“For many wireless retailers, accessory sales are an afterthought – a category that provides some incremental sales and profitability, but one (whose) true potential remains untapped,” said Jimmy Ralph, in a Dealerscope article published last year.

The President of Retail Business Development, Inc., an independent wireless retail consulting firm, Ralph insists accessories are both needed and wanted. But in order to fulfill such customer needs and wants, he says, “You’ll need a plan.”

Before putting together a plan, a retailer must first take stock of what his/her store is currently doing, in terms of total accessory sales, sales per location, and gross profit from accessory sales. From this information, Ralph says, you build your accessory sales plan.

1. Accessory assortment

To determine which accessories you plan to sell, it’s obviously best to look at what handset models you carry and match accessories to them. “This process will identify why items are missing from your current assortment and which items overlap,” explains Ralph.

It is also important to organize accessories based on categories (i.e. utilitarian versus fashion accessories, car accessories, Bluetooth, etc.) and also carry a range of items that clearly vary based on features and price. “Look at it from the consumer’s point of view and build your assortment from there.”

2. Merchandising

From the assortment plan, the merchandising plan can be made. “Evaluate your store space. Do you have the proper display fixtures?” Ralph asks. He suggests talking to professional fixture companies about affordable “off-the-shelf” merchandising solutions and asking accessory suppliers about vendor displays that highlight particular items.

“Merchandise in categories, together with proper signage,” he says. Fashion items should be most visible. “Fashion purchases are emotional. If a customer sees something they like, they may buy it. If they can’t see it, the chances of them buying are slim. Your merchandising will act as a silent salesperson, complementing the efforts of your sales team.”

3. Pricing and promotions

Base pricing should be relative to your competition’s pricing and strategy, Ralph says. “You don’t need to have the lowest price,” he adds, however. “In fact, many retailers leave thousands of dollars in profitability on the table by pricing their accessories too low.”

Ralph suggests setting your base pricing then creating bundles or package deals. “This gives your customers a reason to buy multiple items, increasing your revenue and profitability; and just as importantly, it gives your sales team a value proposition and something to get excited about.”

4. Training

Product knowledge and sales techniques are paramount. “Your staff needs to know what you carry, where to find it, how it works and what it fits.” A big challenge is encouraging the sales team to take the extra step in asking customers to buy accessories, notes Ralph. “They often feel guilty asking… (or) prejudge and don’t think (customers) want them, or that customers don’t have the money.” The sales team must shed their insecurities and offer up accessories confidently, just as they do handsets. Ralph suggests pairing accessory sales training with a strong incentive program.

5. Sales incentives

“Motivate your team,” he says. “It’s the old ‘what’s in it for me?’ routine.” Ralph says that although most retailers offer salespeople incentives to push accessory sales, one way to “kick start” a sales drive is to offer short-term incentives that aren’t necessarily money.

“Create tiered sales goals by store and/or salesperson. For each tier, pay out prizes – make them progressively better as the tiers get higher. Lay out a big prize for outstanding performance – a trip to Las Vegas or a plasma TV.”

Ralph also suggests appealing to salespeople’s emotions by publishing weekly updates and rankings so everyone can size up the competition and create excitement. “The secret here is that for a reasonable investment you can create the sales behaviour that will continue even after the contest or promotion is over.”

6. Launch plans

“Start your (accessory sales) program with a bang,” says Ralph.

Launching everything at once – inventory, displays, new signs, training materials – catches everybody’s attention. “The bigger deal you make of your new accessory sales drive, the more effective it will be.”

7. Follow up

After launch, the excitement needs to stay high. “Set your goals, monitor them and communicate progress. Award the winners and coach those not yet on the program.”

Ralph boasts that a recent Retail Business Development project, a multi-store chain followed these simple steps and saw immediate improvement, doubling its accessory sales virtually “overnight.”

See what Jimmy Ralph’s accessory-selling secrets can do for your wireless retail business…

Source: “Hidden Treasure: The Secrets to building a successful accessory sales plan” – Dealerscope, April 1, 2006

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