Sales case study of my recent camera purchase at Best Buy

I recently decided to buy a video camera. I haven’t owned one before so I decided to shop around a bit online but ultimately I wanted to take a look at some models in a store too.

I shopped around online, narrowed my list down to about a dozen, then further narrowed my list down to two… and then one. (I sorted by a price window, plus I wanted an external microphone plug-in, decent battery life, and easy transfer/upload capabilities). I found a nearby Best Buy that carried the model.

So I paid the Best Buy a visit. I found the display model of the camera, checked out all of the other models they had, and confirmed that I had chosen the one that was best for me. I was ready to buy.

That’s the scenario. Now here are some snippets from that visit and my evaluation of how it went:

  • Good: A salesperson wandered over to me in the right amount of time (not too early, not too late!) and asked for help. I was very happy with that. If he had shown up earlier, I would have brushed him off because I wasn’t ready. If he had shown up later, I wouldn’t have liked it. Frankly, this is a difficult thing for businesses to get right (and there good arguments for connecting with potential customers early or late in a visit)… but for me, this guy was right on time.
  • Weak: I had a question about memory cards and instead of telling me about the different kinds, the salesperson went off on a prolonged tangent about innovations in memory cards. After telling me all about memory cards, I asked him if the ones we were looking at were the kind he was describing. They weren’t. So I said, “Here’s a 16B card. Will that work for my camera?” He said yes. Then it felt awkward. What the salesguy should have done is ask me about what I was shooting and how long I was planning to record each time — he had the opportunity to sell me on why I should have one size of memory card over another but he didn’t take it.
  • Okay: After looking at memory cards, we returned to the cameras and I told him the one model I was looking at. On the way, he pointed to a different model and said “this one has a projector in it”. I’m not sure if he was telling me that because it was a cool feature or if he was trying to upsell me. If he was just sharing a cool feature then that’s okay. But it felt like a lame attempt at an upsell… which didn’t come with any qualifying questions. If he was trying to upsell me, he should have waiting until we were standing in front of the camera I wanted and we were talking about the features that I was looking for. Keep reading…
  • Weak: I pointed to the camera that I wanted and this is where the salesguy could have really turned on the awesome. He should have asked me about where I was planning to use the camera and what features I was looking for. Instead he said: “Most cameras come with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty. We have a 3-year extended warranty or a 4-year extended warranty. Do you want one of those?” Ummmm… There are two problems with this: First, he had an opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge about cameras and establish some expertise in terms of which camera I should use. If I told him what I wanted the camera for, I would have considered his advice for other cameras. Instead, he tried to pre-sell me the warranty. (I hate warranty upsells but I understand why they have them. I think he should have waited until the camera was in my hand before selling me the warranty).
  • Weak: Next he looked at the camera model, looked under the counter, and discovered that there were none there. So he excused himself and went to the back to see if they had any there. When he came back, he told me they didn’t have any. “Do you want a different camera?” he asked. And it was easy for me to answer no… because I DIDN’T want another camera. However, if he had asked me earlier about what I was planning to use the camera for, he could have then transformed his weak “do you want a different camera?” into a much stronger “for your needs, this camera has similar features for a similar price”.
  • Weak: I told him I didn’t want a different camera. Then I went home and bought the camera online. It turns out, I bought it at the Best Buy website (so yeah, Best Buy still got paid on the product). But the salesguy should have checked online and offered to bring on into the store. Or, walked me over to a dedicated terminal and walked me through the online order. And upsold me along the way.

Scorecard: Overall, my experience at the Best Buy store was pretty weak. They missed a lot of very basic selling opportunities and I had more success by buying on their website — I got the model I want for the same price as in the store, plus I received a free memory card and a free carrying case (which apparently wasn’t offered in the store).

That salesperson should have done the following:

  • Asked more questions to learn about what I was going to use the camera for
  • Made some recommendations based on my anticipated usage of the camera
  • Timed his upselling pitches more effectively
  • Helped me buy something (or at least order something online)

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