How Do I Handle the Internet Shopper?

This month begins a new format for Strategies for Selling. Brad Huisken will take questions from readers about specific in-store situations and offer advice on how to handle them. Send questions about salesmanship, sales management, customer service, and communications to

There are six critical elements to handle the Internet shopper. Begin with two important ideas: (1) a customer who comes into your store after using the Internet is giving you a chance to make the sale and (2) when a customer comes into a jewelry store, he or she isn’t necessarily looking for jewelry but for a place and a person from whom to buy jewelry.

Next, remember these two tips: (3) don’t get defensive and (4) don’t knock the Internet. If you do, you’re only challenging the customer to prove you wrong. Finally, you need to establish (5) trust and (6) value.

Trust. With the media beating up the industry, it’s difficult to earn a customer’s trust. You need to sell yourself and your store. Ask yourself why a customer should buy from you, and list the top 20 or 30 reasons. Develop them into stories that imply benefits for the customer. For example: “ABC Jewelers has been in the jewelry business for three generations, and the honesty and integrity we’ve shown over the years has allowed us to flourish.”

Tell a company story like that three to five times during a sales presentation. The stories—which must be true and verifiable—should indicate a benefit that comes with buying from you. Company stories will elevate your store while planting a seed of doubt about purchasing from the Internet.

Another example: “When buying something as rare and exquisite as a diamond, you want to make sure you’re getting exactly what’s represented. Slight differences in color, clarity, and cut mean the world of difference in a diamond’s value and price. I know you’d want to deal with someone with years of experience in grading and appraising diamonds. And you’ll want to examine the diamond yourself using a microscope or loupe—which you can’t do on the Internet.”

Value. People have different notions of value. Some people have strong preconceptions about it, some have only a vague idea, and others have no conception at all. You must elevate the customer’s perception of the value of your merchandise and the benefit of buying it from you.

Here’s a company story that addresses value: “When you buy a diamond from ABC Jewelers, we give you a free insurance appraisal and a certificate from XYZ Laboratory. We also offer free cleaning, checking, and maintenance for the lifetime of the diamond. I know the Internet can’t offer such personalized service. In addition, if you ever want to trade in your diamond, we’ll give you 100 percent of the purchase price toward a bigger one.”

If you offer extended after-sale benefits, the customer’s perception of value may grow to where it offsets the monetary savings from buying on the Internet.