In-Store Marketing

6 Time-Tested Tips To
Maximize Sales In The Store

By Mark Kakkuri

Getting customers to walk in your store is only half of your marketing battle. Once they’re in, make sure you continue to engage, educate and persuade. These six tips will help ensure your marketing efforts go full circle, moving a customer from a casually interested browser to an informed and motivated buyer.

1. Make Personal Contact With A Customer ASAP:

“We like to make contact with the customer at the earliest point possible,” said Todd Vance, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Vance Outdoors Inc. “Sometimes, however, due to heavy traffic we may not make contact until the customer reaches one of our departments. At whatever point our staff engages a customer, we greet them with ‘Good morning, afternoon or evening (whichever time of day applies), welcome to Vance Outdoors.’”

A similar guideline applies at the Lebanon Gun Shop in Lebanon, Tenn. Owner David Wilson added, “Our rule is everyone coming in is greeted before they get off the welcome mat and they get a ‘thank you’ when leaving.” He says Lebanon Gun Shop employees do not have a greeting script, other than to provide some acknowledgement of the customer’s presence. “If we know their name we’ll use it,” said Wilson. “This also lets the unscrupulous people know we know they are there.”

2. Use Signage Judiciously:

Just outside the doors of the Lebanon Gun Shop, Wilson says “street talker” signs declare current specials. A popular one: “.22 LR No Limit” attracts interest. Inside the store, Wilson has three 8.5×11-inch POP countertop signs, stating: “Ask About Our 10% Discount.”

Vance says signage is helpful, of course, for letting customers know certain products are on sale or have just arrived. But, he warns, “The amount of signage is a little tricky — too much and it looks crowded on clothing racks or covers up too much inventory that may be displayed on shelves or endcaps. For us, the best placement seems to be right with the merchandise we’re trying to promote.”

3. Maintain An Open Layout:

No surprise, your store layout should be easy for customers to navigate. Vance recommends setting up the traffic pattern to draw customers past a lot of accessory merchandise on their way to the firearm, archery or fishing departments. Along the way, the department staff should interact with customers throughout the store. At Vance Outdoors, the staff tries to make sure a customer has at least one contact with one of the cashiers or someone in customer service.

“Store layout affects customer acclimation a lot,” Wilson noted. He sets up the Lebanon Gun Shop to have the handgun display cases in an L-shaped arrangement with the long guns and ammo behind the counters. All of it is meant to keep as much product in the customer’s line of sight and in easy reach for the staff.

4. Find Ways To Communicate Obscure (But Important) Info:

What qualifies as this kind of information? Usually unique stories about the history of the business, a particular product in the store or even the experience of the staff. For Vance, it’s the store’s family legacy. “We’d like our customers to know we’re a fourth-generation business that takes great pride in servicing our customers,” he said. “Beyond this, we want them to know we’re always trying to provide the best customer experience.”

5. Every Interaction Launches A Sales Journey:

How to properly engage the customer who may have a lot of questions, have a lot to learn or is really new to guns can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned gun store salesperson. There can be so much behind the “Which gun should I buy?” question needing to be weeded out. Yet gun store staff must be careful not to overwhelm a customer. So how can they be truly helpful?

“With patience,” Wilson answered. “We try to engage the customer and get them to explain their intended application by asking good questions such as: ‘Do you want a self-defense gun or a take-to-the-range-and-have-fun gun?’ ‘Is this your first handgun?’ ‘Do you plan to carry the gun or is it going to be a home-defense gun?’”

Vance concurs and says his store has very knowledgeable team members who will always take the time to answer questions and to make customers feel welcome. “Not every engagement with a customer results in a sale, but if you treat them well and with respect, most of the time they will return to work with your sales team.”

It boils down to an age-old axiom: “Treat your customer the way you would like to be treated as a customer.”

6. A Cohesive Strategy Can Turn Customers Into Loyal Visitors:

At the Lebanon Gun Shop, Wilson says his staff has a scripted response to the “Just looking” reply from a customer. “We say, ‘Looking is the first step. Let us know when you’re ready for step two.’ The staff then leaves the customer alone for a while until they land on an item. That’s when we’ll say something about the item, such as, ‘Would you like to hold that or try it out?’” This approach provides a necessary balance between the extremes of appearing over-eager or disinterested as a sales staff.

From the time a customer walks in to your store to the time they exit, a healthy mix of passive and active sales strategies — including the six dependable tips listed here — will help turn casual lookers into regular buyers.

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