Today’s retail environment is getting tougher and tougher as discount chains enter into the market place. High end stores continue to chase after a shrinking middle class and restricting high income clientele. One of the most important secrets for any retail manager is to learn the skill of spotting the centers of influence – or what I call COI’s. COI’s are the individuals, organizations, charities and businesses that will create new and repeat sales for you within your store. The best sale is a sale that has the lowest operational cost to generate.
For instance: should you find a person who is always shopping in your stores with friends, then you know that one person is a COI (center of influence). They bring customers to your store and you do not spend additional advertising dollars to attract them. Centers of influence are the people that want to know the managers personally, they look to build working relationships with the sales managers and personnel and they practically sell your products for you. I have noticed that many stores do not know how to develop or manage their CENTERS OF INFLUENCE. Some sales people are actually irritated when a COI comes into their store. These managers and sales people should be doing all they can to make certain their COI is happy, but often the sales person does not like the additional attention they require or the additional work.
Allow me to share a personal experience. My company has had the privilege of serving my clients nationally and I have a few select stores that I tend to favor over others. My clients and my company bought and generated in excess of 1 million dollars in clothing last year; however, even I had an experience with a new sales associate. The sales person was actually frustrated that they had to bring out 6 -8 different pairs of shoes and prepare a special area for my clients to shop. This client ended up spending in excess of $6,000 in that one store alone working with another associate. A typical client of mine spends thousands in a single shopping experience; forget the return business and the referrals the client may generate for the store. COI’s should be met with a smile and an eagerness to serve, not a sigh and a lack of gratitude. Sales are hard to find, spot the people that shop regularly in your stores, spot the people who are bringing in friends and shopping with them. They may not buy anything themselves, but their friends do. Take the time and develop a relationship with your repeat buyers, and be on the lookout for the COI’s in your business. Sometimes it is the COI who brings you your best clientele and not the fancy million dollar ads the company may create to attract customers.
I have found that the best rule is to train your sales people to treat every customer as a COI and this way you will never miss the opportunity to make the best impression on a customer who may generate millions of dollars for your store and you never really know it!
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