Waiting in my local florist last week I was struck by the increasing polarisation between sales styles. Being served was a young girl about to get married who was very emotional and wanted her wedding flowers to be ‘just perfect’ but she didn’t really know what she wanted. I listened as the very patient sales assistant sympathetically suggested this display for the church and that display for the reception. They discussed prices and button holes and table displays.

Then there was me, I was on my way home from work, I knew exactly what I wanted and would have been happier not to wait but to self-select my flowers and pay automatically as I was in a hurry, but this wasn’t on offer, so I had the choice of waiting to be served, or leaving without my flowers. I stayed and learnt an awful lot about wedding flowers in the process!

I was a transactional buyer, I knew what I wanted and how much I wanted to pay. The bride-to-be was a consultative buyer, she didn’t know what she wanted but she knew what she wanted to achieve, and she was flexible with her pricing.

The sales assistant however had to do consultative selling to the young girl as well as transactional selling to me. I was impressed, if not a little frustrated, at the flexibility of this sales person. Consultative salespeople are problem solvers and conceptual thinkers who look at the big picture. He was doing this perfectly in helping the bride-to-be choose her flowers. He knew his products and knew what would work in different situations and what wouldn’t.

It struck me that all retail stores these days need to offer a self-service option for the transactional buyer like me. In the way that some supermarkets have self-check outs and newspaper vendors have an honesty box in which to drop your money. Of course the ultimate transactional sale is an online sale like Amazon for example, where some browsing is possible but you often know what you want, self-select and self-checkout.

So is there anything in between these days or is every sale either consultative or transactional? I couldn’t think of an example, maybe you can?