Retail Sales are based on buying and helping. Not selling.

Retail Sales are based on buying and helping. Not selling.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


Retail Sales are based on buying and helping. Not selling.

Think about the last time you went into a retail store. You most likely went there on a mission – you were looking to buy something.

What happened? Did you buy? Did you buy because of the salesperson, or in spite of the salesperson? Did you talk about the experience when you got home?

Whether you went to buy a hamburger or a car, a television set or a new pair of designer jeans – you walked in looking or wanting to buy.

Once you cross the threshold, you enter sales-land. Someone approaches you and, in a variety of pathetic ways, tries to engage you. Or should I say, tries to sell you. You of course try anything possible to avoid this salesperson by uttering the phrase, “I’m just looking.”

It’s almost like a game. The salesperson wants to sell you, and you don’t want to be bothered, unless you see something you want to buy or are mission driven.

The retail sale is an excellent window to the world of selling. It’s the convergence of successful advertising, successful branding, successful word of mouth advertising, your personal experience, and your specific need. And once you’re in the store, the overall experience determines the fate of the business. Short term, and long term.

The other day, Jessica and I went into a clothing store called Runway in New York City. Two steps inside the door, the well-dressed sales guy approaches Jessica and said, “I have something that will look perfect on you.” How do you say “no” to that? How do you say, “just looking” to that? Answer: You don’t. You want to see what looks perfect.

So we did. And it did. And we bought. And we bought again. Bob (Mr. I have something that will look perfect on you) has now become our friend. We were drinking sodas and talking to Lynne, the owner of Runway, about shopping in Paris.

We were engaged. We were engrossed. We were involved. And we were buying.

How many stores have you gone into where the salesperson could have made the difference, but did not? And you left with your money in your pocket, not theirs.

Oh sure, sometimes the salesperson doesn’t matter. If you went to buy a PlayStation3, the salesperson could call you ugly, tell you that you are stupid, tell you it’s not worth the money – and you would still buy two of them. That’s called a transaction, not a sale.

And sometimes you want something so bad that even though the salesperson is a jerk, you buy anyway. That’s called an “in spite of” sale.

But I can assure you that every storeowner and every store manager wishes he had a salesperson like Bob. Someone who engages, entices, recommends, reinforces, up-sells, up-sells, and is friendly. And did I mention up-sells?

Keep in mind Runway and their ace sales guy, Bob, are in New York City – not exactly the epicenter of politeness and friendliness; not exactly a city known for engaging, happy people.

A couple of other things that I think are important to note about the retail selling process as relates to Bob, but also as relates to you:

1. Bob did not prejudge us. He was just friendly and open.

2. Bob was a product knowledge expert. He knew exactly what he had, and what he wanted to show us from the first five seconds after we entered the store.

3. Even thought it may have been Bob’s 1,000th time to use his engaging greeting, to us it sounded like his first time. I admit, I was instantly engaged AND impressed.

4. Bob had a great attitude. And was enthusiastic about his job and his products.

5. Bob was relentless. Once he found we were customers willing to buy, he was willing to sell us the whole store, and a pair of shoes to go with it.

6. As relentless as Bob was, he was not pushy. He substituted pushiness with friendliness. And it worked. In

New York


7. Bob was honest in his recommendation and was willing to state his opinion, good or bad. He had no qualms saying, “It’s not right for you.”

7.5 Bob was so good, I’m writing about him. Oh sure, there have been other great retail salespeople and I intend to write about them, but this was a shining example in a soot filled city.

Think about your business. Think about your selling skills. Think about how you interact with customers and engage them. Is anyone willing to write about it? Are you good enough to create word of mouth advertising once the sale has been completed?

The retail experience is one that evolves over time. Just like your sales experience. And one that’s dependent on boss, training, quality people, and quality merchandise (or services). It has NOTHING to do with minimum wage, cutting costs, low incentives, or inferior products. It’s the same with your business.

If you want great people, you have to pay them, train them, and incentivize them. If you want a great reputation, you have to invest in it, and be consistent for years.

Want some inspirational quotes from the founding fathers of retail? Go to, register if you’re a first-time user and enter RETAIL QUOTES in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on sales and customer service at He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to

c 2006 All Rights Reserved – Don’t even think about reproducing this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer . 704/333-1112