Trade counter tactics: getting it right

After reading editor, Debbie Eales’ column about customer service in the May issue of Electrical Wholesaler, Chris Stokes, Director of CPS Business Development was inspired to offer some advice of his own, with advice on five common scenarios that can happen on a wholesaler’s trade counter…


Enthusiastic, but inexperienced

The newest and least experienced member of staff, more often than not, will be the person who goes to serve customers first. All of the experienced members of staff will be either on the phone or knee deep in quotes.

The obvious issue here is that young ‘Dave’ becomes the face and image of the company. Dave will not have the skills set to read the body language of an upset customer, he will not be able to advise the customer that he is on the stop with any great proficiency, he will undoubtedly forget to book out something or book out the wrong item.

This will cause inventory issues further down the line. Dave will spend additional time searching for items in stock only to pick the wrong item and will do all of these things usually without the correct supervision.

If Dave lacks personality or has a penchant for talking incessantly about himself, you could be driving customers away.

Tired of waiting

Depending on the company’s structure and philosophy, customers can be kept waiting unnecessarily long to be served. If the culture of the company is that every member of staff will serve if available, the waiting time can improve. If however the culture is that “I am Telesales, you are the Trade counter person”, then the customer can see all of these bodies in the background milling around and becomes infuriated that nobody offers to serve.

Relationship building with suppliers

Suppliers’ representatives play an important part in any business. Unfortunately they are very rarely treated as such. ‘Bob’ the Rep has turned up on your counter without an appointment – cue the response – “he’s too busy to see you”.

Even if Bob did have an appointment, often the appointment has been overlooked and the delegate for the meeting has ‘popped out’. Bob has four other wholesalers in the town, he has a promotion offering an extra 10% this month, he has received an enquiry from one of the largest electrical contractors in the town, he wants to offer some product training to your staff and offer a point of sale display board at no cost.

Unfortunately, Bob is often treated with disdain by the stores assistant who learnt how to do this by listening to his superiors. Build relationships with supplier representatives and treat them well; they can be a great resource.

User-friendly counters

Counters that are too small and cluttered will put off customers. By the time you have added flat screens and promotional leaflets, there is little room for two or more customers. People want their own space and do not want to discuss prices, account queries or give order numbers indicating where they are working.

Attractive displays

Slatted wall is the wall dressing of choice by many wholesalers. Unfortunately, whilst effective for displaying products, a half empty slatwall can resemble a closing down sale. Items that are blister packed or shrink-wrapped lend themselves well, though often they are not replaced once sold, with no reordering card behind the product.

The trick, then, is to remember what was there to start with. Some suppliers will employ merchandisers whose role it is to get their display board in the most prominent position. If wall space is at a premium, avoid putting up low value, slow moving products in the prime location of the counter.

Top tips to a better trade counter

  1. Always have experienced sellers on hand to serve customers
  2. Make sure all employees are trained to serve customers
  3. Treat Supplier Representatives like customers, they want to help you grow your business
  4. Don’t over clutter your counter, less is often more
  5. Avoid empty shelves in prime locations, plan ahead if items are selling quickly