9 Awesome Qualities of Successful Retail Salespeople You Should Copy Now

Before you read this article, ask yourself this question: Would you buy a $300 – $1500 pair of jeans?

Well, you might, if you were approached by the best retail salesperson in San Francisco.

That’s what happened to Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, when he wandered into a high-end San Franciso boutique and later wandered out with a brand new pair of Kiton jeans that he previously—and very adamantly—had no intention of buying.

So what made the difference? A salesperson named Cathy, who possessed 9 irresistible qualities that made the sale happen. Check them out below:

1) A healthy curiosity about strangers – Starting from the moment she encountered Bob Phibbs in an elevator, Cathy wanted to make a connection with him. So she asked him if it was his first time at Wilkes Bashford. Her curiosity helped her build a rapport with Bob long before trying to present him with the boutique’s merchandise. This opened the way for her to later insist that Bob try them on.

2) The ability to find and make a connection – When Cathy discovered, through their conversation, that Bob was from New York, she told him that she and her husband also lived in New York. People tend to trust those with whom they share something in common, and Cathy expertly created familiar ground with Bob with her simple comment about living in the same place as him.

3) A willingness to offer more than service – When they first met, Cathy showed Bob around the 7th floor of the boutique, then gave him a tour of the other floors on their way down to the cashier’s station. This tactic helps consumers relax, opening them up to consider other options (sure enough, Bob ended up in the shoe department on the 1st floor!)

4) A readiness to offer sincere compliments on past purchases – When Bob mentioned that he often wore Robert Graham shirts, Cathy complimented him on his fashion sense, adding that a lot of her clients wear them and that their east coast stores carry them as well. This may seem unimportant, but Cathy understood that customers appreciate her compliments and trust her more when they know she is favorable of their previous purchases.

5) The wisdom to use analogies – After twice refusing Cathy’s suggestion to try on a pair of Kiton jeans, Cathy reinforced her claim that Kiton jeans would look stylish but feel comfortable by using an analogy. She told Bob, “I have clients who have 30-40 pair; they live in these jeans. They’re for when you want to dress up a bit with a nice jacket and don’t want to wear loose-fitting farmer jeans.” This analogy made it easy for Bob to understand what a fashionable men’s wardrobe shouldn’t look like. Creating images with words, using familiar items, helps the customer “see” the benefits, not just hear them.

6) A thick enough skin not to take no for an answer (in a good way) – As much as Bob insisted he’d never buy a pair of Kiton jeans, Cathy persisted through at least 4 rejections from Bob before finally getting him to the dressing room where, studies show, that 70% of buying decisions are made. Cathy wasn’t so much pushy as she was determined and that’s what makes all the difference in getting shoppers to give merchandise the chance to change their lives.

7) A talent for distracting customers from the unpleasantness of waiting – When it was discovered that Bob’s Kiton jeans would need to be shortened,  Cathy kept Bob pleasantly occupied and unaware of time by never mentioning how long the alterations would take. When salespeople remind customers how long they’ve been shopping, it reintroduces the world of cares and to-do lists back into your shopping experience, so knowing how to blissfully distract them from that is a major plus.

8) The foresight to mention related talents and skills – Through their conversation, Bob learned that Cathy was skilled at closet organizing, outfit coordinating, and styling for clients throughout the world. Impressed by her abilities, Bob made a mental note of how he could take advantage of Cathy’s skills again in the future.

9) Unafraid to go for the add-on –  After Bob had decided to buy the kiton jeans, Cathy suggested a second pair of their summer jeans in his size that were on sale. Once a customer agrees to the main purchase, it’s much easier to get them to consider a second.


Given the same sales tools, education, and work ethic, one might wonder why some salespeople succeed where others fail? According to The Retail Doctor, “So many retailers are like bad marksmen shooting arrows everywhere but at the target. An app, another friends and family discount, another free event won’t save you from becoming obsolete to your customers.”

Only creating an exceptional experience that is so remarkable that it is seared into each customer’s memory—like the one Cathy created for Bob—will transform salespeople into effective brand ambassadors capable of converting casual shoppers into raving fans and loyal customers.

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.