Get Your Customers Talking

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Profit is an end result. It’s a by-product of doing many things well. Webster’s defines profit as “the positive gain from an investment or business operation after subtracting all expenses.” So, rather than creating profit by cutting back expenses, we recommend you focus on doing all you can do to increase your sales. Have your cashiers, loaders, nursery associates and landscaping teams add to the top line to create a hefty bottom line this season. Let’s get the staff fully prepared to deliver double-digit increases.

Profit From Customer Interaction

If you want profit, the real goal is to engage customers, learn more about their project and add items per transaction. That means every customer purchases one or two additional items in each transaction. You cannot create profit if you rely on customers to select their own merchandise and leave. Step forward as the experts and assist your customers to complete their projects with their timing and preferences in mind. Engage every customer in conversation and suggest merchandise and services that are suitable and personalized just for them.

Don’t Make Assumptions – Get Their Picture & Put Yours Aside

There is no way to serve customers until you know what they are thinking. Sometimes customers’ thoughts are vague and you will need to clarify what they really want. Then you can show them everything we have that fits their mind’s image. This requires getting past our own thoughts and interviewing the customer to learn exactly what their ideas are.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

How do you get customers to open up and tell you what you need to know? First, let them know you want to ask them a few questions so you can better understand what they want.

Ask, “Would it be all right if I ask you a few questions about your project so I can get a clear picture?” Who is going to say “No” to such a considerate question?

Ask enough questions until you unearth their interests and preferences and can practically see through their eyes.

Great open-ended questions to ask include things like:

• What project are you working on?

• What type of soil do you have?

• What part of your yard is involved?

• What are your sun requirements?

Listen & Reflect Their Picture
Back For Clarification

The most powerful tool you have for serving customers is listening. Most people rate themselves as excellent listeners, when actually, listening takes a lot of concentration, energy and effort. The following are some helpful guidelines to increase listening effectiveness:

1. Stop talking. You can’t listen if you’re talking!

2. Eliminate distractions. Turn down the two-way radio. Put down anything that may detract from your attention. Give total focused attention to the other person. People value being heard, and it makes them feel respected.

3. Maintain eye contact. Making eye contact will relax both you and your customer, and it encourages them to communicate with you. Eye contact helps you concentrate, too.

4. Concentrate on getting their picture. After they are finished talking, pause for two to three seconds before you respond, or before you ask questions. Don’t interrupt. Then reflect the picture back to them in your own words.

“What I understand is that you have bought a new home in this area and have many projects. You have a front lawn and some simple shrubs but have a backyard that will require some time, effort and energy to be ‘livable.’ Where would you like to begin?”

When you see a smile on their face you know you’ve hit the spot! Imagine how easy it will be to exceed their expectations when you know you are on the same page? The customer will usually add more information or make minor corrections from your picture. The extraordinary result is the beginning of a level of trust in your relationship with the customer.

When you can visualize your customer’s picture you increase the possibilities of suggesting merchandise to support all aspects of their gardening. The goal is to get the whole picture. Once you have their picture, you have permission to show them practically all of the merchandise, products and accessories that fit. This is the key to creating multiple sales!

Prepare A Personalized Presentation

As you listen to their answers you may think of several items that you want to show. Think for your customers by putting together all the products, merchandise and services into a “package” for their project.

Show the customer options, but no more than three at a time. Don’t overwhelm them and don’t rush them. Let them accumulate all they want. Use your knowledge to provide information and options that fit their picture. Don’t forget to suggest add-on items like soil amendments, fertilizers, accessories or services.

Prepare to train and reinforce these steps with your team. Take time each day to reinforce the behavior you want. Encourage everyone to have fun with customers. Celebrate team successes and have a great season!

The goal is increasing your average items per transaction. That automatically drives up the average sale. And that means profit!

Kathryn Dager is president of Profitivity, Inc., as well as an internationally recognized speaker, consultant and trainer. She has developed a unique training program for retail garden centers that can be customized. Find out more at or eMail her at

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