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Please enjoy the articles below.  Feel free to use them in your own newsletter, magazine, or web site. However, we do insist that when an article is used you include the author information following each article along with the tag line: "Reprinted with Permission". Please bookmark this page as we update this page regularly.Richard is an expert in the areas of retail sales, retail management and recruiting.  He is quoted often in business magazines and retail trade publications. Editors and writers should feel free to contact Richard for an interview in any of these areas or for a custom article.

“Subtract-Off” Selling: Wave of the Future
By Richard Fenton
You’ve heard of “add-on” selling, right? Want even better results? Want to engage in the wave of the future? Then stop “adding-on” and start “subtracting-off!”  What, you wonder, is subtract-off selling?

Subtract-Off Selling Means…

Filling a counter, table, cart or basket with all the possible items a customer may want or need

Explaining the reason for the product selections

Providing selected features and benefits

Explaining benefits to getting the entire package

And then instructing the customer to remove (or “subtract”) any unwanted items

How is it used?
For example, one computer/electronics retailer (when a customer buys a computer) encourages their sales people to literally load a shopping cart with everything the customer could conceivably want or need to operate and/or care for their purchase (printer, cables, battery pack, optical mouse, etc., etc., etc.).  Then, after explaining the purpose/need for each item in the cart, they instruct the customer to remove (subtract) anything they feel they can do without. The result? Big sales and happy customers!
Another example?  A super-successful Los Angeles-based menswear retailer (over $5 million in sales from a 2,000 sq. foot store!) insists that for every sport coat a customer buys, their salespeople must show 4 pair of slacks, 10 shirts, 12 ties, 3 pair of shoes, and 6 pair of socks. This is not a recommendation; it is the minimum expectation for each and every customer! 
The entire collection is laid out on a large display table and then presented to the customer, with a detailed explanation of what was chosen and why. Then, the customer is asked if there is anything that does not fit their needs. You’d be amazed at how many customers take the entire selection!
Think about it; how is furniture displayed? In collections! With the bed, dressers, end-tables, lamps, etc., all together in one place! Imagine having to say, “Here’s the bed, the matching dressers are on the second floor and the lamps are on up on seven!” No, it is all arranged together for the customer to see… and then to subtract pieces they don’t want or need.
Ask yourself: How can I use this in my environment? What collections and groupings can I show? Where can I gather and display the grouping? How do groupings benefit the customer?
“Adding-on” is a powerful concept, but so “five-minutes” ago. “Subtracting-off” is the future!


Coaching the Seasoned Sales Associate
By Andrea Waltz

At 23, I found myself promoted to General Manager of a LensCrafters store doing over 3 million dollars a year in business.  I was the youngest person in the company at that level. 
I knew that coaching was a major strategy that I had utilized in the past to get results and one that I needed to continue.  But then there was “Connie.”  Connie was friendly to me but somewhat amused by my interest in her performance and development.
I was very nervous about coaching Connie.  Not only was she older than me but she had been with the Company for many years and I knew she had “seen it all.”  I knew that because more than once Connie had commented to me, “Hey, I’ve seen it all.” The true seasoned sales associate!
So I needed to develop a strategy for dealing with Connie.  Here are a couple ways I found that worked for me and that I used for all the “Connies” I’ve had since.
Start with a Question
Connie knew her stuff and so I wanted to make sure she knew I respected her abilities right up front.  One day Connie spent about 15 minutes helping a customer and then the customer finally walked out.  Now I had some definite opinions on the transaction and I was tempted to walk up to Connie and start giving her feedback.  Instead, I walked up to her and said, “Hey, what happened with that customer?”  She explained the situation to me and it made sense.  The question gave me time to make sure I understood the situation. I could tell that Connie didn’t mind telling me about it, she appreciated my taking the time to ask. 
Give Feedback (Often)
I am sure that there were times that Connie wished I would just leave her alone but she got used to communicating with me.  I was always giving feedback.  I would give her positive feedback when she did well.  I also gave “neutral feedback” often.  My neutral feedback was simply my observations.  I remember saying once, “That customer’s frame didn’t fit very well,” to which Connie went on and let me know she tried for an hour to change the customer’s mind.  My feedback always let Connie know that I was paying attention and listening to interactions. 
Focus on Standards
Connie was a skilled salesperson.  And while the best can always get better, I knew that there wasn’t a lot I could teach her.  So when it came to coaching, most of the time I needed to just remind her about the standards (the what) and not skills (the how).  If a customer walked away without being offered a warranty, I would remind Connie that every customer must be shown the warranty option.  We both knew she was one of the best at recommending warranties; she didn’t need me teaching her how to do it.  But I wasn’t about to walk away without saying anything.  If I noticed there were certain things she avoided though, sometimes it would come down to skill and then we would work on that together, too.

 Conquering My Own Fear It took time to learn how to manage my seasoned sales associate Connie.  The reality was, the “strategies” I used with her really worked well with everyone on my team.  Probably the biggest thing that changed was my comfort level.  I was tempted to let Connie “do her thing” without feedback or direction.  In fact, the first few weeks we worked together, I said very little to her.  I was intimidated and figured there wasn’t much I could teach her anyway.  Then I realized, the longer I went not spending time with her, the harder it would be later.  Not only that but my function as a manager was to develop the team.  I knew I wasn’t performing at my best by choosing who I would and wouldn’t develop based on my own fears!  Besides, I figured maybe she could teach me a few things!  And you know… she sure did.   

Come to the Edge

By Richard Fenton
Over the last 20 years I’ve worked as a trainer and training director for some of the biggest retailers in America .  I’ve watched many training and development efforts get rolled-out with great fanfare, only to stutter, stall, and never deliver the behavior change we’d hoped for. Why?  I used to think there was something wrong with the message or the method. But I’ve come to the inescapable realization that the main reason we didn’t get the results we wanted was that the behavior change we’ve asked for requires risk on the part of the learner.  It required an individual to take a chance, to stick their neck out and try something different, perhaps even scary. It required that people be willing to fail, sometimes over and over again, until they get it right. Quite simply, most people are afraid.  And this fear is the dominant restraining factor that keeps people from achieving peak levels of performance.  And that’s where you come in.  If this is ever going to change it will be because you, the frontline manager, accept that you are the person responsible to be the engineer of performance.  What are your associates afraid of?  In my conversations with associates I’ve heard people mention every fear you can imagine, but there are several themes which come up over and over:

Fear of rejection

Fear of failure

Fear of hearing no

Even the fear of success!

Most of all, however, is the fear of “stepping over the line” with the customer. You know the line, right? The one that, if the associate were to accidentally step over, they may get the customer upset. The reality is this: If your people don’t inch their toe over the line every once and a while there is no way of knowing where the line is.
When you create an environment that says, “Under no circumstances are we to ever take any chance of upsetting a customer by showing too much merchandise,” then you’ve got a big problem!  
Why? Because the “line” is different for every customer!  To play it that safe, you’d have to never take a chance at all! And that’s what your people do all the time…. they play it safe. Help your people test their potential! Challenge them to be their best. They might amaze you!