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January 30, 2018

Learning to Sell Part I: Rapport + Credibility = Value

By John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member

Unfortunately, not everyone is born to sell. If you have staff who are challenged in building rapport with their customers, or part-time or temporary employees who work only during peak holiday hours and are, therefore, not as invested in your customers as your full-time staff, you can help them all become better salespeople by realizing that excelling at retail selling, if not instinctive, can be learned! In this first of two parts, I’ll show you how to help your staff discover their inner sales pro by learning how to build rapport with their customers and demonstrate their credibility, all aimed at adding value to the sales experience. Let’s get started.

It’s All About Genuine Rapport

Some experts may challenge me after 30 years in the retail industry, but I can attest to the fact that customers will buy more from you and you will close more sales if your sales staff exhibit consistently great interpersonal skills with each patron. Building great rapport leads to understanding and providing solutions for each customer, which in turn creates loyalty, respect and credibility.

Rapport-building is the heart of making any human interaction a success. A salesperson finding something in common between them and their customer, something not related to the merchandise being considered, is what begins to build rapport. This requires a salesperson to notice something about their customer: sunglasses, clothing, type of smartphone, etc. The salesperson asking a question about that item, then sharing something related about themselves based on what that customer answered, is how the rapport-building starts.

Those who lack this gift of gab tend to jump right into “Can I help you find something?” or “What brings you in today?” While those questions are necessary and standard fare, they fail to break the ice with new customers and erroneously skip the rapport-building opportunity. People like to feel comfortable, secure, confident and happy when they spend money. Rapport-building conversations enable that. But keep in mind that you have to encourage your staff to be sincere in this type of conversation. It is not done with scripts or rehearsal — it must be genuine.

Your Credibility Adds Value

When rapport building is successful, it should become evident why a customer is visiting your store. They will reveal that they are a hunter, sport shooter or concerned with self-defense. You will also discern whether they are experienced or a novice, and this is important as it will determine the speed at which you sell. The experienced gun owner most likely knows exactly what they are looking for, and that means if the price is right and the product is what they expected it to be, the sale can be fairly quick. The novice, on the other hand, will need someone to walk them through the details, explain terms and otherwise take the time to educate and inform them about the many options available for whatever it is they’re interested in.

Recognizing the novice and working with them at the right speed is critical to establishing your credibility as a salesperson. That’s something the novice customer needs to proceed to completing their purchase. This, in turn, adds value to the sale. When value is felt by the customer, it often leads to establishing a deeper, long-lasting relationship built on emotional trust, one that allows you to go on to selling products or services that are genuinely useful, enjoyable or of some other benefit to that customer.

Reading Your Customers

Great salespeople focus on “reading” their customers’ personalities and making adjustments in sales technique based accordingly. For example, introverts require a different selling approach than extroverts. If your customer appears to be shy, unsure, confused or simply not conversational, try the “My name is Henry and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have” approach. Opening your conversation with a gentle welcome and introduction is a good start.

Remember that learning to sell is an ongoing process, even for those who have a knack for it. Why? Because great salespeople are students of behaviors. They want to understand why a customer did or didn’t buy from them, what they might have done differently or how they might have presented higher-quality or higher-priced merchandise with greater appeal.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which I’ll discuss why overselling compromises your credibility and value as a salesperson, while add-ons and upsells can enhance them.

About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery, and internal control failures. Visit, call (720) 514-0609, or email for more information.


You may also be interested in: Bad Communication Begets Bad Results

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