We all know that the pharmacy market has been and is continuing to change. Those in pharmacy can’t have missed the reduced revenues. To make the situation worse, the world of retail is changing, and quickly.
Consumer behaviour is very different from just five years ago and technology and the desire for convenience have raised expectations. No matter what the purchase, people now look at their experience and make comparisons to service they have received elsewhere.
Quite simply, technology has given customers the ability to access whatever they want wherever they are.
Google, Yahoo! and Bing have made buying processes transparent. Consumers can now choose what they’re going to buy and from whom before they leave home, and when they arrive they expect a gold-plated and personal experience.
Just look at the world of groceries. Convenience stores that were once on their knees 20 years ago are now thriving, just as home delivery from the supermarkets, Amazon and other retailers has taken off spectacularly. The problem for retail is that many people visit shops, but then order online from home.
Independents, however, can win and thrive. Here’s how.
You need to create a sense of belonging so that consumers see you as their pharmacy. We believe, and have proved, that this sense is fundamental to growth in the independent sector. Compete on your strengths and ignore what the major brands do.
As independents, we need to remember that people buy people, so be personal, agile, flexible and even quirky. Stand out from the crowd and offer individual service in a way that grows your business.
Another option is to embed yourself in the lives of customers so that you become part of their total care. Tune in to their needs and let them think that you are their pharmacy.
This process, though, means responsible selling. You need to help customers make good decisions so that they have everything they need to treat their ailment.
How can we make our customers feel positive about us? We believe the answer is to offer them everything that they may need and want, including those things they buy elsewhere. But how can we do this without pressurising them?
We developed this as a concept a number of years ago and it has been very successful. Think about the one more thing that each customer may want. Consider each condition, every customer group and every service you provide.
For example, you might look at people as mums and toddlers, seniors or adolescents. For conditions, you might think of colds and flu, diabetes, blood pressure and skin conditions. And for services you might want to offer help with flu, travel or smoking. You get the idea.
For your pharmacy, make a list of the one more thing that each customer could pick up and find useful – tissues with a cold remedy or cotton wool pads with skin cleanser. Ask every time, “Would you like…?”
Another idea is to draw up a list of everything that someone with a condition may need. Offer it as an aid to each customer, especially to those who are new or who have developed new conditions. Ask if they would benefit from a replenishment service every month of key items on the list.
This is what we call ‘zero-pressure’ selling and we see this as helping customers make good decisions. Making useful suggestions appropriate to individual customers is what pharmacies do, but like all great salespeople, we just need to know what to suggest and how to say it.
Speak to customers in a friendly and caring way to help them feel at ease. Maybe you’d say, “Would you like some tissues with that? Do you have enough _____ to last you? Do you know that this really helps with ______? Do you think some ______ would help you to rest better?”
None of these questions is aggressive and they allow the customer to think for themselves.
It’s quite likely that you have someone in your pharmacy who is already great at responsible selling. If so, get them to lead the team using the ideas above. Set your team a challenge and see what they can do, but reward positive results.
Remember your strengths and play to them to attract more business. Understanding responsible selling is really about giving your customers the opportunity and desire to use your services more precisely because the experience is more personal, helpful and supportive than they could receive from a multiple.
To you, the benefits are many. Customers will choose you, they will give more of their monthly spend to you, the team will feel better because they are actively helping and they will believe in themselves as they help more and sell more. And because your customers will learn the value of real service, your business will grow profitably.
Pick someone in your team and agree tasks that they can implement. See if they can make a difference. Doing nothing is not an option, so ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen?