Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
June 1, 2013

Question: My husband is in sales (office machines) and is very successful. He talks to me often about training my employees (and me) to be better “closers,” as he thinks too many people browse rather than buy in my store. He has even offered to come in and teach sales techniques. I know he means well and wants me to succeed, but his methods sound pushy and rude to me. This has been the source of a few arguments between us. He says I should ask customers directly if they are ready to purchase the product I have shown them. Wouldn’t that put people off? I am all for increasing our sales, but I am worried about alienating customers, too. What do you think?

Answer: To begin, I think you are lucky to have a spouse who cares a great deal about your store and your success. It’s wonderful he wants to help. It does sound like his methods may be too direct for your comfort level, and that’s okay! You can still learn from him, internalize the information, and express it in a way that is uniquely yours.

If I were in this situation, I would ask lots of questions and gain as much insight as I can about how he views the art of selling. I might even invite him to do a short sales seminar with my staff, with the understanding that we can all learn more about salesmanship and then find ways to adapt that knowledge to our own style.

Asking directly for a sale is one approach, however gentler techniques may resonate more with your personality and with the experience you hope to offer your customers. Instead of asking pointedly, “Are you ready to purchase that now?” you might say, “Do you want me to hold this behind the counter for you while you finish your shopping?” If the customer says yes, it is likely they plan to purchase the product, but they are not being asked to commit at that moment. You could also ask, “Would you like to include a greeting card with that?” This sounds helpful, not pushy, and is usually welcomed. And if their answer is affirmative, again, it is likely the sale is a done deal.

Remember, too, good customer service can generate future and repeat sales. If you assist a customer and for some reason they do not make a purchase, it is likely they will remember your efforts and return when they are ready to buy.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to