Create your clientele: Customers aren’t customers until they buy something. Find out how to keep them satisfied—and keep their business
BY GERRY MORRIS
It seems the word “customer” is the catch-all term for anyone and everyone who visits a store. The truth is, they’re not technically customers until they buy something. While this may seem nit-picky, words have meanings—and words really do matter. They represent the ideas that create the thoughts that evoke the emotions that influence our actions.
This is especially true as it relates to how we identify the people we interact with on the retail mattress sales floor. That’s why it’s important to know, understand and use the correct terminology. The more clarity and awareness you have, the better you’ll be able to differentiate and respond accordingly, thus increasing effectiveness.
What’s in a name?
In addition to the definition, I’ve added some connotations (implied meanings of words) and some other thoughts to consider.
Consumer: Someone who buys and uses goods and services. Often referred to as “the consumer” and meant as a group.
The fortunate thing about mattress sales is that every adult is a potential buyer. Pretty much everyone sleeps on one every night. They wear out—the mattress and, consequently, the person, from lack of sleep. Eventually they get replaced (the mattress, not the person—unless they really get grouchy).
Market: The total number of consumers potentially willing to buy a particular product.
The U.S. market for mattresses accounts for more than $10 billion in annual sales. Individual retailers’ markets are based on geographical proximity.
Market share: The percentage of the total amount of available sales in a given market.
Market share is an important metric companies use to judge their effectiveness compared with the competition.
Clientele: A group of customers of a particular store and/or person.
These are loyal, long-term customers. Stores have a clientele, as do retail sales associates. They may or may not be loyal to both. Some people will keep buying from a store even if their RSA leaves, and some will follow the RSA wherever she goes, if possible. It’s all about relationships.
Customer: A person who buys goods or services.
A customer is similar to a buyer (see below), but the connotation is that there’s a relationship involved. Unfortunately, it may not be a good relationship. Some customers buy only one time, never to return, based on their dissatisfaction with the product and the experience with the company. Many mattress store customers may be satisfied with the product and experience, but they view the transaction as a one-time deal.
Regular or repeat customer: Customers who buy products from a particular store more than one time.
Repeat customers are people who are satisfied not only with the product they purchased, but also with the person and company they purchased it from.
Buyer: Someone who purchases something.
Similar to a customer, based on the action taken, but the connotation is an impersonal experience with little, if any, emotion and with no establishment of a relationship. People who buy mattresses can fall into this category, when their purchase is considered utilitarian, like tires.
Shopper: Someone who goes into a store to look at the things sold there.
Shoppers have some intention of purchasing the products they go to look at, unlike browsers, who typically don’t.
Browser: Someone who is looking at things in a store without being sure they want to buy.
The key here is that she isn’t sure she wants to buy. She’s not as good a candidate as a shopper, but we must not write her off. Something sparked her interest.
Keeping the business
Obviously, the key to success in turning browsers and shoppers into buyers is closing the sale. Otherwise browsers stay browsers and shoppers buy from a competitor.
But, as I mentioned earlier, you may close the sale to someone who may be unhappy and may encourage friends to never visit your store. Making the sale using pressure or manipulation can create real problems over the long term.
A more worthy goal is to consider your market of consumers and figure out how to increase your market share to create a large, loyal, active clientele of satisfied customers.
A great place to start is the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” You may have noticed I refer to it often. Author Stephen R. Covey lists habit two as, “Begin with the end in mind. Envision what you want in the future so that you know concretely what to make a reality.”
Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Close the sale, but don’t stop there. Turning browsers and shoppers into buyers and customers simply requires closing the sale. That could include high-pressure manipulative tactics. But turning them into repeat customers is dependent on several factors: how well they like the product and how they view the RSA, store, delivery and company in general. RSAs must follow through and make sure the customer is satisfied with every aspect.
- Treat everyone as if they are already your loyal clientele. That means treating everyone—from the browser up—as if they’re already a part of your clientele. People perceive motive, and if you engage everyone with the same interest, enthusiasm and general concern for their well-being, long-term success will most certainly be the result.
- Don’t brush off browsers. They sleep on beds, too, and even if their mattresses aren’t worn out now, they will be some day. By engaging and inviting browsers to see how comfortable mattresses are nowadays, several things can happen. They may buy, they may go home and realize their mattress is worn out, they may remember to shop at your store when they finally decide to buy or they may not be interested.
- Create a clientele. RSAs must develop strong relationships with their customers through effective, ongoing communication. Asking for and keeping records of possible upcoming needs, sending reminders of how to protect warranties and notices of promotions and sales, and offering tips on better sleep are just some of the ways to keep customers engaged.
- Grow market share. Seek endorsements, comments and referrals from your satisfied customers. Provide an incentive for them to sing your praises on social media. Keep business cards available and engage friends, family and others on the importance and benefits of sleeping on quality mattresses.
Words really do matter. Correctly identify the people you interact with and set your goal on moving them up to create a loyal clientele.
Sleep well, and help others do the same.
Gerry Morris is an author, consultant and training coach with more than 20 years of experience in the mattress industry. Morris’ Inner Spring training company has a strategic partnership with The Furniture Training Co. to offer a premium online training course, “Sell More Mattresses with Gerry Morris.” To view the course, visit www.furnituretrainingcompany.com.