The leather aroma emanating from Dante’s Leather Shop Sas in Florence– or Firenze, as the Italians call it, was hard to resist. There were many pop up tents on the cobblestone street with vendors displaying leather jackets, but this store seemed real—something requiring rent and a permit. I wasn’t looking for a fake coat, but a reputable product as a birthday present for my husband.
After two minutes eyeballing a multitude of coats, I spotted one I liked and a stocky, older gentleman approached me. He asked in Italian if he could help me. When I asked in Spanish if he spoke English, he quickly obliged and began his pitch.
But, I wasn’t ready to buy. I just wanted to know if
- the leather was real,
- would the coat fit my husband,
- and how much the coat cost.
Demonstrate the Product.
He showed off this particular long jacket like it was a prop in a Penn and Teller act.
To answer my first question, he pulled out a lighter and held the flame against the outside of the coat. It did not ignite. “If it was a fake it would burn,” he said.
I don’t know if the lighter thing is true or not, but having grown up around saddles, I could smell the leather and trusted my nose. I was intrigued by his magic trick and felt comfortable moving from question one to question three.
How much? (That would give me another indicator as to the validity of his answer to question one.) He gave me a price and I put the coat back on a hanger. Holy cow. These are expensive.
He paused, stopped me, and walked to his counter, returning with an envelope.
“Let me show you how I’m going to save you 14%,” he said, as he detailed the duty free procedures he’d and I‘d follow, so that I’d receive a refund of Italy’s retail tax. He pulled out past receipts and explained how it worked for other customers. (So, jump on the bandwagon.)
Since this was my first store and leather shopping experience in 2015, I wasn’t sure if his base price was legit. I wasn’t ready to buy, but kept listening.
“This is a gentleman’s coat,” he said, brushing the length of the jacket with the back of his hand and straightening the collar. “A beautiful coat! Notice the two tones. This is a popular style for men today. What size is your husband?”
I had no idea. “He’s taller than you, but not as stocky in the shoulders,” I said.
Without missing a beat, the man put the coat on and said, “And he probably doesn’t have as big of a belly. I apologize. I enjoy our Italian pasta too much.” The ice was broken and I smiled.
The coat looked tight. Then, I remembered pictures I had on my phone and found them. Before holding my phone to look at the pictures, the salesman politely asked, “May I?” Just a small detail, but he knew enough to ask permission before he continued moving me through the sales funnel.
In the photo, I was standing next to my husband on the beach. The craftsman immediately put the coat back on the hanger and pulled out another size. “This is the one,” he announced.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
He wasn’t insulted, but assured me after fitting so many men, that he knew his sizes. He also gave me his card and said that if he was wrong, I could return the coat and he’d send the correct size. This didn’t 100% comfort me, as I imagined shipping charges between countries and the uncertainty of dealing with issues from afar, but he was trying and answered with patience.
My final concern was the train travel ahead and the coat getting stolen during the journey. I once again put it back on the hanger and the man’s face fell. I’m sure he thought he’d never see me again because time and distance kills many sales. “I am coming back through the area in a couple days,” I said. “I’ll swing by then.”
He nodded and I left. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d be back. I breathed easier after leaving. I was free of the pressure to buy, but over the next couple days, I looked online at leather coats and found most to be more expensive. I also browsed other leather shops in the area and found that Dante’s price was indeed reasonable. The coat would be a good buy and a classy gift for my husband. So, I went back and bought it.
Apply Interpersonal Salesmanship to Digital Marketing
We can learn from this Italian businessman. He did not intend to teach anything, but we can connect these parallel digital applications.
Invest in a legitimate website.
Don’t skimp on a pop up tent that’s a few pages with thin offerings of products and content. Invest in a mobile-friendly site and plan your navigational flow to include each category offering you sell. By now, you’ve heard that Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm goes live April 21, 2015. Pay the money to sell from a proper site and hire writers to produce relevant and convincing content. Shoppers want to shop where carts are secure, pages quickly render, and flawless images and words are helpful.
Offer your assistance before the customer leaves.
Give customers a few moments to look through your store, but do greet them. Many online businesses provide chat services to help shoppers find products or ask questions. These can annoy, so configure your settings appropriately to avoid chasing away potential customers with pushiness.
Anticipate shopper questions.
Shoppers ask the same questions and have the same concerns that other shoppers express. Overtime, you learn what customers will ask. Answering these repetitive questions can get tiring. However, customers want to feel important. Thoroughly and patiently answer each question. Whether in person or through the Internet, you’ll improve sales with a one-on-one approach.
The Italian shop keeper answered questions in the order I asked them. He didn’t jump ahead to other predictable topics. He answered what I wanted to know when I wanted to know it. Another customer might have asked the same questions, but in a different order. He didn’t assume I was someone else. He personalized his answers to my agenda.
Your website should thoroughly answer the questions that are asked every day in your store. Create videos or FAQ pages to explain common or complex information. Give customer traffic the flexibility to choose what they want to know when they want to know it. Offer product reviews on your site for the insight and comfort other customers provide.
Speak your customer’s language.
Later in my trip, I walked into a café where the cashier was not going to try to speak English or even meet me in the middle with Spanish. Ridiculous, right?
It’s easy to forget that your website might be giving the same cold shoulder to potential leads from abroad. If you want more tourists to buy, communicate in the language and with the expressions they understand. The leather shop owner quickly adapted his initial greeting from Italian to English, overcoming my first sales hurdle—language inadequacy. You might consider offering an online chat service in multiple languages for customers who visit your site. Thank goodness for Google Translate, but even so, can you make your site friendlier to foreign shoppers? Is your site’s reading level accurate for various ages and fluencies of your customers?
Know and love your product like a craftsman.
The Italian store owner knew his product and business. Your website should also demonstrate your breadth of expertise. Provide details and demonstrate passion for what you’re selling. Think of concrete word pictures, phrases, and examples to help customers visualize using your products. Offer images with close ups and 360 degree views. What might the product look like on a small, medium, or large person?
Know your competition and how well your products are priced, as compared to competitor’s products. Some companies have in-house experts write their content and then hire content companies to edit for SEO-friendliness, grammar, and usage.
Your brand’s tone does make a difference. Respect your customer’s intelligence and interest with the words you choose.
Offer a no hassle return policy.
If you offer a great product, then your return policy ought to be friendly to offset customer indecisiveness or concerns about your legitimacy. A no hassle return policy communicates that your business is for real.
Let your customer leave.
If you’ve accurately priced your product and you know that your product is of quality, then don’t sweat when a customer leaves. Sometimes people need space to see that you offered a good deal.
But honestly, the Italian shop owner knew my leaving wasn’t ideal. You will lose a percentage of sales when potential customers leave, so address their concerns while in your store without being pushy. Some retailers provide competitor comparison charts on sub-category or product pages to demonstrate competitive price or product details. The Italian shop owner offered to directly ship the coat overseas so I wouldn’t have to carry it with me—an alternative that I determined was too expensive, but at least he was accomodating.
After the sale, invite customers to return.
It was a simple phrase the man said after the coat was in the bag and I was leaving the store…
“Thank you for shopping with us. I hope next time you visit Florence, you will treat yourself to something, as well.”
Oh gosh. That was good.
He’s right. What about me?
Unknowingly, I wrestled with my pragmatic inner-voice. It scolded, “You got the trip. Your husband gets the birthday coat.” But, another inner-voice snapped back, “The salesman is right. You deserve this. You could be getting a good deal, too!”
What a smart phrase to zing customers with at the end.
Be an expert salesman online.
Whether you’re a shop keeper with one store and no online presence or a major retailer with thousands of SKUs and hundreds of global stores, finely tuned inter-personal skills applied to each and every transaction add up over time. Bring those traditional business practices to today’s platforms and you’ll increase sales like a pro.