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Selling What's In Stock Or Not

By Expert Author: Doug Fleener

A salesperson recently asked me if selling only what's in stock is good service. When I asked for details, she elaborated.

It seems that her manager has instructed his staff that they are only to show and sell what's in stock. Some staffers disagreed with this policy, since the best product for the customer might be something that's not in stock at that moment. The salesperson asked me who I think is right.

I said the manager is right. I also said the staff isn't necessarily wrong, either. While I do love taking both sides of an argument, there's a reason they're both right and wrong.

Quick story first. While traveling a few weeks ago I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant. I saw homemade chicken potpie on the menu, and since that isn't something I often see on a menu I decided to order it.

When the waitress came to take my order I asked her about the chicken potpie. She told me that the restaurant is known for their chicken potpie, they're made fresh daily, and that it is her favorite item on the menu. By then my mouth was watering.

So I asked her for the chicken potpie with a side salad. (You know what's coming next, don't you?) She replied, "I'm sorry but we're sold out." Here this waitress got me all excited about a dish only to tell me I couldn't have it! Talk about disappointing.

The same thing happens in stores. A salesperson gets his customer all excited about a product to only tell him they're out of stock. It disappoints the customers and often results in missed sales opportunities.

But what if it is a new product, or a hot seller, and the store is only temporarily out of stock? Is it wrong to show the customer the product even though the customer can't buy it right then and there?

Not at all - If it's done in a way that doesn't disappoint the customer, and the customer is given an opportunity to make a purchase.

Here are a few things to remember about showing and selling out of stock products.

1. Only show an out of stock product if you know it meets your customer's needs, or if he specifically asks for it. Just because something is new, or a hot seller, doesn't mean it's the right product for everybody. Too often the staff shows an out of stock product because it is new or they like it. Focus on what's best for your customer.

2. Always tell your customer when he can purchase an out of stock product before you show it. This reduces disappointment. It also makes it easier to show another product or sell the out of stock one. "You might really like the new xyz widget which we'll have back in stock on Thursday. Let me show it to you."

3. Recommend other products based on what your customer likes or dislikes about the out of stock product. "Take a look at this abc widget. It's got many of the same features as the xyz, but also has the more modern style that you like."

4. Make purchasing out of stock products a great experience for your customer. Don't tell him to check back next week. Don't charge for shipping. Do the little things that ease a customer's inconvenience when the right product is not in stock.

5. If your customer absolutely needs that product now, find it somewhere else. Always win and keep the customer, even if it means losing a sale.

Showing and selling products that are not in stock, or not showing them at all, requires a delicate balance. If you always do what's best for your customer, you'll do what's best for the store.

So let me ask, how well does your store sell what’s in stock? Or not?

Dynamic Experiences Group, LLC, a customer experience and retail consulting company, helps retailers of all sizes to improve their customer experience and increase their sales and profits. We assess the current approach of your business and then recommend a solution based upon your organizational needs and opportunities. To know more about us, visit: www.dynamicexperiencesgroup.com

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