5 Things You’re Not Doing that Will Hurt Your Retail Sales

In his work as a retail consultant, Bob Phibbs (The Retail Doctor) has observed some obvious points that many retailers seem oblivious to. These retailers ask him over and over how to attract more customers and make more sales, while Phibbs marvels at how they don’t see the “elephant in the room.”

Let’s take, for example, the canned—and oft-abused—expression, “Can I help you?”  If you don’t want to hear “No thank you, I’m just looking” in response, the obvious solution is to NOT ask that question.

In other words, if you want to make a change in your business, you must stop doing the things that are clearly holding you back.

Here are 5 things The Retail Doctor advises you to focus on if you want to grow your retail sales:

5 Things You’re Not Doing That Hurt Retail Sales


1. You’re NOT Consistent With Your Sales Process

Whether it results from poor hiring, lack of training, or an assumption that if people want something they’ll simply askemployees often leave shoppers on the floor waiting…waiting for someone to talk to them…waiting for someone to help them find a product…waiting to be checked out.

“When you have a consistent sales process, like a good script, everyone understands the plot and exactly how to get to the happy ending of a purchase.”

Source: The Retail Doctor

Establishing a sales process will give your employees a set of steps and actions that must be completed to close deals and make sales. Your sales process should be based on customer needs, the market, and company goals.

Regardless of your business type or size, you must have a sales process to succeed. When your sales process works according to company objectives, customer shopping goals, and the needs of the market, an increase in revenue will follow.

2. You’re NOT Presenting Product Features Correctly 

“Unless your shoppers are engineers, facts are boring to most of them,” says The Retail Doctor. “When you lead with just long lists of facts about the product, you lose most shoppers’ interest right off the bat.”

“Customers don’t want to buy something because of what it is and what it does. This is far too logical and makes the very big assumption that your customers will figure out for themselves that your product will solve their problem.”

Source: Catherine Langman

Listing off features and benefits offers zero value to your customers because their main concern is how to solve their own problem or need. When your focus is truly on your customer—not your own agenda—it’s easier to see their perspective and help them find products that will improve their lives.

3. You’re Not Acting Like a Human 

The world is full of retailers who act like emotionless robots, with no soul, no point of view, and no passion. “Shoppers, especially Millennials, are looking for a brand and a person who is authentic,” says The Retail Doctor.

People love to buy from businesses that share their values. So start sharing your passions and interests with them. By way of example, you might tell people how you opened your store because you wanted to give people a place to enjoy the association of like-minded folks who are dedicated to helping each other—and the community—stay healthy with your all natural products.

Today’s shoppers are very focused on social responsibility and how to make the world a better place. When you make your values part of your sales process, it will help you connect with customers on a deeper—and more human—level.

4. You’re Not Painting a Picture

In the world of marketing, PERCEPTION is nine 10ths of reality.

That’s the word from Catherine Langman, who goes on to say that telling stories helps customers relate to your brand or product.

“The more accurately you can describe the problem, need or desire of the person you’re selling to, and if you can speak to them about this in an emotional way and meet them where they’re at right now…the more automatically they will believe you have the solution to their need,” says Langman.

“Try to impart this through telling stories – real stories, either from past customers or from your own experience, combining imagery and visuals…to tell your story and take your customers on a journey.”

Source: Catherine Langman

Check out the following benefits (from Sales Bench Marketing) that come from using storytelling in sales:

  • You’ll capture the attention of your audience (or customer)
  • You’ll motivate individuals and groups to take action
  • You’ll build trust and rapport
  • Your data and facts will be more effective, making you more applicable, interesting, and relevant
  • You’ll infuse information with “stickiness” to improve retention
  • You’ll transform beliefs and change minds

5. You’re Not Addressing All Phases of the Buyer Journey 

“When you miss the first two stages of a buyer’s journey – #1, making them aware they have a need and #2, getting them to consider you as a source of how to solve that need – you just focus on #3, getting them to buy,” says The Retail Doctor.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey (the decision-making process that customers go through before, during and after they buy your product or service) gives you a much deeper understanding of your customers, allowing you to convey the right information and the right offer at the right time.

This is important because today, more than ever, businesses are competing on value and service. Winning the modern customer means you have to provide these two benefits across the entire buyer experience.

When you follow through with all three parts of the shopper journey, you’ll find it easier to make a sale. When you don’t, you risk losing customers before you even realize their potential.


Shoppers today are walking into your store already knowing about your products. That means you have to up your game with a consistent sales process, a deeper connection to your customers, the ability to make shoppers “feel” something about your products through storytelling, and a heightened focus on the buyer journey.

“What helps people, helps business.”  Source: Leo Burnett, Advertising Executive

“Recognize that almost all the answers you need to improve your retail sales are staring at you every day within your own four walls,” says The Retail Doctor. It’s just a matter of eliminating the things that are obviously holding you back and improving the things that matter.

And what matters is the customer!

When your focus is on how you can help every customer accomplish their shopping goals by purchasing what they truly need, your retail sales will significantly improve.

Also published on Medium.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.