have done a good job with these steps, you should ask for the sale. How you ask for the sale will be based on what you are selling. In our business, we say, “Is this something you want to try to make a deal on?” In your business, you might say, “Is this something I can get wrapped up for you?” Whatever it is, ask for the sale; don’t expect customers to just say they are going to buy it.
Be careful that you don’t come off as pushy. There is a difference between being forthright and being pushy. Customers need to know that you want to sell them something. It helps them to know that their business is important to you.
Once you have made the sale, don’t forget also to thank customers for their business. You also should offer great service after the sale. Attaining both of these goals is much easier if you can capture the customers’ contact information so that your business can stay in touch with them. You can send them letters in the mail or else e-mail them when you have a sale or a special event. Just try to keep in contact with them the best way you can.
When we sell cars, we get all of the contact information of customers. We stay in touch, starting with a follow-up call a few days after the purchase to make sure everything is going well. Then they receive a letter from the salesperson and a letter from me expressing thanks for doing business with our company. In three months, we send another letter to remind customers it’s time for the first oil change. In six months, we send another letter to let them know we hope they still enjoy their vehicle. We also have two goals with this letter: we invite them to call with questions, and we ask for referrals. One year after their purchase, we send them another letter congratulating them on one year of owning the new vehicle.
Obviously, your ways of contacting your customers will be different if you are not in the car business. You should look for ways to keep your name in front of them at all times. You do not want them to shop somewhere else because they forgot who you are.
You also want your customers to feel comfortable in your store. The customer can pick up on everything. Many little things make the customer feel either content or uneasy. You definitely always want your customers to have a comfortable feeling.
If they are comfortable, they will stay in your store longer and spend more money. A comfortable customer enjoys the experience of being in your business and remembers that feeling when leaving. A comfortable customer comes back, buys from you again and again, and last of all, tells everyone about the comfortable experience.
An uncomfortable customer can’t wait to get out of your store. An uncomfortable customer will not buy anything. That person will not come back. The uneasy, distressed customer tells his or her friends about being uncomfortable at your business.
You have to ask yourself, “What makes these customers uncomfortable?” It might be seeing your staff gossip or argue in front of customers. It might be an employee of yours who brings personal problems to work. It might be an employee who rubs everyone the wrong way. Whatever the situation is, you have to fix it—right away.
When dealing with employees, I’ve found great wisdom in my father’s advice to ask myself a certain question: “Would I hire this person back if they quit?” If the answer is no, then it is time for you to find someone else.
There are numerous ways to make customers feel comfortable in your store and to keep these customers buying local. I will lay these methods out for you in this book. I will talk about setting the right price, having outstanding customer service, creating a professional environment, fostering a great staff attitude, and getting involved in your community. I will also talk about all the different types of advertising that work in your town.
The bottom line is that you can’t expect people to buy from you simply because you have a business in town. They are only going to buy from you if you give them a reason to buy.