Proactive retail selling.

Location: Carphone Warehouse, Selfridge’s London

I’m a big fan of Selfridges London and a moderate fan of Carphone Warehouse, who are one of the better all brand mobile phone retail chains.  So when Carphone Warehouse opened a concession in Selfridges, I had the perception that the experience would be pretty impressive.

“Can I show you this case” the sales assistant asked rhetorically, as he started his demonstration.  Like a market trader in a holiday resort, the concession’s idea of increasing footfall appeared to centre around accosting unsuspecting browsers to endure a silicon case demo.

“The skin comes in 4x colours” he went on to say, seizing the opportunity of my politeness choosing not to ignore him.  He gestured in the loose direction of his concession, that was hidden behind the computer concessions display of Apple MacBooks.  Having recognised from my body language that I wasn’t heading in that direction, he decided to demonstrate how effective the phone ‘skin’ was.  Peeling it back from the phone, he showed me a crack on the top right hand corner of the screen.  “I’ve dropped this phone lots of times” he confessed, “and I only have this small crack, if I didn’t have this case, I would have probably broken my phone”.

Broken phone, better sales approach would have worked

I smiled; for two reasons: firstly I was amused by his sales pitch, and secondly based on his sales pitch I suspected his conversion rate was relatively low and some encouragement would probably be welcome.  “It’s ok buddy” I said “I’ve got a case, but thank you”.

It wasn’t clear who he worked for at that stage, he was wearing black and a Selfridges badge, but was clearly employed by a concession – although most customers would be unaware of this until they got to the till.  I took a long walk round to his concession, to realise it was indeed Carphone Warehouse.

OK, so what can we learn from this brief encounter?

1: I’m not sure we should be jumping on customers unsolicited in this manner.

Shopping would be very tiresome if every brand or seller jumped on us as we passed their stand or shopfront. The exception to this would be when we have something incredibly new, amazing, ground breaking or interesting to share, which may enrich my life or make me a little more interesting on the next outing with the guys.  In this instance, I question whether a silicon skin/case meets this criteria.

That said, with some preparation and theatre we could have made the case demonstration more exciting and interesting.  If as I walked passed, he placed the phone on the floor and stamped on it, or invited me to hit it with a giant mallet it would grab my attention.  He may have gone on to demonstrate that the device still worked by asking me to enter my email address.  Had he, a number of things would have ensued:

  • I’d be entertained, the novelty element of my brain would have lit up like a Christmas tree.  This isn’t something you see every day!
  • I’d be impressed, he let me hit his phone with a mallet and it still works
  • I’d start to like the salesman, he let me hit his phone.  He trusted me, now I am more likely to trust him.
  • I’m involved, not just physically but mentally and emotionally.  It was now my demo, not his, and we know involvement is also very persuasive.

2: Showing or admitting to minor flaws and addressing them with practical compromises or rationale can be very persuasive.  For example, at Kerching Retail we are only a small team, that is a perceived weakness.  However, this means you always get our best consultants working on your business, not the intern.

Demonstrating that the phone cracked it’s screen whilst in a protective case is not a minor flaw, but a fundamental one.  I’m not in the market for a case that limits damage, I need it to eliminates damage.

3: Qualifying customers.  Did I have a need for this case? Perhaps, or I may have needed it for my girls or wife.  A couple of questions may have changed the entire dynamic of the interaction.  “Can I see your phone please sir, and your current case?”  He would have immediately seen I use a Tech21 Impactology case, to protect against frequent and frustrating habit of dropping my phone whilst multi-tasking, typically – in my office, in shopping malls, and more often than not – on a Shopfit site.  “I see your phone’s safety is important to you, are there any other phones in your household?…” Its easy to see where the conversation may have led from this.

In Summary: Although a pretty ineffective demo, there is scope to create a memorable and engaging experience with a little practice, preparation and theatre.

2 thoughts on “Proactive retail selling.”

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