By Richard L Gordon, author of the book "A Line Out The Door"

Hopefully you've come to realize by now that there are two ways to produce more business: you either can bring in new customers or you can sell more to the ones that you already have. If you've run the numbers or watched the most successful and profitable retailers you should know by now that it's easier (and more profitable) to sell more to the customers you already have.

If you're with me so far, you have to ask yourself, "How do you sell more to the customers you already have?"

1. Get Your People to Perform As Expected
Yes, I know that's easier said than done. My point is that, whatever great mission or set of goals you've created going into 2012; you still won't get anywhere if you can't manage these next four specifics.

  • Know what motivates your people. Don't just think you know. Find out what gets them excited. This may be different for every one of them.
  • Give consistent and regular recognition for any positive efforts in the right direction.
  • Do NOT assume that because you gave instructions once, or stated an important policy, or trained anyone on any specific topic, that it will "take" the first or even the second time. Good training means reinforcing and emphasizing desired behavior and actions over and over and over!
  • Have and implement some specific corrective training for any employee that isn't measuring up to expectations (if they're sincerely trying), rather than any punitive or embarrassing actions.
  • Do not reduce your standards or accept mediocrity.

2. Put A Smile On The Face Of Customers Who Enter Your Store. 
Do not ignore or underestimate the importance of this objective. You can create memorable or remarkable moments in your store by working to ensure that your customers experience something special, emotional or outstanding that makes a lasting impression on them. The goal is to tie the customer's memory regarding visits to your store to small daily positive memorable experiences or even big "wow" moments when possible. Over a period of time, real emotional ties develop and become much more powerful than any advertising campaign. Regardless, memorable experiences are extremely rare when visiting almost any store, so this becomes one more great chance to separate yourself from the competition!

Two Primary Ways Customers Evaluate Their Experience In Your Store.

  • They compare their experience in your store to what they expected it would be. Can you do better?
  • They compare their experience to other experiences they have in other stores. Can you do better?

Customers may have low expectations from any sales clerk these days. Your goal may be as simple as having a sales clerk who smiles, looks the customer in the eye and remembers their name. (I guarantee you that's an improvement in many, many stores!)

Your store can begin to exceed experiences over other stores by simply carrying on a sincere pleasant conversation with the customer or asking about family or loved ones. Or possibly you exceed the competition by offering to gift-wrap their purchase at no charge. Maybe it's opening the door, making a funny comment and helping carry packages to the customer's car. Wouldn't any of these be memorable and put a smile on the customer's face? (These things are a lot easier to accomplish if you have employees who actually enjoy people and want to help them. This becomes your goal when you hire.)

These things add up and go a long way in being memorable. Think about a cashier at a drive-thru who has a "glad to see you" smile. They might make a positive comment about a child or pet in the car. They may keep treats available for kids or for Fido. They may even hand a regular customer a special coupon for a free drink or sandwich the next time around.

NOTE: One of Nordstrom's nice touches comes when they finish ringing up the sale. They don't hand the package over the counter to the customer or let them pick it up off the counter; they walk around the counter and present it to the customer with direct eye contact, a sincere smile and a "Thank You".... Nice Touch!

3. Ask Questions And Try To Add To Every Sale! 
One simple goal is to train your employees to ask questions of the customer to uncover their needs and more importantly their wants. You can have your employees do some suggestive selling. Give your employees a goal of adding on just 10% to every sale, no matter where the purchase starts out. The simple and magic phrase to remember is, "Have you seen this?" You don't want them badgering customers and repeatedly asking if the customer is sure they don't want this and that, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking if the customer has considered this or that, or if the customer needs a tie with that suit, or do they need some socks before they leave. This is called actually helping the customer to make sure they've picked up everything that they intended to buy or maybe they haven't thought of something. You don't want your employees to sell customers anything they don't actually want and you don't want them to bombard the customer with this same question over and over! The goal is to be helpful. Customers already have the "want" built in if you find the right item or push the right button.

Once your employees realize that a 10% add-on is a pretty reasonable goal, you may actually find that a little competition begins once the first employee achieves this goal. I'm sure you can encourage this effort by encouraging and challenging others to follow suit. Bolster this effort and encourage this atmosphere by having some simple contests with some gift card rewards.

4. Get Customers On Your E-Mail List With An Incentive 
Ask ALL customers at the time of purchase to provide you with their contact information so they can be on your e-mail list. Let them know they will receive a healthy discount on their next purchase if they bring back the printed e-mail you will send them with the discount coupon. Collecting this information is CRITICAL. It's worth whatever discount you may decide to provide. Also let them know that they will receive special offers for their loyalty along with announcements of new product arrivals and helpful information. You won't get them all, but those you do get, probably like your store quite a bit and want to be informed. Don't disappoint!