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Selling is a part of nearly every occupation and business. My personal experience specifically is in retail and services. I have had tremendous success over the years learning skills and techniques in closing sales and building value. I would like to demonstrate the benefits of creating a customer experience over just having selling skills.

“Welcome to (insert generic business name here). What can I do for you today? Is there anything else? Would you like a bag? Would you like your receipt in the bag?”

This may be an adequate and possibly even a good customer experience. How does it compare to the following?

“Hey Ms. Johnson. It’s nice to see you today. How’s that cute puppy? She must be so big by now. I would love to get you checked in for your visit today. I see from our last visit that you purchased (insert generic product here). How has that been working for you? Great. Do you have any questions about its features. What can I do for you today? Absolutely. May I also suggest (insert generic up-sale item)? It will compliment (item already determined to purchase). How about (insert generic impulse buy)? Thanks for always choosing to come down to support our business. It was a pleasure to see you today. Please tell your mom I said hello. I look forward to seeing her when she comes back up this winter.”

There is an obvious difference. The second interaction exemplifies a connection between the salesperson and the customer. It is a simple and elegant experience being created versus the generic sale transaction created in the first example.

Absolutely nothing memorable happened in the first interaction. The customer is likely to forget the experience within days. Did they even learn the employee’s name? They likely forgot it before they left the parking lot.

The second interaction is an example of an unforgettable experience that will result in a lifetime customer and many, many return visits. It is full of energy that will long outlast the dollars made off that one sale. The second customer feels like clientele instead of an order number. They will rave to their network, friends, and family about the experience every opportunity they get. This will result in exponential sales growth if the business or salesperson is committed to creating a consistent experience in the future as well.

The customers will repay the expert salesperson with compliments and possibly gifts and additional opportunities in the future. I have had customers try to leave tips, bring sizeable gift cards, drop off cases of beer and bottles of wine, amongst other gifts. The most memorable are the hand-made gifts. This past holiday season a customer brought me a Santa sleigh made out of chocolates and candy canes in a cute holiday tin. My family and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I will never forget it.

Create the experience and the sales will inevitably follow. Your clientele will be excited to come see you and bring you their dollars.

Technical skill is helpful, but not as necessary as the ability to connect with your customers. Creating a customer experience will make it easier for the value of what you are selling to exceed the cost. Nobody cares if you know how an engine works or how effective a nutrition supplement is if you are an asshole or just cold in your interactions. I have a team and resources at my disposal if I need technical knowledge I do not personally possess. There is also the internet if needed.

There is a near infinite amount of resources, information, and techniques available for increasing conversion rate{1}, units per sale, and dollars per sale. These are measurable metrics. Any boss can print a report with these numbers on it and tell an employee to sell more often, sell more dollars, sell better quality sales, etc. What is not measurable through conventional business reporting models is the soft skills. Soft skills include creating customer referrals, relationship building, and networking.

One specific example of a soft skill I use is remembering names and details about my clientele. My customers are surprised and delighted when I am successful in remembering their name. I put myself ahead of the majority of my competition for the same dollars just by reestablishing our connection from a previous visit. When I misremember or guess a name incorrectly the embarrassment passes quickly. It allows us to break the ice with banter.

Believe me when I say remembering names is a learnable skill. It just takes practice and a willingness to fail before you succeed. Attempting to remember someone’s name incorrectly twice will force you commit it to memory before the third time. After two or three tries it becomes impossible to not remember their name. I remember somewhere between sixty and eighty percent of repeat customers’ names on any given day. There are other tricks to remembering the names, but you have to look within your own work system to figure those out. Be creative and see the dividends this simple trick will pay out.

Another way I tailor an experience is in pacing. I remember the tempo and pace specific customers prefer in an interaction with me. I am a Jewish Italian from New Jersey and every now and again I catch myself making someone feeling uncomfortable by the fact I move and speak fast. When they call me on making them uncomfortable or when I anticipate it I share that I am an Italian Jew from Jersey and we have a chuckle. We make a connection based on my willingness to admit fault and then make them laugh. This will bring us closer and will result in immediate and future sales opportunities.

I read body language. Is the customer becoming uneasy because of the cost of my goods or services? Do they not understand what I am communicating? Do they just not like me? I can build value in my goods and services. I can educate them on how the products work and how they will benefit them. Sometimes I just need to find one of my fellow salespeople that may connect with them on a different level. Willingness to give a sale up to a coworker pays dividends with both the company in gaining a sale I may have otherwise lost or minimized. It also goes a long way in team-building and interpersonal connection with a coworker who may learn this soft skill as well and repay the favor.

Some of my clients like me to sell on a needs basis. Others prefer and trust my recommendation. I react quickly and customize the experience to each customer.

Reading and acting on the difference between these two types of customers is another example of a soft skill that is not measurable other than in general sales reporting. General sales reporting will show sales numbers, but that only tells a short-sighted version of the true story.

When I really make a connection with an old friend (return client) or new friend (new customer for life) they leave happy. I usually make a significant sale. This gives me a feeling of elation. I call this “making babies.” My coworkers and bosses get a kick out of this teminology.

We all know the difference between just getting some and making babies. Anyone can get some once. Making a baby is forever. It requires a time and emotional and sometimes a monetary investment. The return on investment of “making a baby” is a life time friend. They are a person you can ask for a favor like a last minute perfect satisfaction survey that may equal thousands of dollar in personal pay. They are someone that will stop you to say hello at the town fair to introduce you to their family and rave about you.

You become their “guy.” Everyone has heard the saying “I have a guy.” If you create an experience you will become the guy they are spreading the word about. That’s some good juju.

Continue to look for those ways to create an experience as opposed to just looking to close a sale. The sales will come, but the experience is the gold behind the money.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments. I will read them all. I look forward to the discourse on this subject I feel so passionately about.

{1}Conversion Rate is the percent of closed sales in relation to customer contact.

Acknowledgements to Kurt Kennedy, the book Raving Fans, and my former team at Sunglass Hut for all starting me on the journey to understanding the value of an exceptional customer experience. It has become a skill that has been paramount to my business and financial success.

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  • I can think of multiple examples of everything you’re talking about here from our time working together in Boulder. This is great. I feel so lucky to have worked with you so early on in my life. Can’t wait for your next blog!