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    Solution Selling in Retail – Five Key Points


    “Solution Selling is designed to help sellers understand and align with how buyers buy.”
    ― Keith M Eades

    Successful salespeople have the solution sales skills to qualify their customers in terms of if, how and when they will buy. High performing sellers know how to add value to each interaction and how to link what they have to sell to the customer’s needs. Solution-selling is a proven 5-point method of selling retail “solutions” rather than products by utilizing the following retail strategy:

      • Greet customers,
      • Identify their pain points or problem,
      • Probe for Information and clarification
      • Propose a value-added solution, that meets customer needs
      • Summarize and close the sale

    Sales associates can use solution selling to build reports with customers and offer value-added solutions that meet or exceed their needs by asking the right probing questions. This blog post will discuss how solution-selling can help retail associates manage relationships, increase customer retention and increase sales!

    The State of Brick-and-Mortar Retail Shopping

    The future of the “retail store” is far from dead. However, 2021 consumer data suggests that the role of traditional brick-and-mortar retail sales is in a state of transformation. In the near future, a successful retail operation, if it has not already, must adapt to technological changes, establish and maintain personal relationships with customers, and add constant value to the shopping experience.

    • 82% of Millennials, even the ones who also engage in online shopping, prefer shopping in-store (Synchrony)
    • 54% of shoppers value “prompt service” when shopping in-store (Vend)
    • Only 6% of consumers have yet to return to physical stores (due to Covid19 restrictions) (Mood Media)
    • 33% One-third of consumers say they don’t trust internet-only businesses (Morning)
    • 50% of shoppers seek advice when they enter a store. (CNBC)
    • 90% of their shoppers who receive assistance while shopping purchase something, compared to 67% of those who don’t. (MarketForce)
    • 79% of shoppers think that being able to engage with a knowledgeable sales associate is important. (Retaildive)

     As the above data shows, shoppers are still very much interested in going to the brick-and-mortar locations. Still, change is inevitable and thus, salespeople must look for ways to add value to the retail experience.

    Solution Based Selling

    Solution selling refers to retail selling techniques that include uncovering a customer’s pain points and then providing a “solution” rather than simply leading them to a “product.” Solution-selling can be broken down into five fundamental principles:

    • Greet the customer genuinely and warmly (build report)
    • Ask probing questions to gather information about the customer’s situation (assess)
    • Clarification: refine your question to understand the customer’s pain points or problems. Direct the conversation from broad to specific. (filter / identify)
    • Propose a solution and explain how it addresses their issue, adds value, and meets or exceeds customer expectations (Provide Solution)
    • Call to Action: Ensure that all of the customer’s concerns are dealt with and that you are there to help with any future problems (Warm close)

    The guiding principle behind solution selling is that the sales person can “add value” to the sale by identifying the customer pain points and providing relief for each point. The solution can be one product that solves the customers issues, or a package of products when combined fixes the problem. Hence the focus is on the “solution” rather than the “product”. In most cases, solution selling requires the sales person to have a strong understanding of the customer’s product, context or industry. These salesperson adds value through that application of expertise.


    What are the five key points of selling retail?

    1) Greeting the Customer

    Welcoming a customer starts the shopping experience with a positive first impression. Being too formal or using technical language sounds rude and can also turn potential customers off. It’s essential to have a genuinely warm greeting, but it’s equally important not to be overly formal in a retail setting.

    Note: first impressions are critical, so store layout, product range, price, and retail marketing all play a significant role in facilitating a successful retail operation.

    Basic Customer Greeting Examples:

    • Hello/good morning/good afternoon!
    • Welcome to our store!
    • I was hoping to see you today!
    • Thank you for coming!
    • How are you today?
    • I would love to help you find anything!

    Note: being greeted by a salesperson with a positive attitude adds to first impressions!

    2) Transition into Probing & Assessing

    It’s important not to indulge too deeply in conversation with customers but to be warm, pleasant, and professional. After a warm and genuine welcome transition into probing and assessing the problem.

    Start with broad, open-ended questions, here are some common examples:

      1. What brings you here today?
      2. Which department are you looking for?
      3. Are you looking for something in particular?
      4. What (DIY project) are you working on?

    At this stage, sales staff are assessing and identifying the problem. Therefore, broad, open-ended questions aim to encourage the customers to talk about their pain points. However, listening carefully for keywords is essential once the customer begins discussing the problem​.

    Three soft skills are critical once the customer has been engaged:

    1. Active Listening: As salespeople, we need to find out the customer’s primary reasons for coming into the store. Therefore, listening carefully is vital! It’s important not to interrupt the customer and, at the same time, listen for keywords the customer is using and pay attention to their emotional state, body language, and tone.
    2. Empathy: If the customer is excited about a project, congratulate them. However, if they have come to the store searching to solve a problem, show empathy and concern. Further, showing empathy is a good way of managing relationships with customers. Here are some examples of empathy statements:
      • If that happened to me, I would be so mad too.
      • It sounds like you did everything you could.
      • I hear what you’re saying.
    1. Patience: Resist the urge to jump to a solution before the customer has had ample time to express themselves. Providing a solution too quickly without showing empathy could lead to resentment. The main priority is encouraging customers to speak as much as possible about their concerns.

    Note: Emotional intelligence and a positive attitude are helpful in these situations.

    Avoid Asking “Why” Questions during the probing stage!

    Often the “why” question can indirectly or unintentionally assert blame. As salespeople, we must avoid accusing or blaming customers for the problem.

    3) Clarify & Gain More Information

    Now that we have an idea of the customer’s concerns, we can clarify how our proposed solution will fix or relieve their pain points. In retail, adding value, and meeting or exceeding customer expectations are key principles. In order to solve the customer’s concerns, we need as much information as possible—examples of clarification questions:

      • Could you give me an example of what you mean by _____________ ?
      • By any chance, do you have a cell phone picture handy?
      • When did this happen?
      • Could you tell me a little more about the situation?
      • What size is it? How big is it?
      • What outcome would you like to see?

    Note: Communication skills are vital in identifying the customer’s pain points. Listening more and speaking less is a good rule of thumb!

    Building a Foundation through Probing and Clarification

    Before you can sell your solution, you must ensure that the customer is convinced they need it solved. Through probing and clarification, you are building the foundation from which the customer will decide.

    4) Proposing a Solution

    Once you understand the problem, the sales associate can propose a solution (product or service) that best meets the customer’s needs. Then, rather than focusing on the product’s features, explain how the “solution” will solve their “overall problem.” Remember, we are selling the solution, not the product.

    When explaining your solution to the customer, use the following guidelines:

      • Identify a product to be the focus of your solution
      • Refer to the customer’s pain points or problem
      • Explain how the product fixes the problem
      • Demonstrate how each pain point is addressed
      • Get agreement from the customer at every stage; if the customer agrees with you, you know you have persuaded them
      • Be sure the customer understands

    Note: A solution could include bundle selling. Therefore, retail salespeople should understand that solution selling can consist of multiple products.

    5) Summarize and Close

    When you present the customer with a solution, you should guide the customer through the process of how you arrived at the solution. Therefore, it is critical to summarize the solution you’ve developed and explain how it will solve their problem and meet the customer’s needs. The following statements can guide this process.

      1. Based on what you have told me, this is the best solution.
      2. Do you see how product X and Y fix ______________
      3. Do you see how that works?

    Once you gain agreement from the customer, the call to action should lead to collecting payment.

      1. Would you like this on your account?
      2. If that is everything for today, how would you like to pay?
      3. Jennifer/Mike will help you from here. If you need anything else, let me know. My name is ___________________ .

    Positive Customer Experience

    The customer should leave the store feeling that their concerns have been resolved, and if they need something else, they know where to go. Leaving the customer with a positive experience is one of the basic foundations of retail success. In the long term, managing relationships will lead to more sales.

    The Brilliance of Solution Selling versus Product Selling

    When selling a “product” (or good), the sales associate is only looking for a short-term quick sale. Conversely, when the sales staff sells a solution, they are building a long-term business relationship. As mentioned earlier, the retail industry is in a state of transition. For this reason, brick-and-mortar stores must add value to the customer experience to achieve retail success.

    An Excellent Customer Experience is becoming the Main Retail Principle!

    In the retail world, whether it be hardware, automotive, business supplies, art supplies, or computer hardware, selling a solution starts with talking to people, learning about their pain points, and understanding the underlying customer needs. Then, armed with information, you create a solution that leverages your product knowledge and services and stores resources for future opportunities. Likewise, the future of the retail industry relies on each sales associate providing consistently high levels of customer satisfaction.

    Value Added Retail Sales

    Sales associates are the heart and soul of any retail business. They create opportunities and drive sales by engaging customers, identifying their needs and desires, and directing them toward value-added solutions. Solution selling is a proven way of doing this. By asking probing questions, sales associates can build relationships with the customers, identify their specific needs and direct them to the best possible solution.

    Interested in learning more ways to build a more successful retail business? Also Visit: What is a planogram?

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