Lobster On The Menu

195f91259df81f563c308c1231d9da65It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Like ‘the elephant in the room’ or ‘the cat’s out of the bag’. But what does it mean?

Well, this post began with an Australian television program called The Checkout. It’s essentially about sales, marketing gimmicks, advertising and consumer rights. And I find it really interesting…

Hello? Oh, sorry, I thought you’d fallen asleep. I promise I won’t talk about statistics or market analysis, but I do want to talk about sales and the techniques used to entice you to buy something.

I’ve worked in the retail industry for a fair portion of my life but I’ve never had any formal training and I probably don’t sell properly. Not in an official sense. There are specially researched techniques spruiked by those at the top of the sales pyramid, and I’m sure markets are researched and customers are placed into categories. Arguably, the best sales people will convince you to buy something you didn’t intend to. For example, you go into a store to buy a pair of black trousers, but you end up trying on the navy while the sales assistant checks to see if they’re available in black. They’re not, but you buy the navy. You still need a black pair though, don’t you?

They will also try to convince you to buy something in addition to your intended purchase, ‘just try this jacket on’ or ‘this belt will look lovely with that’ because once you’ve already decided to spend some money, apparently it is then easier to get you to spend more. Ye olde add-on sale.

So what about the lobster on the menu? Well, everything is relative and the lobster makes everything else on the menu appear more affordable. If you’d like to see how The Checkout discusses this topic with a little light-hearted humour, you can (hopefully) take a look here. This doesn’t just apply to restaurants. If you ask a sales person for the price of the jacket in the front window and they first give you the price of the whole suit, they are playing a similar game.

I hate being overtly sold to. A pushy sales assistant is an instant deal breaker for me. It’s probably why I switch off when someone’s twitter header consists of one massive sales pitch. ‘Buy my book’, ‘view my website’, ‘I’m awesome’, ‘I can make you awesome’… at which point I don’t care. What might entice me to learn more or click on your link or read your book is a little bit of honesty and heart and something that reveals a little bit of you.

So, what do I like to see in a sales person? Welcoming, polite and pleasant to make the customer feel at ease. It’s really important be able to read people. Some customers have a back-off vibe, others want you to accost them as they enter and sales people need to know the difference. It’s also advisable to recognise personal space and when someone is bristling at your very presence. The best people in sales (in my opinion) offer their clients a happy experience – even if they walk out with nothing they would happily shop with you again.

Please share your retail experiences.

Name your lobster.





6 thoughts on “Lobster On The Menu

  1. It’s so weird. I was talking about this very thing only the other day. My brother works in sales at the moment (not his ideal job, needless to say) and I worked in sales/retail for years upon years upon *years*… Anyway, he’s always being pressured by his bosses to ‘upsell’, too, exactly as you described. If a person comes in looking for object A, sell them objects B, C, and D instead, and get them to order object A, so they’ll come back again at a later date and be convinced that the price has doubled ‘because we had to order it in specially…’

    Blahblah. That might have worked in an earlier age, but it doesn’t any more. And it’s sales people – the people behind the till, actually dealing with the customers, who get it in the neck when they try this upselling nonsense; the higher-ups, the ideas-guys, well. They don’t have to deal with the stuff that goes on at shop-floor level, so they don’t care that their salespeople are dealing with the stress of having to do a near-impossible job. It’s a stupid model, I think. People respond to genuine salespeople and shop floor staff, who sell them what they want, at a fair price, and don’t pressure them to buy more than that. But bosses only care about cash in the drawer. Don’t even get me started about commission, and your wages being connected to your sales…. Raaar! *angry face*

    I worked as a bookseller for years, so upselling, for me, wasn’t so hard. I was so passionate about what I was selling that my enthusiastic recommendations were often enough to convince a customer to buy something they hadn’t intended to. But – it’s important to say I’d never recommend a book I didn’t believe the customer wanted or needed. I wasn’t selling things just for the sake of a sale. I cared about what I was selling. If you’re selling toothbrushes, or backscratchers, it’s not quite so clear cut. If you love what you’re selling, you’ll sell it. And, more importantly, your customer will remember the experience, and they’ll be back.

    Sorry. This comment is longer than your post, almost. I’ll shut up now. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! 😀 There is a lot more to sales than I could possibly cover in my post (and in your comment 😉 ) Don’t get me started on commisions either…. But I think you hit the nail on the head with your experiences as a bookseller – sincerity is the bottom line. It doesn’t matter if you are selling books, clothes, toothbrushes or backscratches. It doesn’t matter if you’ve managed to up-sell, add-on, sell something else or do all of above, if the sale is seamless and your guidance is true and helpful and the client feels as though they’ve made their own decision – they will return. I’m sure of it.

      • Exactly. By the way I meant no offence to those fine men and women who dedicate their lives to selling toothbrushes and backscratchers. I simply meant my own passions don’t lie in those noble pursuits, so I couldn’t sell them with conviction.

        Seamless and genuine customer support and service during a sale. That’s what’s needed. Not constant attempts to pull the wool over the customer’s eyes.

        I guess I have strong feelings about this topic. *reins self in*

      • 🙂 I’m sure no offence was taken. I completely understood the spirit of your comment and and I’m really glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Bullying, deception or misdirection to get a sale now will only bite you later. xx

  2. Nothing I hate as much as someone trying to sell me something in the good old-fashioned aggressive way. If the shop assistant is pestering me with “Maybe you do need help” or “Have you had a look at this?”, then she is sure to see me running out of the shop as if the devil himself was after me 🙂 That’s why I love Internet shopping! No pressure, no questions, I can take my sweet time, choose what I want, then change my mind, then change it again, compare prices, compare sellers, send them emails with questions only when I do have questions and – ta-dam – buy used things and not-made-in-you-know-where things. Unfortunately, I rarely (more like – never) go shopping for clothes in non-internet shops now, as everything you see there is from China 😦 I still have bookshops left though 🙂

    • You never hear people say, “I love being sold to. I love feeling forced to buy something.” So if people *don’t* say that, then the only point (as far as I can tell) is – it must work. And maybe it does, at the time of purchase. The real question is – do they go back?

      I’ve been lucky enough to mostly work for non-pushy small businesses, I’d hate to see the internet kill off those trying to keep their heads above internet competition. It will be interesting to see how ‘sales’ evolves from here – I’m hoping we’ll move back to good old fashioned customer service.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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