How many more times do we need to read about the end of Retail Sales? Each week there are more articles touting the rise of AI in the retail sales environment. Every month there is a news report of a major brick and mortar store closing its doors and moving its operations online. Enough of this retail apocalypse!
Here is the some good news: There will always be a need for retail sales professionals! From Baby Boomers to Millenials, Gen X to Gen Y there will always be personality types who want and need direction in the buying process. Some buyers will want to touch the products. Others will want customized service that cannot be accomplished on-line.
There will always be a need for the deep knowledge, experience and insight of sales professionals. However, the future will belong to the professionals who understand this and accepts the new playing field – the GenNext™ Sales Professional
Current sales professionals are facing dramatic changes in the retail sales value proposition. In a world of AI and click-to-order, the GenNext™ sales professionals will need to successfully rise to the new challenge from her employer:
What value do you bring to the sales floor?
Depth of Sales
Most men get a haircut roughly every other week. This means each customer a barber sees in any given week is worth the revenue of 25 cuts each year! Roughly $450 including tips. In the past year I’ve had my hair (such as it is) cut by no fewer than 5 barbers. Not that 4 did a bad job, it’s that none gave me a reason to spend all $500 (I tip really well) with any one of them.
I’ve never had one of those cool barbershop shaves. I’m sure I’ve needed one, but no barber offered this additional services. My barbers are like current sales professionals, comfortable with selling only what the client comes in asking for… no real VALUE.
The GenNext™ sales professional will get a greater “Depth of Sale” from his existing clients. Not just the sofa and loveseat, he will get the client to buy lamps and rugs. He will then invite the client to come back and upgrade both the master and spare bedrooms. Later she will sell the dining room and get the referrals for everyone who came to Thanksgiving and complimented the beautiful new furniture.
Book of Business
During a sobering annual planning session with a high performing sales professional, I asked a seemingly simple question: “How are you planning on building your book of business this year?”
She spent the next few minutes complaining about how her company needs to do more advertising. Her business was off in the past year because fewer people came in her store. Once I understood which path she was on, I interrupted.
“The customers who walk in the door because of corporate advertising and marketing efforts are your company’s customers. My question is about YOUR book of business. The customers who walk in the door because of your efforts.”
Her silence let me know that she was not yet a GenNext™ sales professional. Her value proposition to the company was a familiar one: you get me customers and I will close them. This is the kind of old thinking that will have you sounding like Jack Lemon’s character, Shelly Levine, in the 1992 movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”…
The future of retail sales belongs to the sales professional who can build her own book of business. The one who can define several markets, develop them and generate revenue both with and without corporate advertising/marketing efforts.
No more comfort zones
As much as sales people self-identify as outgoing, we all have an aversion to rejection. We see this aversion when Sales people are confronted with change. When KPIs are increased, expectations modified or products are updated we can rely on a percentage of sales professional to recognize these changes as threats to their current levels of effort. More effort equals more rejection.
The future of retail sales will belong to the GenNext™ professional who is comfortable with the knowledge that he will continually need to operate outside of his comfort zones. He will understand that his comfort zone is malleable and will actively work expand it.
The Future Is Bright
The internet has, for intents and purposes, bridged the information gap between buyer and seller. Chatbots, targeted product advertisements and electronic payment tools will continue to siphon large percentages of retail business away from brick and mortar stores and showrooms. As long as our customers are human beings, with the hard wired need for community and interaction, there will be a space for the Retail Sales Professional.
The future of retail sales belongs to the professionals who recognize and capitalizes on the technological and cultural shifts that are taking place. The GenNext™ sales professional who creates, interprets and leverages her own business will define the new value proposition!