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Book Review – Selling Retail – Book One by John Lawhon
John F. Lawhon, one of the highest paid retail salesmen in America, has written a two-part course on the art of retail sales.
If I were to wade through it as quickly as possible, I could simply say that Mr. Lawhon’s first book in the series is based largely on two premises. To be successful, a retailer should:
A. Be able to recognize the real needs of the customer a
B. Be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary not only to meet those needs, but also to help the customer realize what their needs really are.
Mr. Lawhon makes the case that good ie professional, successful and well paid salespeople will work to achieve these two goals. Those who enter the sales profession without learning these skills and adopting this attitude will simply become “order takers” who will never reach the potential of a retail sales position. In short, Mr. Lawhon believes that most top and truly successful sales professionals are NOT born, but achieve success through learning and practice.
Mr. Lawhon draws on insights from his own years of selling furniture and extensive personal research to make and/or illustrate his points. He will explain, for example, why approach to the customer is so important, as well as HOW to do it… and why. He believes that every approach to the customer should be truly cheerful, and thus begin to break through the wall that so many customers have built. He then believes in establishing communication with the customer, both for the purpose of “further breaking the ice” and for the purpose of opening real lines of communication.
This opening and expansion of communication is extremely important, because it is thanks to it that a truly competent salesperson begins to learn about the customer and his needs. As mentioned above, it is this recognition of the customer’s needs that will allow the sales professional to begin to demonstrate and apply the knowledge and skills that will be the “tools of the trade” with which the sales professional will be able to help the customer. to find a product that will actually meet their real needs rather than some product that will only partially provide the satisfaction they are looking for.
To guide the reader through the entire retailing process, or at least the parts covered in this first book, Mr. Lawhon has divided his book into three main sections:
In this section, the author reveals 11 basic principles that will be valuable to readers. Many of these seem to be taken from the author’s own experiences, and he makes extensive use of storytelling and parables to illustrate various points.
In one chapter, for example (Old Ugly Was a Dog), he explains that beauty IS UNCERTAINTY in the eye of the beholder. He uses the example of how he taught his salespeople to sell what is generally considered an hideous sofa by simply making them understand that there are still people who would consider it perfect and that for those people the sofa would sell without their help, but that they could LOSE THE SALE by openly or silently expressing their opinion on the beauty or lack of a piece of furniture (in this case) until the customer expresses their opinion.
After using the story of the ugly old man to make a basic point, he elaborates further by pointing out various lessons that can be learned from this simple story. In this case, for example, he explains that until you know what a customer needs and wants, including their perception of “beauty,” you can try to sell them something they can’t see the same way you do. This is extremely counterproductive because it’s easier to sell someone something they like than to try to get them to like something enough to buy it if they don’t really care.
II. Knowledge Groups
Based on his personal experience, Mr. Lawhon believes that a top sales professional should have five knowledge groups at their fingertips.
* Knowledge of their products and those of their competitors.
* Knowledge of their inventory and their competitors.
* Knowledge of their advertising and that of their competitors.
* Knowledge of their credit plan and their competitors.
* Knowledge of their policies and their competitors.
Based on the fact that 75% of sales come from 25% of salespeople, the author explains and elaborates on how expertise in these five areas can help put readers in the 25% that make up most of the sales! It also shows how the ability to accurately assess and satisfy a customer’s needs using these five knowledge groups will allow the salesperson to more accurately and successfully achieve the goal of achieving true customer satisfaction and selling the right item to the right person with minimal effort during the sales process itself.
In this section, the author also provides substantial advice on how to proceed in acquiring the five groups of knowledge.
III. Sales techniques
Having previously provided an overview of some general sales philosophies, in this final section the author actually begins to give instructions on the sales process itself, focusing on greeting and approaching the customer, qualifying their wants and needs, and selecting merchandise. product(s) that should satisfy these wants and needs.
At the very end of this book, and in preparation for the second book, “Sales Retailing,” Mr. Lawhon makes several valuable points.
It simply says that once you’ve acquired the five knowledge groups, greeted the customer, qualified their needs and wants, and made the selection you present to them, the sale STILL hasn’t started… and that’s what Book Two is all about.
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