Do UK retail shops think they are NOT in sales? by Bruce King #indieretail

This is a guest blog by a friend of mine, Bruce King, whose book “How to Double Your Sales: The Ultimate Masterclass in How to Sell Anything to Anyone” is possibly one of the best business books I’ve ever read, far extending beyond just sales! Bruce wrote this blog back in 2008 and came across it when he was clearing down his old file! He sent it over to me and I felt it was still so relevant that I wanted to share it with you – I hope you enjoy it!

Shopping in New York was a joy! An amazing difference to shopping in the UK…

I’ve been in New York for three days now. The trip is a mix of speaking engagements, visiting my two daughters who both live and work here, and playing with my new grandson. As my wife is accompanying me so I have had to go on several shopping trips, which not my favourite pastime in the UK! But I have to say it has been a joy; what an amazing difference to my usual UK shopping experience…

Service with a smile – being made welcome makes me happier to spend!

In the UK I am almost never greeted with a smile. In the UK most shop assistants are surly, cannot be bothered, do not know very much about their product and seem reluctant to serve me – let alone actually sell me anything. In fact on so many occasions I feel I’m intruding and unwelcome. Even if I want the item they have, I feel unhappy about giving them my money.

When excellent service is the norm being “sold to” is enjoyable; shopping becomes a pleasure!

Not so in the New York. EVERYWHERE I go I am greeted with a big smile and areally pleasant hello. I am welcomed into the store. They make me feel good and wanted. They know anything and everything you could want to know about what they are selling – and YES – they sell! They sell very pleasantly, very efficiently and they make me WANT to spend money. On several occasions when my wife or I wanted a particular item they did not stock, they even told us where else we could purchase those items, walked with us to the shop doorway and gave us instructions of how to find their competition. Shopping in New York is an absolute pleasure!

Is lack of training the reason why UK retailers make shopping so unpleasant compared to their counterparts in the USA?

So why have so many retail shops got it wrong here? What is the matter with them – what is their problem? Obviously it’s bad training – I believe they are not taught to sell, they are taught (sometimes) to serve. There is a big difference between serving and selling! I also think part of the answer is that New Yorkers complain about poor service. They are not prepared to tolerate it and speak out loudly on the rare occasions that they are not satisfied. Here in the UK we tend not to complain, so to some extent it is also our fault… So in future complain if you are not happy. If the store manager is not cooperative, then write to their head office. If you don’t get any satisfaction from that, write to the Chairman. Their details are almost certain to be on their website. Complain and things will eventually get better.

And how can smaller retailers steal the march on the “big boy” competition?

So, that was Bruce’s view…. Now my advice reflecting on that is:

Think like a New Yorker! Expect a rude complaint if you under-serve and your service will improve; expect no sales unless you make it a pleasant experience and your sales will improve. Most of all TRAIN the staff – ensure that anyone who comes into contact with a customer understand the very basic requirements “service with a smile” and ensure they understand the product inside out. If they don’t then they must be ready to refer to a colleague who does – everything they do should focus on making that customer HAPPY to part with their money… and that all ties back to my key advice for smaller retailers “Don’t compete on price, compete on service”

If you feel you need some support in sales and customer engagement Bruce’s book is a good tool as a starting point… and of course by July you can add mine to that too! 🙂

Happy selling!

About Bruce King…

Bruce King is a UK based sales and marketing consultant who is recognised internationally as a leading sales, marketing and personal growth strategist. With over 35 years experience he is a highly sought after keynote conference speaker, sales and marketing master class presenter, and sales trainer. Bruce is additionally a highly regarded business adviser focused on SMEs, a personal coach, and a best selling author.

In 1993 Bruce was commissioned to write a book for BBC Books. “Psycho-Selling: How To Double Your Income From Sales In 8 Weeks”, was published by the BBC in 1994, was translated into several languages, and became an international best seller. Since then he has written several other best selling books including “Double Your Sales” (Financial Times).

Bruce is a Fellow of The Institute of Sales & Marketing Management (FInstSMM) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD).

About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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