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The sales/price conundrum

POS, credit card, payment, shopperRetail sales staff worldwide are not the best paid of folk. In fact, many are at the lower end of the food chain. They work in all retail formats, from discount retailers to high-end luxury goods. Many would do their own shopping at the lower end of retail, while few would be able to afford the top end. This is natural and logical.

The problem is on the shop floor at the top end, where many sales people cannot relate to potential customers and nor do they aspire to own the merchandise they are selling. When you are an executive earning, say, $1 million and upwards a year, buying a Rolex for $20K represents a relatively small part of your annual income.

However if you are on a $50K salary, it would be foolish to spend nearly half a year’s income on a watch, which in any case would not match your lifestyle. Most people would presume it to be a fake.

The conundrum occurs when the sales person, either through their body language or verbally, influences the customer negatively. The message, coded or otherwise, is, “why would you waste money on buying such an expensive item?”.

One possible, but highly improbably, non-solution is to pay these sales folk $1 million a year! Another is to find sales folk who adore high-end items. The most common solution is to offer significant commissions so that the sales people can earn big dollars – if they try.
Sales training and especially product knowledge needs to be top notch. This includes the social graces and especially the sensitive issue of appearance. Personal hygiene, dress, language, hair et al, need to exude class. How to achieve this in these days of political correctness is not that easy. Allowances for personal grooming and clothing can go part of the way, but removing a tattoo on the lower arm saying ‘I love Kmart’ is not so easy.

Whether you like it or not, these judgments need to be made when hiring. And often personal prejudice is a major factor. Many ‘beautiful’ customers in the market for a high-ticket item do not expect to be approached by, say, a morbidly obese human. I do not mean any disrespect to overweight people, but this is the reality and we all need to recognise our limitations.

Having done a fair amount of recruiting at all levels over the years, I freely admit that I am biased in favour of ‘beautiful salespeople’ to serve ‘beautiful customers’.

And those folk who tip the scales at 150kg, have a tatt or two, and a mixture of green and red hair dye, will never make my short list. Politically correct or otherwise.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702

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