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4 Classy Sales Lessons You Can Learn from Bostonian to Increase Sales and Boost Profits

October 19, 2010

Bostonian Oxford Shoes

Bostonian sells premium men’s shoes in a number of upscale malls.  As a purveyer of premium shoes, Bostonian uses classy sales methods that can benefit anyone in sales.

Read through the following four lessons and see what you can learn about selling from Bostonian.

Special note: I came up with the content for this post after a recent visit to a Bostonian store.  These lessons may or may not be methods that Bostonian teaches its employees.

Lesson #1: Offer a money back guarantee.

It seems counterintuitive that money back guarantees would be a way to make more money.  It seems more likely that money back guarantees would be a way to lose money.  This might be true if a product is terrible, but as long as it’s not, offering a money back guarantee increases sales and boosts profits.

Bostonian offers to return any unworn shoes within 365 days of the purchase date.  Yes, that’s anytime within the first 365 days.  This may not seem like that big of a deal because what customer will return a pair of shoes 365 days later.  Regardless, a guarantee like this often gives people the confidence they need to make a purchase.  If a customer is wavering between whether or not to buy a product, knowing that it can be returned anytime over the next year can make the difference.

Consider two household cleaners where one offers a guarantee and the other doesn’t.  If a customer is trying to decide between the two cleaners, he might think, “This cleaner says that if I’m not satisfied for any reason, I can get my money back.  But this other one doesn’t have a guarantee.  I wonder why they don’t have a guarantee.  I’ll go with the one that does.”  Even though the customer will likely never take the product back, if in doubt, he’ll choose the guarantee.

As you may have noticed, guarantees are low risk because most people won’t ask for a refund.  If it’s broken, they’ll take it back; if it doesn’t fit, they’ll return it.  But if it just doesn’t quite work the way they thought it would, they probably won’t make the effort to get a refund.  Even if the guarantee convinced them to buy a product, they won’t go through the trouble of taking it back.

Additional tip:

Guarantees can also be formulated to lower risk.  In Bostonian’s case, shoes can be returned within 365 days, as long as they haven’t been worn yet.  Since unused shoes can still be sold, Bostonian’s risk decreases.

Lesson #2: Always remember to upsell.

If a customer is looking at a $60 product, that’s great.  He’s in the store, and he’s looking around.  But once the time is right, don’t forget to mention how much better the $90 version of that product is.  He may still end up buying the $60 version, but if he decides to spring for the $90 one, you make an extra $30.

Bostonian accomplishes this by subtly offering the more expensive version.  If a you are  looking at a $60 pair of shoes, Bostonian will let you try them on and walk around.  But before you have the chance to make a decision, the salesperson will skillfully show a $90 pair.  It’s only $30 more but offers more than $30 worth of comfort.  You might as well just try them on.

Additional Tip:

The best way to offer an upsell is subtly and with class.  McDonald’s asks if you’d like to supersize your meal, but that’s not quite as classy as a subtle suggestion (although, it is a great example of upselling).

Another company that’s been getting into the upselling game is Starbucks.  Instead of just taking your order, they now ask if you’d like a Venti for only $0.50 more.  Personally this annoys me because if I wanted a Venti I would have ordered it.

As you can see, offering an upsell can be tricky.  From a bottom-line perspective, asking for an upsell makes sense; from a customer service perspective, asking for an upsell with class makes the most sense.

Lesson #3: Offer a buy one get one half off deal.

This sales idea isn’t rocket science.  If a customer buys one product at full price and gets another product for half off, you make profit on the second pair of shoes at half off.  Sure the profit is less than what it would be if the customer bought both pairs at full price, but he probably wouldn’t buy two pairs without a buy one get one half off deal.  And if customers buy more pairs of shoes than they would otherwise, companies come out ahead.

Bostonian frequently offers buy one get one half off deals.  The last time I was in the store, they were offering a “buy one pair of shoes get the second half off” sale.  Most men don’t buy two pairs of shoes at a time.  Keep in mind, the next pair a customer buys could be at a different store.  By offering a buy one get one half off, companies increase the chance making more money off of each customer.

Additional tip:

In case you haven’t noticed, “buy one get one half off” is better than “buy one get one free.”  In the second case, you’re giving something away for free.  In the first case, you’re still making money on both products.  If you get the customer to buy a second product in the same visit, you’ve made extra money.  You’ve sold them something they probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise.  They save some money, you make a little less, but in the end, everyone’s happy.

Also, you won’t want to offer this all of the time.  If you do, customers will come to expect it.  Instead, offer it now and again, as a good way to stimulate sales.

Lesson #4: Don’t forget about Accessories.

Not everyone knows this, but stores have the highest profit margin on accessories.  The profit margin for socks and belts is much higher than the profit margin for shoes and clothes.  If you’ve ever wondered why salespeople try to add on accessories at the end of a purchase, this is why.

Bostonian does this by keeping belts and socks next to the register.  While a customer is paying for a pair of shoes, the salesperson asks, “Would you like some socks or a belt to go with your shoes?”  It’s only natural for the customer to need a belt or dress socks to match his new shoes.

Additional Tip:

Suggesting appropriate accessories is the way to make accessory sales with class.  In other words, don’t force accessories on customers.  Instead, simply ask them if they need an accessory to go with what they’ve purchased.  As long as it isn’t obnoxious, most customers won’t even notice.

It’s also best to keep accessories close to the cash register.  Whatever you can add-on at the end of a sale is lagniappe (Cajun French for “something extra, a bonus.”).



Based on these four tips, you can re-consider your sales process.  Here’s how—

Step 1: Do you offer a guarantee?  If not, think about how to offer one in a way that will minimize risk.

Step 2: If you’ve never used a “buy one get one half off sale,” consider how to use one for a sales boost.  Test it for a month to see how it works.  If it does, you can rinse and repeat periodically throughout the year.

Step 3: You should also train salespeople to subtly ask for upsells.  By asking for an upsell with class, you can increase sales and boost profits.

Step 4: Lastly, don’t forget about accessories.  It’s a little here and a little there, but high profit margin accessories add up.

So again, re-evaluate your sales process and see if any of these tips can increase your sales and boost profits.

Good luck.



From → Marketing Tips

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