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June 2013 | Vol. XII - No. 6
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5 Retail Sales Mistakes That Cost You Business

Having written a book on retail sales, I am often asked about the biggest mistakes retailers and their employees make.

Before I get to those, I want to make sure you understand that while everyone thinks increasing sales and attracting new business comes from marketing, that’s only part of the solution.

Why? Because your marketing really just gets customers to the door. How you actually convert those new shoppers to buyers in your brick and mortar location is all that matters.

And that’s where so many retailers fall down.  Hard…

They fall down on the experience a customer has in their retail store.

Marketing brings customers to the door, but these five retail selling mistakes send them out empty-handed:

Clustering Behind the Counter
The employee hopes that their manager will perceive them as ready, willing and able to help the next customer that passes through the door, while the employee really just wants to kill some time gabbing with his work friends. Those employees who instigate clustering not only provide terrible customer service that results in low conversion rates of their own, but they also spoil the conversion rates of their team and indeed, the whole store.

Leaving Customers Alone to Browse
The employee tells their manager that customers do not want to be bothered until they are ready. How can they know that, if the customer hasn’t even been greeted? As a matter of fact, most customers appreciate some direction and, once greeted, are more likely to engage with a salesperson later in their shopping.

If you don’t have a selling process for your store, customers probably do want to be left alone because the employee is just a body with no personality. Or your employees use the excuse, “I want to be left alone when I shop.” Leaving customers alone can be the losers limp leading you to think your store needs yet another sale or coupon. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Assuming the Customer Can’t Afford It
Veteran salespeople as well as new ones make this mistake, but veterans have the good sense to not let it become a habit. Judging a book by its cover can cost you. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg walked into your store in his signature flip-flops, hoodie and jeans. Who on your staff might think he could be down on his luck? Yet in reality he has the wherewithal to buy your entire store. Retail sales training is the place to address this pesky trend in retail.

Running to the Counter Before the Customer
This tactic is another symptom of a sales associate who would rather be doing something, that is, anything, rather than engaging a customer.  Walking with a customer to the counter is the perfect time to upsell and should not be rushed.

Not Inviting the Customer to Return
First impressions do count, but the last impression is the one that customers remember. Retail salespeople must thank the customer for their business and invite them to return. A superior manager will set a good example to reinforce this behavior by spending time thanking customers – especially during the busiest part of the day.

As you can see, these five retail sales mistakes are not particularly difficult to avoid if one pays attention, hires well and employs a good retail sales training program.

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Bob PhibbsWriter's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author

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