Sales: What we learned in retail

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It’s this place I found my voice, ditched my being timid about a lot of things, gained truckloads of much-needed confidence. I polised ’em and my people skills glistened. It’s at a PEP store, Carlton Centre branch (Johannesburg) that I inched closer to unraveling my potential.

Edgars Red Square (cosmetics department) in Randburg is where Lebohang Motlatsi found himself a job after matric. A blessing in disguise because he learned about people, sales and offering great experiences to customers. The konwledge turned out to be valuabe when he later completed his Sales & Marketing diploma.

The following are things we absorbed while working in the retail space. I often reminisce about that exhilarating and back-breaking environment *chuckles* :

Be genuine!

I learned to remain a human being before I became a sales consultant.

In dealing with customers, it’s easy to slide into they’re customers, they help me reach my targets. Instead of our attitude being, they’re my partners and my priority is giving them amazing experiences.

What helped me at Pep was that I genuinely cared about the people who visited the store to buy their children clothes, for instance. This propelled me to go the extra the mile. I rememebered their daughters’ and sons’ names when we conversed about them. I recalled the little details. I cared.

Win people’s hearts, don’t (only) take aim at their wallets.

Selling shouldn’t sound sales-y

When a customer entered the store complaining, say, about aching feet, Lebo would offer to rub them to exhibit his products. At no charge. And he was accomodating and friendly in the way he went about it. His customers loved him for it. So they often asked for him when they came to buy their cosmetic products — they trusted his counsel mainly because his first priority wasn’t only to sell.

Repeated sales and business come at the back of unmatched service and not from selling so much. Ain’t that ironic! 🙂

Just be happy, it’s good for business!

I find it hilarious at times. At Pep I was the happiest person I’ve ever been in a place of employment. And I was earning R450.00 every week and I worked Monday to Sunday. (On top of this, I had to settle debt I’d accrued at college, Boston Media House).

The reason I was content was because I worked with people. That’s it. If I’m feeling down and I run into a customer in my shoes department browsing products — a conversation with them always picked me up from the doldrums. It gave me some peace. My being happy resulted in my department being among the highest grossing departments in the store.

Build an engaged audience

On many occasions, there were countless women who came in the store and asked for me. When they were told I was either on lunch or off for the day — they left. When I got back, they’d tell me they only wanted me to serve them (hence they left the previous day). I was that good. I built my own audience.

Not a lot of people have the ability to build audiences. I love how authors Jason Fried and David Hansson talk about this topic: All companies have customers. Lucky customers have fans. But most fortunate companies have audiences.

True. When you’ve an audience, they return to you for what you offer. Coca Cola South Africa Communications Manager, Khaya Dlanga, built an audience with through his blog and writings for the Mail & Guardian and other publications that when he publishrd his memoir — the first print run sold out!

An audience is your secret weapon. Most companies buy customers’ attention by buying advertising worth millions. So they watch or read your ad, and they switch off. An audience always comes back for more of your intoxicating speaking engagements, blog posts, videos, articles, tweets, et cetera. Because you share valuable information.

Lastly… Don’t fix yourself. Find yourself!

The experience of working at that Carlton Centre Pep store, and later, transferred to a branch in Hillbrow helped me find myself.

Instead of trying to fine-tune myself into something I’m not, I found and amplified my voice. Back in primary, high school and then college, I was a timid guy and I could’ve chosen to think I’m meant to be like that forever. But I love people. I love Speaking and sharing knowledge — so being shy wasn’t going to cut it!

I flipped. I found myself.

Where do you work? Instead of whining (and I know how difficult it must be under those circumstances), look closely at what you do instead, and find gems of knowledge.

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THEMBA JAY,

Communicate Your Genius

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