Nail the Sale Chapter One: A Shopping Trip of Reverse Proportions

With one exception, the duration-to-spend ratios for my excursions to Best Buy have been disproportionately weighted toward emptying my wallet. 

It’s not that Best Buy has been unkind or insensitive in the past: the initial greeting from the Blue Shirt stationed at the store’s front podium to my fast-disappearing back may make my neck snap every single time, but at least it IS a greeting . . . and the sometimes retro standards that guide Best Buy’s blue shirt army deployment ARE getting better (lately, my geekier-than-thou business partner runs through only one or two Blue Shirts when seeking answers to her knottier questions.  Used to be two or three).

Yep, armed with research and a little caffeine, I can be a browse-resistant, Benjamin-shooting machine and up until last weekend, Best Buy has never given me any reason to change my M.O.  It’s worked out well for both of us.

All of that changed last weekend . . . and not to Best Buy’s benefit.  After I had one of the greatest customer experiences I can remember, Best Buy forfeited a doozy of a sale (upwards of $5,000)—and they had sunk a big chunk of time into it, too.  Here’s how it went down (and BTW, I'm using the recent Best Buy trip as an example.  Y'all know I'm about patterns, not anomalies, and I'm seeing this situation lots of other places).

Last Saturday, my just-divorced friend and I spent two hours browsing Best Buy (breaking my previous record by about one-and-a-half).  After a long and icky battle, she and her ex-husband finally made it official, and she was excited about trading her “perfectly good” (according to her dear ex) Flintstonian, room hog of a television; receiver and speaker set-up for a streamlined home theater system.  She’d asked me to accompany her because she was “clueless” about technology yet ready to splurge big time; she wanted me to have her back.  BTW, both my friend and Mr. Ex had enjoyed soaring salaries even during the recession, so funds weren’t the issue. (Mr. Ex’s penurious ways, however, were.)

Every minute of this visit reeked of “customer centricity.”  The sales associates could not have been more professional:  the first one deftly guided us through computer speakers— though they were not even on my list, I started poking around.  Plugging his iPhone into the demo unit and flashing a conspiratorial grin, he took me up on my dare to crank up the volume on the $150+ Klipsch set . . . and when it came time to head to Home Theater, his seamless hand-off to a senior associate was a real thing of beauty.

Once there, we were treated to an effortless non-pitch that had Senior Blue Shirt translating the latest in TVs, receivers and speaker sets from high-tech to low res without so much as a whiff of condescension.  The more time we spent with him, the more confident my friend became in her decision to make an investment that would surpass any she’d personally made in the last ten years.

The power session wrapped up with Senior Blue Shirt offering to write up everything he had recommended, and that’s when the sale started going off the rails—and here’s why:

The five minutes that he was gone was just long enough for my friend to lapse into doubt mode, even though I was fully supporting the vision for the new home theater.  Nothing that couldn’t be overcome at that point.

When he got back and began walking us through the quote, the situation became unnerving for a few reasons:    

  • Installation – What had previously been described as a fairly straightforward process suddenly got more complicated.  First quoted as a general estimate of “about $300,” the installation fee then morphed into a “range” of “$100 to as high as $800.”  Of course there are reasons for the range but that provides no comfort for the wide variation.
  • Delivery – Another unexpected complication, as visions of Geek Squadders magically appearing with everything—plugging it all in and turning it all on—regressed into to a two-phased commitment that would include greeting a trucking company for the television and Geek Squad for the remainder.  AND, it was revealed that the non-TV components would need to be brought home by my friend while the centerpiece of the system, the television, would be brought by the trucking company in “a couple of days.”  Not exactly seamless nor efficient and some of that stuff looked pretty heavy. That shut off the instant gratification switch.
  • Furniture – Best Buy’s limited selection of home theater furniture presented a problem that wasn’t considered up until this point.  My friend didn’t care for the somewhat utilitarian styles that were present on the floor so talk switched to leaving Best Buy and shopping for furniture first; wouldn’t that make more sense?
  • Timelines – There was no discussion of specific timelines; only ranges.  Senior Blue Shirt’s low-pressure accommodations gave my now-skeptical and fearful friend “permission” to leave the store gracefully, and that’s just what we did.  My computer speakers were a distant memory by then and no one sought to remind me on my way out. 

Back at her house, my friend turned on her perfectly good TV and twenty-year-old stereo and said “You know, I really don’t watch television that much . . .”

Tune in for Chapter Two.  I have some ideas about how Best Buy and other retailers might tweak associate training . . . and get better at nailing the sale.