SEMA News - September 2009


New Sales Training Course Shows How to Increase Profits Through Exemplary Customer Service


A satisfied customer leads to repeat business and referrals. Follow the five-step GEARS process and increase your chances of closing the sale.


The customer has always been the mainstay of a successful retail business, yet many companies fail to impart good customer service training to their sales staff. The “Focus on the Customer: Introduction to Selling” course is the first of the In-Gear Sales and Marketing Series developed by the SEMA Education Institute (SEI) to ensure that both new and veteran retailers know how to attract potential customers and turn them into repeat business.

“Basic retail sales training continues to be a critical issue for both our manufacturing and retailing members,” said Bob Price, SEI’s executive director. “With the help of sales experts and adult educators, we’ve designed this course to emphasize the importance of good selling and customer service skills.”

The course presents a five-stage sales process that uses the acronym GEARS to describe how to go about approaching and closing a sale. The five steps are:

GREET: Get to know and connect with the customer.

• Always greet customers with a smile soon after they enter the store. Always ask if they need help.
• Once you have made a visual connection, be personable by showing your passion and enthusiasm. Find out what interests them and what brought them to your store. Most importantly, be yourself. Let them know that you are an enthusiast, too.
• While talking to your customer, read his or her verbal cues and body language to help you adjust your approach to fit the customer’s needs.
• Acknowledge other customers who enter the store and are waiting for assistance. This will show your current customer that you genuinely care about your customers and will reassure the other person that they will be helped.

EXPLORE the customer’s needs and wants.

• Ask questions and gather information on the customer’s vehicle. Try to ask at least three open-ended questions to find out what kind of vehicle the customer has, how it is used and what he or she wants to do to it. An example of an open-ended question is: “What changes have you made to your vehicle in the past?” A follow-up question would be: “How did they work out for you?”
• Use this information to make recommendations. Don’t assume that customers know what is available or what they want or need.
• Be thinking about which product(s) will fit the customers’ current needs while also considering their future needs.
• Distinguish between customers who are in a hurry and customers who think they know what they want and don’t realize their options.
• Don’t assume you know what the customer wants or needs. Always ask questions.
• Don’t make up answers to questions you don’t know. Look up the answer in catalogs or websites, or ask a colleague.

SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESSASSIST customers with information or options based on what they have said. This serves two purposes: It builds your credibility with the customer, and it makes sure that you are on the right track to finding the right product.

• Reflect back on what you learned about the customer’s plans.
• Pause and let the customer react. Get validation from the customer, which can be in the form of a head nod, smile or verbal agreement.
• Provide information or a service. Suggest another type of product or option they might want to consider. Open up choices that they haven’t thought about. You will know whether they want to go in that direction based on reactions such as tone of voice, facial expression or what they say. Get the customer’s agreement before exploring other options.

RECOMMEND products and solutions based on the customer’s needs and wants.

• Before you start making recommendations, point out the product features and benefits. Describe the feature and relate it to something the customer told you. Watch the customer for signs of validation.
• Most customers buy things based on emotion, even if they think they are making the right decision. Help customers see beyond the obvious features or physical characteristics of the product to the benefits or added value they will receive from the product.
• Present your recommendation and then explain why you made that choice out of all the options that were available. Relate it to the customer’s needs and wants. Look for validation and ask for feedback.

SELL the customer the best possible product for him or her.

• Look for signs that the customer is ready to buy.
• Ask for the sale.
• If you get agreement on the sale, you can suggest complementary products that you think they will also like, but remember to close the primary sale first.
• Know when the customer is ready to buy by paying attention to verbal and visual cues.
• Imply ownership of the product by saying something such as, “This is going to make your truck look great!”

Each of the five steps in the “Focus on the Customer: Introduction to Selling” course is followed by video demonstrations on how to handle potential customer service scenarios. An interactive quiz follows each GEARS overview, and a self-evaluation is also provided at the completion of the course to test and review the participant’s overall knowledge.

“Following a proven retail selling process will help close more sales and even assist with add-on product selling,” said Price. He suggested that SEMA members use the “Introduction to Selling” course as an addition to their own in-house sales training—and as a fun tool to encourage employees to work together to improve their selling skills.

To complete the “Focus on the Customer: Introduction to Selling” course, visit the SEMA Education Institute at and click on the “In Gear: Sales & Marketing” link.

“Selling is a process that anyone can learn to master,” said Price. “All it takes is dedication and desire—and a reliable training system.”





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