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When to Speed Up, When to Slow Down

One speed does not fit all in the retail world. Some shopping trips are quick hitters, kinda like guerrilla warfare – get in, get out, move on. Some are slow, easy strolls. A time for browsing, a time for gabbing, a time for pondering (a time for grabbing?).

And even within a single shopping trip there are multiple speeds. Getting to know your customer and build rapport takes time and shouldn’t ever be rushed. Getting the customer checked out and back in her car, however, requires a sense of purpose if not urgency.

Here are some reminders…

The getting-to-know-you phase. Don’t pepper them with so many questions that they feel under attack. Let the relationship grow as naturally as possible so that they’ll feel more comfortable with you.

The product selection phase. Give them time to study during the decision-making process. Some people can make quick decisions, but many others need that extra moment to filter all the information. Go too fast here and you’ll seem pushy.

The close. This seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is that there is so much training on closing the sale that most sales people are in a hurry to get that sale closed. In the process, however, you miss ample opportunities to continue serving the customer and growing the sale. Use the phrase Is there anything else I can do for you? liberally. Make sure the customer has everything she needs before you close the sale.

The checkout. Once the customer is here, her only thought is to get out the door and on to the next event. Accuracy trumps speed at the checkout. But speed shows competency. To truly build trust, you need to be both accurate and efficient. Look at your procedures and see what you can do to quicken the process without hurting the accuracy.

The follow-up. If you do follow-up calls on purchases, call sooner, not later. If they have a problem, they will usually know right away and your promptness makes you look eager to solve the problem. If the customer asks a question or has a problem that requires follow-up, respond quickly – even if the response is “We’ve contacted so-and-so and are waiting for a response.”

Ask your frontline staff about the speed of the customer. Where is browsing and strolling encouraged? Where is it limited? What part of the checkout makes customers seem impatient? Where are we too fast? Where are we too slow? You’ll get valuable feedback and you’ll get your staff to become more aware of their own speeds in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS When you meet with the staff, share the idea of the different speeds of the customer with them, but really listen when they start giving you feedback on what is too fast or too slow. Let them help devise the plan to slow down and speed up as necessary. If they create the plan, you’ll have their instant buy-in.

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