When Suggestive Selling Fails

by Jeannie Walters

Improve Your CX Without Breaking a Sweat.

With 21 days of simple, actionable missions, our 21-Day CX Challenge can help you create fewer ruined days for your customers™... without ruining your day.


Enrollment is FREE -- Let's get started.

Experience Investigators 21-Day Customer Experience Challenge Title Card

You will receive occasional emails with valuable information. We will never sell, share, or abuse your information. For more information, view or Terms of Service & Privacy Policy.

Suggestive selling can super-charge your sales

It’s an issue merchants struggle with, especially when training staff members who do not work for commission. Employees who can do this with finesse can trigger a sales explosion! But the real dynamite does not come from a script or a predetermined promotion.  It comes from the observation and care of a truly outgoing and friendly sales team. Real people connecting with real people.

suggestive selling

Saturation, repetition and my last nerve

It’s great to try and suggest promoted items when appropriate, but such items are often already present in ad copy, signage, displays and other “can’t miss” materials throughout the experience. Marketing experts argue that saturation and repetition are proven to increase sales. And maybe that is true, but this type of marketing can fall short when it comes to creating loyalty and personal connections to a brand.

If you are like me, too much repetition doesn’t arouse desire and interest in a product. It’s just annoying.

Robots make the worst salespeople

I’s hard to follow a script and sound genuine, especially if nearby customers have already heard the pitch. The average retail customer journey involves little face-to-face contact and often only occurs at the checkout. But when that part of the experience is on a suggestive selling conveyor belt, the chance to connect is trumped by a quick sales opp.  You may move more units today, but does it make the customer want to come back next week?

suggestive selling

Empowered sales teams go for the gold

In retail, we often pride ourselves at hiring  friendly, knowledgeable talent. We train them to become familiar with the products and inventory. So if we are really hiring this way, why do we  not trust them to make a few judgment calls now and then? Give them some credit for their knowledge and friendliness, and along with it, some license for engagement. For chains and franchises, why not trust the managers to hire the right talent?  We say this over and over at 360Connext: Empowered employees are happier, friendlier and provide a better experience.

Consider this visit to an office supply store:

Who does not know about the “2/$10” deal on inkjet paper? My experience with this retailer includes a TV ad, a circular, window signs, a giant aisle display, and smaller displays at each POS, all pushing this deal. At the checkout, 2 of these materials are visible. Yet the cashier pitches everyone on that paper. Saturation and repetition at its finest!  And I am triple-dog sure I do not need that paper.

So there is no additional sale and no personal connection, and no real reason for me not to consider a competitor next time. I’m buying small supply items. And if that cashier had some license for engagement she might say, “We have some divided drawer trays on sale in aisle 3. It looks like you could use one!” You know what? I did need a divider. I picked it up later that day when I went to Target.

Making the connection

As a retail manager, I appreciated the employees who had true talent to connect. They all knew the inventory and which items were the most profitable. But they engaged every customer differently. They made each one feel unique and special, because they were! Just as each member of the team was. They would say things like, “I love your bag! You know, we have a pair of gloves in that exact color scheme. Would you like to see them?” Epic.

My competitors all had pretty much the same deals on the usual items. And if you are in retail, chances are the same is true for you. But what really makes retail staff  stand out and create true loyalty is the empowerment to engage with sincerity and passion.

Image credits: Eric__I_EJoe Bielawa via Creative Commons

Love it? Share it:

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

Connect Jeannie's Brain Directly to Your Inbox.

Get weekly insights & tips to make your day (and your customer’s experience) brighter.