Every few years a new sales methodology breaks through as the next big thing. While these breakthroughs are exciting for the sales-information industry, these innovations are overwhelmingly dedicated to the business-to-business realm. Retail sales professionals (RSPs) look at these breakthroughs with a mix of longing and skepticism.
RSPs are skeptical because the situations and scenarios addressed in many of the methods do not relate to retail. For example, a perfumier at the counter would be hard pressed to determine MEDDIC’s “quantifiable and measurable” results. Retail salespeople also long for the opportunity to “prospect” for new clients in classical ways or to have the time needed to build the deep relationships described in many of these popular selling methods.
The B2B sales industry has any number of effective methodologies. The good news is there are no rules preventing retail salespeople from adapting and using them. To be effective they need to be filtered through three retail realities: blurred sales process advancement, limited prospect engagement and faster cycle times.
Every specialty sales methodology uses the classic 5-step sales process model. It begins with some form of rapport building and ends with asking for and/or processing the sale. The retail sales professional, on the other hand, is constantly testing the prospect’s readiness to move dynamically through this process. She can navigate them in order, with steps happening simultaneously or even non-sequentially.
Regardless of how the RSP navigates the phases of the sales, she faces a stark choice. She can either advance the sale or go without a commission check. Lacking the security of the B2B sales professional’s base salary, commission and bonus structures the RSP must focus on closing sales quickly and repeatedly. This focus can, unfortunately, devolve into the stereotypical aggressive sales behaviors so many consumers expect/loathe when they walk into retail environments.
Alternatively, that need to close sales early and often can evolve positively, helping the sales professional reach her best self. This is best seen when the RSP discovers her “Assertive” voice. Operating in the sweet spot on the scale of “Passive” to “Aggressive” , this is where polite control allows her to drive the interaction at its most effective pace. When using this “Assertive” voice the RSP confidently moves through the sales process, comfortably stepping forward when possible and backward when necessary.
Retail Cycle Time
A common theme in the popular sales methodologies is the complexity of B2B sales, each requiring many phases, deliberate steps and constant focus. The time to complete each phase can taking days or weeks to successfully complete, with the entire selling cycle easily measured in months .
The compressed sales cycle time is one of the hallmarks of the retail sales world. It is not unusual to break a furniture selling cycle into three 1-hour visits over a 2-week period. An entire retail sales cycle can also go from “Hello” to “Thank you” in under 10 minutes!
This speed demands that the sales professional has more situational awareness than his B2B counterpart. The RSP need to recognize those opportunities to blend, overlap or even skip some phases. More important, he needs to have the confidence to actually move the sale along a non-linear path.
For example, with every new customer, the salesman must first check her intentions: Buyer or Investigator. With that information she pivots between advancing, upselling or closing the sale. The situational awareness will determine when, which direction and how hard she will move the sale along the process.
The first step along the path to a solid sale is a strong opening. The B2B sales professional relies on research and networking as keys to successful prospect opening & engagement. In a perfect retail world, a new prospect with an obvious need is referred by a previously satisfied client.
Without referral introductions, RSPs are limited in their prospecting efforts by legal, logistical and time constraints. They rely on marketing departments and ad buys to entice both curious shoppers and (hopefully) self-qualified consumers. These corporate efforts tend to build strong connections to the retail establishment or product. This leaves little room for the sales/client relationship to develop.
The RSP must balance the need to move to decision points, decrease cycle times and build enough rapport. This time needed to strike this balance varies from prospect to prospect and consistently locating it is the retail sales professional’s daily challenge.
Brave New World
It is imperative that sales professionals understand the concepts that separate the retail sales world from the B2B world. Without an appreciation of these crucial differences, it will be impossible to evaluate and benefit from the next advance in sales methodology. Whether using an abbreviated qualifying session to find a SPIN-like pain point or modifying the Challenger sale teaching focus the enterprising RSP will reap the rewards of adapting these B2B selling tools.
As this decade comes to a close, sales thought-leaders will continue to develop new methodologies. We can rest assured that the next great sales tool is probably on an editor’s desk. Those who work in retail sales will be ready to evaluate each of those innovations for speed, advancement and engagement.