Christian Retailing

Stop selling, start serving Print Email
Written by Chris Brown   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:34 AM America/New_York

ChrisBrown-RamseySolutionsHow to eliminate sales pressure while still making the sale

You know the feeling. You walk into a store and immediately feel laser beams boring into your body. Then, you realize those aren’t laser beams. You’re actually feeling the stares of sales associates sensing a potential commission.

What happens next is predictable—and more than a little uncomfortable. The associate slowly creeps out from behind the counter and saunters toward you. Now you have a choice: Deal with the awkwardness as gracefully as possible or make a run for it. After all, no one likes to feel pressured to buy, and no one likes being a target. That’s why it’s so important to focus on customer service instead of customer sales.

From the outside, the approach to service looks a lot like the approach to sales. The difference lies in the attitude. Instead of focusing on what’s good for us, our first thought should be: What’s for the good of our customers? We need to figure out what makes their lives better and act on that. A sale can still happen, but in the end, the customer walks away feeling valued.

Of course, shifting from sales to service sounds great, but how do we help our associate with laser-beam eyes make that transition? It starts before the first customer ever walks through the door.

As a Christian retailer, you probably understand the power of prayer, so encourage your team members to make it a vital part of their interactions with customers. With God’s help, they can start seeing opportunities to minister, not just quotas to meet.

Then, when that first customer arrives, the challenge becomes finding the best way to serve and offer hope. Think about it this way: While financial transactions need to happen, your team can sell so much more. Your team can sell a positive experience that your customers won’t forget—and those experiences breed loyalty.

While prayer can do great things to transform your company’s culture, retailers can still use some basic approaches to put the customer first. Here are four practical ways to add value to customer experience by emphasizing service.

1. Ask questions. I’m not talking about the predictable “How can I help you?” Everybody does that. You need to ask questions that set you apart from other retailers. Ask questions that let customers know you care about their lives, not just their money.

If they’re buying for a friend or a family member, dig a little deeper about things such as price points, what the purchase should say about the relationship or how they want the other person to feel. You don’t want to come off as intrusive, so you have to set proper boundaries. But questions have a way of moving encounters from cold transactions to meaningful experiences. People feel like they’re being served, not just being sold.

2. Build rapport. Here’s a retailing truth you can’t ignore: Rapport starts when trust is built. Trust is earned and doesn’t come easily. But when you can earn your customers’ trust, they pay more attention to your comments and suggestions. That’s because they know your suggestions are based on their needs, not the price tag or, in the case of some retailers, the commission attached to the purchase.

3. Provide education. You don’t want to launch into a stuffy lecture, but you do want customers to know how your product or service will make their lives better, so don’t be afraid to educate them. If you believe in what you’re selling, you should have no trouble explaining why it’s better than other options without resorting to pressure or manipulation. You simply help shoppers understand all the dynamics of their purchase.

4. Close the deal. There’s nothing wrong with making a sale. In fact, you don’t eat unless transactions happen, so you really need to close some deals. Once you’ve walked customers through their needs and how your product meets those needs, point them to the final decision.
Of course, the close should feel natural. If you’re feeling resistance, don’t push. Just start retracing your steps and find out where the hesitancy began. Assure them you know how they feel because you’ve been there yourself. Then help your customer make the best decision—for her, not for you.

You can pick any number of closing techniques—as long as you focus on serving, not selling. And as you well know, some transactions just aren’t going to happen. But the relationship you build and the experience you provide can still pay dividends down the road. Serving never fails to build higher levels of trust—and in today’s marketplace, stories of quality service travel fast.

When businesses truly serve their communities, people notice, and they express their appreciation through customer loyalty and consistent transactions. In other words, better service almost always leads to better sales.

Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. Available on radio stations nationwide, Chris Brown’s “True Stewardship” provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him online (, on Twitter (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair).