Small Sales Matter! How to Engage Customers Regardless of Budget

I used to only buy used video game systems and games. Next thing I know, I have bought all 3 major consoles at retail and I buy games the day they come out.

A while back I bought a pair of shoes for $50 and felt like I broke the bank. In the last couple months I’ve bought two pairs of shoes for $220 EACH.

What’s the moral of the story? SMALL SALES MATTER! I never would have bought the expensive shoes or video games if my growing interests didn’t get their start somewhere. It’s far too easy to pass on the small sale in favor of the big one. But with a little foresight, it’s just good business to find and keep these customers.


Anyone can throw. The return is the tricky part!

Here’s how to entice them into checking out your must-have merchandise:

  • Get your hooks in – Whether it’s selling used, deeply discounted, or second hand products, just finding a way to get your products in the hands of consumers is the most important thing. Don’t be upset at some missed income due to these things, think of them as loss leaders that could pay off in the long run.
  • Make them want to come back – If someone is just “dipping their toes” in a certain market, they’d better like their experience, or they’re most likely lost forever. If you give them top notch service and make sure they are happy with their purchase, it should not come as a surprise if some return business comes your way!
  • Offer intermediate choices – I didn’t just make the jump from $50 shoes to $220 ones. If those were my only choices I’d still be buying the $50 variety. Incremental increases are the way to grow a consumer’s interest. I found myself saying over and over, “for just a little more money, I get this much better product.” Before I knew it, $220 sounded reasonable.

Now, I completely understand that you may be apprehensive about taking on a $100 sale if you are making $20,000 sales routinely. But why should a smaller dollar amount get pushed aside? Make sure that you’re also taking good care of that $100 customer, not only because they deserve it but also because they might be testing the waters before they one day make you enough money to retire early!

Do you agree that small sales matter? Are you all about the customer service, no matter what the price tag? (If you aren’t, then you should be.) Hit us with your thoughts below!

Image credit to TheRLPL.


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  1. Jaimie Smith

    This was actually a really good post, Jeff! Working in retail for 5 years, I can honestly say I never really put that thought into consideration. It was always the prople that were buying big expensive things I would care about. You made some good points, Jeff!

    • Jeff Porretto

      Thanks Jaimie! Maybe the people buying big expensive things were doing so because one of you was really nice to them in the past!

  2. Kyle

    Bingo! This was a great, to-the-point post about something that is often overlooked. All loyal customers must start somewhere and it’s the first-time purchases that are key to maintaining life-long customers.

    I can definitely relate to your video game example. A few years ago I found it near impossible to justify spending sixty dollars for a new game, but now I find myself buying several new games each year.

    *Tips imaginary hat*

    Well stated, sir.

    • Jeff Porretto

      *A tip of the imaginary cap to you as well*

      I remember I bought a dreamcast, about a year after anyone cared about it anymore, and thought, “This is good enough for me.” If only that held true…

  3. Alex Brodsky

    Spot-on, Jeff. I have a perfect example of this. It was recently mine and my girlfriend’s anniversary. I got her a really nice bracelet from a jewelry store. You better believe it was the absolute CHEAPEST thing the store had. However, none of the employees scoffed at me or passed me on to someone worth more money.

    So you better believe when I become a rich and famous media mogul, I will remember that and buy something a tad more pricey from them (after I buy an NBA team, of course)

    • Jeff Porretto

      If you’re rich and famous and have an NBA team, I’d happily be in your entourage. Then I could buy pricey stuff for my wife! Everyone wins!

  4. Jen

    You’re totally right Jeff. When I worked in retail, our sales motto was to give great customer service to EVERYONE. You just never know who you’re actually dealing with. I helped a man who was spending just $30 on some odds and ends, open a store credit card. It turns out that same man came back a few weeks later to buy an new kitchen (close to $9,000) because he liked the friendly customer service.

    Great post Jeff!

    • Jeff Porretto

      You should have gotten a promotion for that. Well done!

  5. Candice J.

    I totally agree with “Make Them Want to Come Back”. To me, that’s essential in great customer service. When you’re friendly and personable and you make my experience with you and your company, not only am I likely to come back, but chances are I will keep spending more and more money. I think great customer service is the key to retail. Hell, without it, i’d just learn how to make my own stuff…well not really, but I could! Well probably not…you get the idea….I think….

    • Jeff Porretto

      I’ll make/ alter everything I can if there’s nothing out there that is exactly what I want. And that includes customer service! (Coffee shops, I’m looking at you! If I can’t pronounce the drink and feel embarrassed because of it, I’m just going to make one for myself at home!)

  6. Jill Tooley

    Yes, yes, YES! So true. From a customer standpoint, it means a lot when a company acknowledges my somewhat small purchase. When I first ordered from Zappos, I only spent around $40. However, because the customer service was so outstanding and because I felt valued, I’ve since purchased much more than that! If they’d been rude jerks to me and treated my $40 sale like it didn’t matter, then I would’ve found the shoes I wanted elsewhere. Plain and simple. Same thing with Amazon — they may be an ecommerce giant, but their customer service is amazing and they always make good on their mistakes. I went from Amazon skeptic (one small order) to an Amazon advocate (many, many orders) in a very short time because they demonstrated this mentality. 🙂

    • Jeff Porretto

      Oh my, if everyone turned into a brand loyalist like the way you are with Amazon, the economy would turn right around! That’s a customer experience gone RIGHT!

  7. Mandy Kilinskis

    You’re spot on, Jeff. When I worked at Target, there was one woman that came in every single weekend and spent about $50. Now, she wasn’t the easiest person to deal with, but her $50 every single week definitely added up to much more than the person who came in ONCE to buy a flat screen TV. She always commented on how happy she was with the customer service at our Target, and that’s why she kept coming back. I feel fairly confident that she’s still shopping there. 🙂

    • Jeff Porretto

      I hope she’s still not looking for you =]

      “Where’s the blonde girl that makes the great lattes?? I’ll wait for her.”

      –“Ma’am, she doesn’t work here anymore”

      “It’s ok, I’ll wait…”

  8. Joseph Giorgi

    Solid advice here, Mr. Porretto! That “$100 customer” will only ever become a big-spender if his or her original purchase went as swimmingly as humanly possible.

    Good call on the “intermediate choices” too. I can’t recall any specific instances off-hand, but I know there have been plenty of times when the “incremental increases” in item prices has prompted me to spring for the slightly more expensive version of the item.

    • Jeff Porretto

      It’s amazing what you can talk yourself into one baby step at a time (Both good and bad I suppose). That’s about the only way I’ve EVER made a big purchase, so it must be working!

  9. Amy Swanson

    Another excellent blog, Jeff! I find myself being the biggest brand advocate and returning back to stores/brands if I receive excellent customer service, despite the fact I’m not buying the entire store.

    For the most part, every Starbucks (yes, you read that right 😉 ) I have gone into has given me excellent customer service. I’ve never had a barista scoff at me for awkwardly giving my order (sometimes it’s a complete train wreck- haha), or treat me any different than the person ahead of me ordering a drink in perfect ‘coffee speak’. They’re very patient and awesome in this regard 🙂

    Great post, Jeff!

    • Jeff Porretto

      That’s so funny! I just called out coffee shops in a previous comment!

      Most of my horror experiences are from the other customers I guess. Plus I can just feel all the impatient eyes staring at the “noob” =]

      Thanks Amy!

  10. Rachel

    Such a good point, Jeff! I think offering freebies and samples can be another great way to get customers to start spending more — I guess freebies would count as really, REALLY small sales, eh? 😉 I know I’ve been sucked in to buying stuff through free samples and super crazy sales. But of course, “making them want to come back” is equally as important … as everyone has already mentioned, customer service makes all the difference.

    • Amy Swanson

      I love receiving freebies too, Rachel! I got interested in this design company that does awesome prints of Chicago landmarks because they were giving away free prints. I figured, “a free poster is a free poster, why not?” It’s so cool looking! I brought it into the office, but haven’t had time to put it up yet. Because of that small gesture I now regularly check back to their website to see what other things they’ve added! Long live the freebies!!

  11. Bret Bonnet

    Small sales… From a small person… The irony! 🙂

    • Jeff Porretto

      [Comment Removed For Inappropriate Language]

  12. Eric

    Any time I need something for my guitar, I always – and I mean always – opt to go to the local music shop in town (NOT Guitar Center).

    Sure, their prices are a little higher, but they appreciate the heck out of their customers. Even if all you’re there to buy are $3.00 worth of guitar picks, they’ll still take the time to help you out and answer as many questions as you have. I think the level of service is directly proportional to the size of the store: the smaller ones need all the business they can get, and usually they’ll go out on a limb a little further to accomplish a sale.

    It also helps to establish a reputation an build trust with the clientele. If a customer trusts a salesperson when he makes the jump from $6-a-set strings to $20-a-set strings, chances are, when he walks back in to purchase a big-ticket item, he’ll feel a little more comfortable spending that money.

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