Stay calm under fire

T21 managing director Paul Laville says if you can keep your head while all those around you are getting carried away with the ‘summer of sport’, you’ll be a salesman, my son

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 12 months, you’ll know that we’re heading for a truly blockbusting ‘Summer of Sport’.

Not only do we have the Uefa Euro 2016 and the Olympics headlining the sporting action, but this year also sees a major push for UHD TV penetration into the mass market.

I’ll hazard a confident guess that the big brands will quickly be launching a salvo of promotions targeting both ‘Summer of Sport’ and UHD TV, enticing consumers to buy into their brand-new 4K ‘ecosystems’ with all the firepower they can muster. After all, it worked back in 2004, when sales of the relatively new Full HD TVs were energised by an equally packed sporting calendar.

Maybe you’re planning your own promotions, too. Maybe you’ll have balloons, badges, posters, open evenings and special deals coinciding with the big sporting events and new technology launches. Exciting times. Potentially very profit-able, but as a salesperson on the shopfloor. I’d be more than a tad apprehensive.

Let’s bring it back down to earth.

Come the summer of sport, how would I deal with people who walk in-store seemingly just to catch the second half of England vs Wales on June 16, or to check out the latest leader boards for the Tour de France while I’ve got a shop full of people and a dozen banners still to put up?

How would I deal with customers who walk in wanting to know more about this ‘new 4K thing’ during the Wimbledon semi-finals when I’ve explained it for the 12th time that day already?

As a salesperson facing the prospect of a potentially manic shopfloor day after day, I’d want to be prepared to deal with masses of people asking endless ‘stupid’ questions, screaming kids looking for a free balloon and confused self-taught tech-heads who know everything there is to know about UHD TV because they read it from a rumour site on the internet.

I’d be thinking that it’s all very well enticing people in to ‘find out more’ and ‘see it in action’, to take advantage of extended warranties, cash backs, buy-now-pay-later deals and free balloons, but it could be a frenzy that tests the patience of the best of us.

So, are you prepared to manage your emotions, to stay sharp and not get bogged down by distractions? Keeping up the smiles and positivity, let alone actually selling, during busy promotional periods can be challenging.

Here’s a tip to remember. If you’re selling, then you are the one controlling your day, not your customers. Make sure you’re the one asking all the questions, not the other way round. Answer a question with a question. If you’re focusing on the end result of all these promotions, which is to sell units, then you’ll find it easier to manage your emotions, make sales and enjoy the day. Just remind yourself that there’s a purpose to every dumb question you’ll be asked.

And talking of dumb questions…

Just days before writing this, I carried out a retail audit (aka ‘mystery shop’) for one of my clients, and I asked this sales guy in one of their branches, ‘Why is 4K better than my current TV?’ My wife genuinely maintains she cannot see the difference between standard definition and 1080p, and she was with me at the time, so that wouldn’t have made it easy. All the guy had to do was ask questions to discover our TV viewing preferences and tailor the glorious benefits of UHD TV to our lifestyle. He could have demonstrated the differences in colour, depth, contrast and the sheer fabulous beauty of what looked like living, breathing pictures on the TV. He could have asked whether we watched Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Sky Q and explained how these services would be running UHD content soon, if they weren’t already.

He could have taken control simply by asking questions. That’s all. Instead, he tried to explain the technology of HDR, refresh rates, up-scaling, 2160p and God only knows what else. And by the time he launched into where the content was likely to come from, even I was confused.

It can be taxing for shopfloor sales staff when it starts getting manic in-store during big promotions. But that doesn’t stop the basics of selling being effective.

Please don’t forget that the science behind the screen really doesn’t matter to most consumers. What matters is the result of it. Leave the science to the boffins and concentrate on selling. Remember to explore your customers’ preferences and take control of your sale, even under fire.