Boost Potential: Ask customers why they didn’t buy

Want to know how you can get more sales? Ask the people who are not buying from you. Learn how to increase your customer base and build your business.

As I look at my calendar, I see that many retailers are preparing to attend another buyers market. There is one question that many retailers forget to ask themselves as they plan their next buying trip. Have you asked your customers what they want?

Business is never great, it can always be better. Very rarely do I hear a company say that business has never been better, or that it is fantastic. In our ever changing economy, more than ever before just making ends meet is a struggle.

I am a firm believer in customer service, which is not the same as customer pampering. However, I see so many businesses overlook some of the most obvious rules and lose customers. These are the same retailers that complain that their traffic is down, or that customers are just not buying.

I have yet to hear, unless they’re one of my clients, a retailer ask the customer that did not buy; “Excuse me, to better service our customers, I noticed that you did not find what you came in for. I am planning our next buying trip and would like to know what you didn’t find. Maybe it’s something we should be carrying.” It’s not a hard question.

It’s always important to thank the customers who buy, but talking to the person that did not buy can be even more important.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your sales ratio is 1 in 5 — for every five people you see, you make one sale. What about those other four? Why didn’t they buy?

Maybe it was the selection, your sales pitch, or your pricing. By not asking, you will never know. By not asking, you hand that potential customer over to your competition on a silver platter.

The purpose is not to turn that sale around, although it could happen. It is to gain knowledge on what you can do the next time. Do not go overboard. Let’s look at an apparel store.

You had 10 customers come in and you made two sales. You thank those customers and ask the others why they did not buy (tell them you are going to market and you want their input). You get eight different reasons. What do you do? Nothing. You do not have enough of one reason to make an informed decision.

Now let’s look at it this way. Out of the eight, you have six who say they cannot find their size or the prices are too high. Now you have something to go on. If you have the same problems coming from six of the eight who did not buy, this will tell you that you need to make some changes.

Meeting your customers’ needs cannot be accomplished just by looking at what you are selling. It is what you are not selling, what you are marking down, what you are not giving your customers that counts.

People love to give advice. All you have to do is ask. It is what you do with that information that counts.

Copyright (c) Elements of Success, David Wing and Retail Advisors. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact David Wing at Visit the Retail Business Resource Center at Retail Advisors, Helping Independent Retailers Since 1988.

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