My wife and I were shopping for a new lighting fixture to hang above our dining room table. We wanted something relatively contemporary, and in our quest, we visited over a dozen stores in search of the perfect light. This experience uncovered a wide variety of mistakes that are costing retailers big money in the form of lost sales. Here's an example of some of the situations we have encountered.

1. We walked into one store early in the evening and were greeted with a heavy rock station blasting over the speakers. Although I like rock music, it is definitely NOT appropriate for a retail environment unless you are selling music, extreme sporting goods, or cater directly to a demographic that appreciates this type of music. Based on the selection of product on display, I suspect this lighting store's target market is someone between the ages of 35-70. This means their music choice was a huge blunder, one that could easily have been avoided.

2. Another store promised the region's largest selection of lighting fixtures which definitely intrigued us. We dropped by the store, and indeed, they did have a fantastic selection of lights, including several that appealed to our individual taste. However, very few of the lights were operable which meant we couldn't see what they looked like when lit. Call me silly but when I buy a lighting fixture I expect to be able to turn it on so I can see exactly how it looks when it is lit. Plus, the apparent owner of the store didn’t bother to leave the comfort of the counter and make any attempt to help us.

3. We ventured into another store that had a very good selection of lighting fixtures. We were looking at one in particular and there was an employee standing nearby as we considered it. She mumbled something to us about the light—I guess to help us—but what she said was incomprehensible and she didn’t stick around long enough for us to clarify what she had said. Instead, after making her comment she left us to retreat behind the sales counter.

In the same store, they had a designated sales person roaming the floor but at no time did he approach us even though he had overheard us tell another employee what we were looking for.

4. The website of store number four appealed to my wife for a variety of reasons and it sounded like this might be the place we might find our ideal fixture. Unfortunately, as we opened the door we were assaulted by the smell of stale cigarette smoke. In fact, the entire store smelled like an old gentlemen’s club, and as non-smokers, this definitely turned us off. This store had given us the impression on their website that they had an extremely large selection of contemporary fixtures but their actual selection did not match their advertising. Although there were a few wall hangings and paintings that were attractive, we did not want to bring home the smell of stale smoke, so we left. Oh, did I mention that we were greeted by a small dog who barked at us the entire time we were in the store.

5. We went into another store and noticed several employees standing behind the sales counter, chatting with each other. We wandered around the store and looked at lighting fixtures for approximately seven to ten minutes but at no time did any of these employees make an attempt to assist us. I guess they figured that if we needed help we would ask for it. I can picture their boss questioning them the next day about the lack of sales and can hear them saying, “Oh, it was really quiet last night; we didn’t have anyone in the store.”

I could keep going but I think you get the picture. Each of these retailers made some type of blunder that cost them potential sales and profits. What is extremely unfortunate; is the fact that they probably don't even realize they made these mistakes or how money it cost them.

Many of these mistakes also apply to people who sell products and services to businesses. What impression are you making with your customers? Are you fully prepared for your sales calls and presentations? Are other people on your team costing you sales? Are you being proactive in helping your customers make an educated buying decision? Are you using terminology that your customer understands?

Everything you say and do influences your customer’s decision to buy from you or one of your competitors. Small mistakes can cost you big money.

© 2007 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Kelley Robertson is a professional speaker and trainer on sales, negotiating, customer service, and employee motivation. Visit He is also the author of “The Secrets of Power Selling” and “Stop, Ask & Listen—Proven Sales Techniques to turn Browsers into Buyers.” Receive a FREE copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” by subscribing to his free newsletter available at his website. For information on his programs contact him at 905-633-7750 or