All of us in this wacky industry of adult toys and products often find ourselves as working as sales floor staff, selling blush-inducing devices like a vibrator for a jittery first time buyer or those insta-hard on pills to baby boomers who read somewhere that they really work. But more times than not, we are also consumers, having to go to a pet store to buy a leash for our dog, a dress store to get that special garment for that all important date, or perhaps buying a gourmet cheese to go with that distinctive bottle of wine. Essentially, we are on both sides of the counter.
I always observe how store staff initially interacts with customers who enter a store, listening to their acknowledgements, what they say, and how the customer responds. I do this not only in adult stores but whenever I enter any smaller store: a boutique, a nail salon and anywhere else I am a customer.
Many customers in adult stores don’t even know how to approach an all-knowing sales staff member because they’re too nervous.
But how many times have you felt that when you strolled into a store, you were hit with a barrage of questions like “Are you looking for anything in particular today?” “Can I help you find something?” or “What brings you into the store today?” They seem like nice greetings but when you think about it, getting hit with those questions even before you take a few steps in the store, don’t exactly give you enough time to become familiar with the place, especially if it’s your first time there. And what usually is your immediate response? The one you usually say and what you, as a sales person, usually hears: “No thanks, I’m just looking…” More times than not, the sales clerk responds with a flat “okay” and ends any kind of additional customer service you might receive during your visit.
Recently, I was behind the counter of an adult store while I was demonstrating a product for which I am the director of sales for (the innovative Bubble Love). While I was showing the sales staff the attributes of my gizmo, customers strolled into the store, as they always do.
I listened intently on how the sales staff responded to those wandering-in customers and it surprised me that they asked those same questions when the customer had barely walked in and was three paces inside the door. Just about every time, what did the customer respond? You got it: “No thanks, I’m just looking” and then the clerk continued with their chores behind the counter, never offering further assistance to the seemingly lost patron in their store.
There are many other ways to welcome and engage a customer strolling into your store to avoid that dreaded “No thanks, I’m just looking” response. Besides the somewhat obvious (but rarely heard in my book) “Good morning!” or even “Hello,” a simple and cheerful “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!” acknowledges the customer, allows them to ask something without feeling guilty about their question (you’re offering your assistance to them), and gives them time to begin exploring your four walls. It allows them to relax into the space (it IS a sex store!) and lets them peruse the products that they may be unfamiliar with using.
Now comes the fun part. Typically, customers will spend more time in front of a particular area than just aimlessly sweeping around your store, trying to figure out what they want. This is time you spring into action, without having them have to ask.
Remember how much fun it was to share toys when you were a kid when your pal handed you a toy and you got all excited because they were sharing it with you? This is the kind of generosity on your part that customers remember: showing them something they might not have known about even before they have to ask a question. Many customers in adult stores don’t even know how to approach an all-knowing sales staff member because they’re too nervous. It’s up to you to eliminate that nervousness by being at ease with your products (books, DVDs, lingerie, accessories, etc.) so that you can share your enthusiasm with them.
Many times while working in an adult toy retail setting, I have just picked up a tester vibe near the area where they are looking such as clit stim, bullets, dual vibes, G-spot vibes, and eagerly said “this one is really popular because it gets all the right spots” and handed them the switched on vibe so they wound up holding it without even having to ask. This allows the jittery first-time buyer the chance to hold a vibrator, perhaps for the first time, without having to get over their nervousness to do so because you are basically sharing your enthusiasm for sex toys! It’s simple!
Let’s look at strap-on harnesses, for example. Heterosexual couples sometimes linger in front of the boxes or displays of them, trying to figure out which one to choose. It can be pretty confusing because most likely, they are befuddled by the vast array of the harnesses now on the market. Instead of asking them “What are you looking for?” how about approaching them with “These are the latest styles in harnesses and they work great with silicone dildos.” That gives the customer an opening to ask more questions, gives you the chance to recommend one to the nervous couple, engage them in informative conversation and perhaps even show and sell them one. Tossing out ways to use a harness and dildo and upselling all-important lubricant with their purchase will put them at ease as well as give them knowledge they might not have known prior in order to give them a happy pegging session.
Sales skills are a learned ability that exemplifies customer service. Think of what it’s like when you’re in front of the counter at a retail store instead of behind it. How do you like to be treated? Is the person behind the counter aware that you are even there? Are they bothering you? Are they ignoring you? Are they providing good customer service and you feel good about shopping there? Pick up skills an experienced sales person might have that make you feel good, as a consumer, about your purchase, even if it’s more than you planned to buy or specifically went in that store to obtain. Retail is the oldest profession in the universe and you are definitely part of the legacy. Do what you can to have a pleasant experience – on both sides of the counter.
And for one of the most insightful and, in my opinion, excellent books on retail sales skills, get the book “No Thanks, I’m Just Looking: Professional Retail Sales Techniques for Turning Shoppers Into Buyers” by Harry J. Friedman. Even I learned some great sales tips from it because you can never know everything about the fine art of selling. Go get ‘em, champ!
Kim Airs is the founder of sexuality boutique GrandOpening.com. She is a consultant for all aspects of the adult toy industry: training, sales, marketing, etc. She loves her job!