Normally, sales professionals and sales leaders look for my articles for information and insights. Today I want talk across the counter, directly to you: The Retail Consumer!
From supermarkets to restaurants, companies are employing more and more technology to remove “friction” from the sales process. There is no question automation and AI are changing the retail environment. Only time will tell how these changes will ultimately affect the buying process. But for now, I do know you customers are losing right now.
Technology is clouding two critical ideas as you are making retail purchases. As long as these two ideas are confused you cannot make your best buying decisions.
On a daily basis I meet customers who have confused information with knowledge. The internet will serve up more information on a given topic than any one person can ever consume! A poster in my local library summed it up perfectly: “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back you the right one!” Information is not knowledge, You need both to make sure you are spending your money well.
The other issues that customers confuse are price and cost. People make decisions based on the price of a product and end up spending much more than they should. This happens when they don’t understand or appreciate the real/actual cost of an item.
An unintended consequence of the ease and speed of technology in the buying process is the mistaken belief that Sales Professionals have no place in the new retail experience. In fact, it is the sales professional’s job to help customers bridge their knowledge gap. We direct you to the best, lowest cost option… even if that option may have the highest price!
As a consumer, you have three distinct scenarios where working, in person, with a professional will be to your benefit.
Honda Accords are wonderful cars. They have great features, thoughtful amenities and are very well built. Closing the door of an Accord is different than closing the door of a Mercedes Benz. Of course the Mercedes feels different. It feels different because of the better materials workmanship and design. More robust suspension, better grades of leather and hundreds of other things must be experienced to appreciate!
Online shopping will give you all the facts and figures, prices and comparisons the seller believes can be processed on one web page and still keep your attention. Your Salesperson can explain product options, real time service situations and pricing variations that haven’t been and couldn’t be programmed into the website. Actually touching the product and having a Sales Professional working for you brings value into your purchase decision.
Sometimes it is more than “they’re charging more for just the name…”
Insight vs. Information
Let’s start the second scenario with an old sales saying: “People don’t need quarter-inch drill bits, they need quarter-inch holes!” Online shopping puts the emphasis on the look, the style and the price of the products. Too often people fall in love with the form of the product when what they really need is the function of the product.
Working with a sales professional allows you to satisfy your functional needs. At the same time she can help maximize your form and cost expectations. Many customers this have versions of these on-line shopping complaints. “My product is not quite right.” or “It arrived damaged.” On-line companies do a good job resolving these situations. The challenge is that you are spending more time and adding to the cost to your purchase.
The images you see on the website is a result of a photographer, a processor, a touch up specialist, a website designer, a website optimizer and the quality of your internet connection and cell phone screen or computer monitor. Yeah, it’s a lot to ask that what arrives looks like what you saw online! You can bypass all that filtered information and go see it for yourself with a real sales person. We will listen to your needs and actually tell you that the product isn’t right for your needs.
The third scenario where working with a sales professional benefits you as a consumer is understanding the value of a purchase.
Often you and your salesperson are on different pages. You want to minimize your PRICE and maximize FEATURES. Your salesperson wants to minimize your COST and increase VALUE. Price is what you pay, Value is what you get. Salespeople will help you see that Value can happen at all Price points!
Getting back to that 1/4″ drill bit scenario. Which is better for customers doing some home repairs :
Option 1 – buying a $3 drill bit from Amazon Prime same day delivery or
Option 2 – speaking with a professional who will recommend the stud & electrical finder and will explain that the drill bit brand you never heard of actually makes the name brand piece, and you can get the whole set for the twice the price of the one bit in the first option.
Sure, Option 2 is a higher price at the register, but you get a much lower overall cost with an entire set of drill bits for the price of 2 name brand bits. Not for nothing, you would also realize much greater value by not electrocuting yourself or drilling into a water pipe!
Employing automation and technology absolutely lowers a business’ operating costs, opens new markets and exposes the company to new customers. I am in no way AGAINST the new reality of technology in retail. I also know that my brothers and sisters in sales are not all perfect. But when you work with an experienced sales professional you receive many more benefits and a unique customer shopping experience that cannot be replicated with a flashy interface or AI chat!
Bottom line: Sales Professionals increase the value of the products you are looking for and build your confidence when you spend your hard earned dollars.
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