Learning Retailese - How to Distinguish from a Good or Bad Sales Associate

This post is not meant to offend anyone in the sales industry.  Trust me, many sales associates are fantastic at their job.  However, every once in awhile you come across one who seems to have a generic phrase and an attitude problem.

Realistically, many sales associates depend on their individual sales for commission, promotions, and sometimes bonuses.  Therefore, in many cases you will question if what they say to you is true or not.  This post will hopefully aid you in distinguishing between a great sales associate and a poor one.

Last year I was extremely frustrated while shopping for an outfit for my bridal shower.  Doesn't it seem like when you are actually trying to find something you can find everything but that.  A fellow bridesmaid and I tried on dresses, skirts, and tops at nearly every store at the Fashion Mall at Keystone and I was just not having any look.  I had tried on a few looks that I was okay with but I just wasn't in love.  When we got to Nordstrom I began perusing the first section which happens to be a Designer Collections.  We were met by a young man who asked what we were looking for and began pulling things in my size left and right.  There were a few things that he chose that I knew would not be appropriate for the occasion, but I appreciated his friendliness and helpfulness and decided to just go with it.  Upon trying on a few of the items, I realized that some of the dresses were too dressy and some of the tops too casual.  However, I did really like a Milly top, but for $260 it seemed rather trendy and not like a good investment piece.  When I showed the guy the top he kept saying how gorgeous it looked.  He was convinced that I would fall in love with a Catherine Malandrino top that was not my style.  It was very full and blousy and had layers of small pieces of silk chiffon that made it bulky in my middle.  He begged to see it, so I showed him with a bit of a disgusted look on my face.  He couldn't believe I didn't love it and kept pushing me to go with both blouses and decide the day of.  First of all, I only kind of liked the Milly top and I despised the Catherine top on my figure.  However, the Catherine top was $450...probably the reason why he was so pushy about it.  As we left the dressing room, I told him I was not interested and he literally stormed off.  I was appalled.  Did he really expect me to shell out $700 on items I was just "okay" with.

Unfortunately, this happens a lot in certain stores and boutiques.  In some cases I have noticed certain "treatment" both good and bad, based off of my outfit or purse at the time.  When I walk in with a Louis everyone is fighting to serve me, but when I walk in with just a little Target tote people avoid me like the plague.  However, as we all know pretty much anyone can be approved for a credit card (maybe not as much now as a few years ago) and anyone can charge the thing to it's limit.

A good salesperson is one who takes time to listen to what you are really looking for.  Perhaps you come in with a certain style in mind, like a Leather Tote in a soft, neutral shade.  Most sales associates will show you around the displays and points out styles that you might like.  And if you decide to try those styles on your arm (a must for any bag investment) this associate will be honest with you and not tell you that the bag that is the most expensive on you looks the best. This makes sense for so many reason - because say that they do tell you that the bag with the highest price tag is the best and even though you think you might like another one better you go ahead and purchase the bag they recommend.  Well, as I will continue to say, if you don't LOVE it in the store (in their perfect lighting and slimming mirrors) you will surely not like it as much at home.  And, this will lead you to return the bag and leave the salesperson needing to sell the bag again, and losing the trust of a potential returning customer.

Usually I am a shopper on a mission, and I don't like to be consistently bothered.  Recently, a similar scenario happened to me.  I was looking for a white leather tote for the spring weather, and a Saks shoe associate was trying to sell me a silver metallic Tory Burch tote.  This is a prime example of a salesperson opting for quantity over quality - he would rather sell me a bag quickly that is not really what I want vs. investing a bit of time to listen to what I am looking for and helping me find it in other areas of the store online.

The same thing can happen in other retail areas as well.  Salons and Spas are some times just as guilty.  If you've ever had a facial or a massage you know.  There are some estheticians who are devoted to the service and who will make recommendations after the service which make sense to you.  For example, if they noticed that you had some dryness on certain areas, they might recommend a special moisturizer.  However, there are others who will try to sell you the entire service - and I HATE that.  In fact, one girl even turned me off to the spa for at least 6 months.  I had just been in a month earlier with a different associate who had to call in the day of my second appointment leading me to someone new.  I was disappointed but assumed this person was just as good and went ahead with the appointment.  Immediately she began telling me how my skin needed a lot of work including microderm abrasion when the other person told me my skin was great.  When I told her which products I used (Philosophy and Kiehl's) she began bashing them and saying that I needed to change to their products.  This continued throughout the treatment and I felt completely uncomfortable and not relaxed at all.  I left feeling disappointed and turned off to the salon.

So there you have it - the next time you go to a store where a saleperson approaches you to help try these few things:

  1. tell him/her what you are shopping for (if anything) and see if the selections match what you told him/her initially
  2. when they offer an opinion on a look, see if they are providing constructive or generic feedback.  For example, if they explain to you that they really like two jackets on you but they feel like the black might be better than the green since you would get more use out of it - that seems pretty reasonable.  however, if they begin telling you that it looks "good" on you with every item...they are probably not offering the opinion you are looking for.  
  3. watch for a reaction when you explain that you don't like an item or didn't find anything you want to purchase.  a good sales associate will understand and will give you his/her information in case you want to come back in the future.  other sales associates will seem defensive and annoyed - extremely frustrating. 

So from now on - don't feel bullied by the sales associate.  Take the reins!

XOXO, Allison

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