How much is that doggie in the window?

Recently some topics have been a bit heavy, so we might lighten up this week – and focus on a practical insight that retailers (all sales people) can use immediately to increase sales.

Here is a quick pop quiz:

It’s Friday afternoon after school, and little Johnny wanders into the pet shop and stares into the eyes of the Labradoodle pup. Mummy comes along and drags him away. Or attempts to drag him away. Johnny does not budge. No matter the arguments about why the puppy won’t suit their lifestyle or how tough it will be to feed the dog every day and pick up the poo; Johnny wants the dog.

The owner approaches them and makes a simple suggestion to mum: Why don’t you take the dog home and keep if for the weekend. If it does not work out, bring it back on Monday.

Trying to avoid a scene in the shop, mum agrees.


The quiz:

Do you think Raffa (yes the pup got a name in the meantime) will be handed back on Monday?

The answer is of course that is highly unlikely.

The psychological principle of ‘commitment’ is at play here. Once a person has ‘owned’ or even imagined themselves owning something – they tend to start acting like an owner.

If you are selling something, that is a very useful piece of information.

This is why:

  • Food vendors get you to sample their product
  • Car salespeople want you to go for a test-drive
  • Real estate sales people want you to inspect the property (so that you can imagine the new pool in the backyard that is not there yet)
  • Self-help gurus advise you to write your goals down
  • The AA asks alcoholics to make a public statement about their alcoholism

(And, this is why your fiancé asks you make a public commitment with your vows – which makes breaking up so hard ;-)

I cut my retail teeth in South Africa (in case you were wondering) and we had a beautiful system in place at that time where people could take the clothes they had selected on ‘APPRO’. That means on ‘approval’. Whatever they select in store gets charged to their account, and they take the merchandise home to try on. Return within 7 days whatever you don’t want to keep.

If you are a restaurant owner, you can use this principle to reduce ‘no shows’. (This research was conducted in a Canadian restaurant.) When people phone in a booking, ask them to call in if their plans change and they need to cancel.

And here is the key: wait for them to say that they would. (Don’t just request it and move on – wait for the answer.) This one small change caused ‘no shows’ to drop from 30% to 10%. That is a 66% improvement!

Can you see the commitment principle in play? Can you apply it in your business?

Train your staff to use these proven techniques in customer conversations AND teach them WHY it works because this will immediately make a difference to your top line.

PS: I don’t have enough answers to this one question HERE about customer experience to give you feedback. It will take a minute to answer – and I will share the results.

Have fun…


Dr Dennis Price is a consultant, trainer and speaker working with the retailers and the supply chain to effectively implement their brands on the consumer frontline.


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