Columnists Brad Huisken Retaining Customers

Retaining Customers

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I don’t know if you realize it, but there is a major controversy between to retail schools of thought. One thought is that price is king and customer loyalty is dead. The other thought is customer loyalty is alive and well, professionalism in many organizations is what is dead. I believe the second is true, that customer loyalty is alive and well.

After having a several hour long argument with someone on this very subject we agreed to disagree. He then said to me let’s go eat. I said OK, where should we go? He said he had a favorite BBQ restaurant that was about 30 minutes away, but it was the best BBQ in the area. I said how about we go to the BBQ place on the corner. He said no, the other place was much nicer, more expensive, but that I would enjoy the experience. That rekindled the entire argument, he then couldn’t say much.

It has been written and stated thousands of times that as much as 70 - 80% of a retail store’s sales volume comes from 20 - 30% of its customer base. I absolutely believe this to be true.

What you don’t hear very often is that you are probably losing 25 - 30% of your customer base on an annual basis. Where is your customer base going? They may move to another community, maybe they have had a change in economic conditions and are no longer purchasing jewelry, maybe they have gone to your competition, maybe they have reached an age where they are no longer buying jewelry – they are giving it away, or it could be that they have passed away. My point is that you are losing a tremendous number of your customers weekly, monthly and annually.

In order to just break even you have to increase your customer base by a minimum of 25 - 30%. Increasing your customer base is no easy task, especially in today’s economic conditions. Therefore it is essential that you look at each and every customer, or potential customer, as an opportunity to not only make a sale, but also, more importantly, to make a friend.

Everybody still wants their “buddy” in the business, people want to buy from, and do business with their friends. It is obviously apparent that the customer doesn’t have a “buddy” in the jewelry business. If they did have a buddy in the business they would be shopping in that person’s store rather than yours. I have said for years that when a customer comes into a jewelry store, they are not looking for jewelry, they are looking for a place and a person from whom to buy jewelry.

Too often salespeople believe that the goal when a customer walks in is to make a sale. Yes, I want to make a sale as well. However, I know that if I make a friend, the likelihood of making a sale both now and in the future has increased dramatically. 

So the question is: how do you make friends with your customers? First and foremost, especially in the jewelry business, focus on the emotional reason “why” the customer is buying. 99% of all purchases made in a jewelry store are to satisfy some emotional need.

Be a great listener, share in the event or occasion, develop a conversation about the event or occasion, and genuinely care about this special event happening in their life. After all, you are not just selling jewelry; you are helping people to celebrate the special moments in their lives.

Secondly, capture the customers, name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and most importantly - permission for follow-up. Get the customer to ask you to call them after they pick up that special piece for their next special occasion. And then, when you call relate something personal.

For example: Calling a customer after they picked up a repair and saying that you just wanted to see how the repair went and by the way I am mailing your daughter Ashley the cutest little ladybug that I found the other day. I know when she talked about her collection that ladybugs were really her thing. Then, and only then, can you start to develop a long-term relationship where the customer will think of you as their friend in the business. 

Follow that up with the things we talked about in last month’s article; sending holiday, birthday, anniversary, graduation cards. Through follow-up phone calls, surprise gifts, thank you notes, flowers on Mother’s Day, etc. relationships are developed. In other words act like a 25 year old courting the love of your life trying to win their heart. After all that’s what relationship selling is all about.

You have to genuinely care about people and work every day to focus your attention on making friends and not just making sales. For many stores this may be a complete culture shock, but the results are incredible. In retail jewelry we can no longer be satisfied with salespeople that make sales. We need sales professionals making friends and lifelong customers!


Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Huisken has authored several books and training manuals on sales and  produces a Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Visit his website at www.iastraining.com.

 
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