Is Salesmanship Dead?

Is salesmanship dead? Some might say “heavens no! There’s plenty of sales people around.” Perhaps what they really mean is there are plenty of sales clerks around. And in most retail environments, these sales clerks are far more involved with stocking shelves, doing paperwork or moving inventory from place to place rather than selling.
While their jobs may vary, it is certain that their emphasis is not on selling but rather on everything other than selling. And even if you should be so lucky as to have a clerk ask if they can help you, the chances of that individual knowing a great deal about the product, its features and benefits and the useful related accessories is pretty slim.

In my humble opinion, in large part, yes, salesmanship is dead.

Admittedly I’m a bit old school, but I have seen the sales power of good salesmanship. I have watched trained, experienced salesmen connect with a customer, determine his needs, offer suggestions and recommendations and then set about to increase the sale amount by suggesting related options and accessories and pointing out the current store specials to the customer.

I have seen great selling staff, both men and women, sell their customers big numbers and seen the consumers thank them profusely for their help and suggestions.

But mostly what I see is sales staff indifference and ineptitude. In the face of the online shopping serge, retailers should be training their staff on the fundamentals of selling and directing all staff to focus on the prime objective: attention to the customer’s needs and providing assistance and salesmanship.

In most retail stores from the big box guys down to the smaller independent, the “selling staff” just seem to look through the customer; they don’t recognize them as a walking income producing asset.

I visit a lot of stores both large and specialty. The relationship between store staff and the consumer has changed a great deal . . . for the worse! In years past the shopper was greeted by store staff and asked if they can assist the consumer. Today, if you see staff, they likely will never acknowledge you or offer assistance.

Today’s shoppers have grown to expect this indifference but unfortunately the net result is lost sales. Consumers who wander through the store unable to locate what they are looking for or get answers to their questions simply exit the store without further effort on their part.

In truth, consumers want to be waited on. They want dialog with an informed sales person; they seek guidance regarding their purchase choices and they want assurance that their purchase will adequately fulfill their needs.

So, who is at fault here? Management is! This self-service mentality has been amplified in part by the growth of online selling. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)! This flight from personalized selling represents lost opportunities and lost profits.

So, if this is today’s reality, what should we do about it? First off, make a decision; do you want to be a self-service entity or a retail store wherein you can find assistance and answers. If you are already paying staff to stock and ostensibly assist in the selling process, then train your staff on exactly how to do that profitably. Selling is not an inherent skill set; it must be taught and learned.

If management does not prioritize the selling function, then it won’t happen. Don’t let selling atrophy in your organization. Make the effort; make the sale, enjoy the profits!