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Candace D'Agnolo

5 Ways to Sell More to Your Best Customers

Benefit from the lucrative opportunities walking through your door.




This article originally appeared in the July-August 2017 edition of PETS+.

EIGHTY PERCENT your sales come from 20 percent of your customers. So while your competition worries about getting new customers in the door, you can take advantage of the more lucrative opportunities already walking in. Here are five strategies to strategically sell more to your top 20 percent.

Lead with a Conversation. “Hi! How are you?” …

“My name is Mary, let me know if you need anything.”

You’d better be cringing. Saying either is almost as detrimental as ignoring the customer completely.

Train your team to have a conversation: “What brings you in today?” or “Tell me about your pet.” Include open-ended questions to encourage customers to open up. Customers get to know and trust a sales associate who genuinely listens and responds. Suddenly, the right products and services are an easier sell (and you have the information to make recommendations).


Remember Add-Ons. Items that complement the primary purchase should never be forgotten but often are because we get lazy and just assume that if the customer needed it he would have asked. Stop assuming and make it automatic to suggest the most natural add-on to every sale. For example, a customer buying a collar might need a matching leash or updated ID tag. Complementary items are the path of least resistance from the customer as you’re suggestively selling, and they’re just good customer service from a knowledgeable expert.

Service providers have an especially easy time with add-ons — if they only ask. When a client books a boarding appointment, ask if she’d like her dog to be groomed before pickup so he smells fresh and clean. After she says yes, ask about teeth brushing or de-shedding. Before you know it, you’ve added an extra $50 to that reservation just because you asked a few simple questions.

Dig to the Root of the Issue. Once you master the basics of the conversation, use it to sell more while wowing the customer with service. Let’s say a customer comes in for a harness. Instead of immediately jumping to the complementary matching leash, a conversation can get to the heart of the need. What’s really making the customer come in for the harness? What if you discover he’s fed up with his dog pulling? While fitting the dog for a harness, drop some expert knowledge: While the harness will help, the true trick to ending the pulling is teaching the dog the “heel” command. And to have a focused dog during training, he needs your absolute favorite, no-dog-can-resist treat. Carry on with the suggestion of a treat pouch. Toss some training tips on how to master heel, and score! Double add-on!

Connect the Dots. Taking the harness example further, connect all the dots of the purchase he is about to make. What other products might he need as a result of using the product he came in for? Will the dog’s fur mat from the harness rubbing? Inform him of this and suggest a slicker brush. Does the dog have little to no hair like a boxer or pit bull? Let him know about balms to soothe rough patches.

Sell at the Register. The register area is the final place where you can increase a sale. Be strategic with the items you feature here instead of cluttering it up with miscellaneous afterthoughts. At my boutique, we had three buckets overflowing with bully sticks at three price points to accommodate all budgets. We included a sign that read “Your dog will be upset if you leave empty-handed. He’ll be able to smell that you were near a bully stick. Stock up today — Buy 3 Get the 4th Free.” More than half our customers would bite and most of those bought more than one. This concept sometimes resulted in a $60 impulse purchase!


Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at Contact her at



Things Are Looking Good in the Pet Business … but Don’t Get Too Comfortable

PETS+'s marketing guru just wants to remind you that eventually, the upswing will become a downturn. When that happens, will you be ready?

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Candace D'Agnolo

With a Little Planning, You Can Get That Annual Inventory Done in a Day

You will never know it’s importance to your health as a retailer unless you do it.




THE FIRST TIME I DID inventory for my store, we printed out the 400-page inventory list, put it into binders and whipped out the highlighters. My mom and little brother helped me look for items on the pages. But there was lots of merchandise on those pages that wasn’t physically there, so hunting for it all took us a very long time … one week, in fact. I don’t think we actually finished because I got so frustrated. What was I thinking? Fortunately, I can laugh about it now. And since then, our inventory process became so well-oiled, we got it down to 12 hours.

I know you dread the thought of closing your store for even one day to count animal parts and check expiration dates on all 30-pound bags of dog food, but having an annual inventory — heck, even quarterly spot checks — is of utmost importance to your health as a retailer. Here are some reasons why and how to tackle your inventory, so you never have the same experience as I did so many years ago.

The Benefits of a Physical Inventory

Inventory is your biggest asset, so ensuring its accuracy in your point-of-sale system is critical. Use your POS to help you make smart buying decisions. When the inventory data is off, it results in wasting money, missing sales opportunities, covering up theft issues and so much more. Knowing exactly how much inventory you have on hand is one of the smartest things you can do for your business.

When you have accurate inventory counts, it enables you to have the right balance of inventory. You can catch overstocked slow-sellers and restock on best-sellers quickly. When a POS doesn’t have accurate information, you’re purchasing off of gut instinct, or you’re physically counting merchandise every time … wasting exactly that: time.

Conducting Your Store’s Annual Inventory

The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to conduct your store’s inventory. For tax purposes, you need to report the total inventory on hand at the close of business on Dec. 31. So, executing an inventory on Jan. 1 or soon after is ideal. But if that’s not feasible, just deduct any receiving on or after the first from your inventory total, add back in the inventory you sold after the first, and you’ll have your Dec. 31 number.

As you prepare for physical counting, notify customers that your store will be closed, and get all employees committed to helping. Use barcode scanners, laptops or other technology to speed up the process. Even legal notepads will work for writing things down. Start by counting everything you physically see, working your way, section by section, through the store. This is what you’ll load into your POS. You do not need to print out an encyclopedia of your store’s inventory. All POS systems will show you the discrepancies list once you load the new numbers. At that point you can go searching for missing stock.

Extra Steps

Take this time to look at expiration dates, quality of packaging, consistent pricing and other issues. Remove items from displays, pull the displays out and clean the area. It’s the perfect opportunity to spruce up. Use large boxes or bins to sort items into categories, like expired, missing price, unknown item.

This is going to be a long day, so sprinkle in some fun! Have meals delivered, and healthy snacks and beverages on hand for the team. Listen to music by letting each person play DJ. Rotate each hour or so to keep it interesting.

Spending this little extra time on the dreaded annual inventory day will actually save you money and time in the end.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Customer Service vs. Customer-Friendly: Knowing the Difference Could Be the Key to Your Success

There’s a big difference, and knowing it may be your key to success.




IF I ASKED YOU what sets you apart from your competition, would you say “great customer service”? I bet you would. But if I asked you if your policies, hours and experience were in turn “customer-friendly,” could you respond with the same enthusiasm?

I know you’re thankful for every customer who walks through your door. You offer them amazing customer service, no doubt. But does your customer think your return policy, for example, shows you’re grateful to have them as a customer? Do they feel forced into too many rules? Do signs in your store say, “If they pee on it, you pay for it”?
How would your business change if you looked at it through the lens of being thankful for your customers? Here are strategies to show customers you’re thankful during each phase of contact.

Show Thankfulness at First Point of Contact

Are you open when your customers need you to be? If your pet parents are working 9-to-5 jobs, are you open at least a couple later evenings and/or weekends? And when they arrive at your store, first impressions are everything! You want an inviting entry, free from cluttered signs that could detract from their experience or convey a negative tone from the start. Ensure that when customers walk in the door, their experience is rewarding. Are employees greeting every customer in a unique and genuine way?

Show Gratitude During the Experience

The second phase for your customers is the shopping experience. If you were shopping for clothes or food for a party, you would want to try things on and sample the goods to ensure you will be pleased with your purchases. When it comes to your store, do you allow pets to try things on? Why not? If not, do you have a sizing chart for types of dogs and weights to help your customers choose the correct size? Do your employees know how to make the proper recommendations? Do you offer treat samples? You can easily open a bag to allow a customer’s pet to try a treat, then if they don’t purchase it you can use it for future samples.

Show Them How Much You Trust Them

The third phase happens at the register. Are your return policies customer-friendly? Are they clear and simple like … “Your Satisfaction is Our No. 1 Priority,” or is your receipt filled with rules? Customers are busy. As much as they may wish to get back to your store in the 14 days your policy allows for, life happens, and a return very well could be put on the back burner. The same goes with the returning of used, opened or defective merchandise. Think not only about what is a reasonable expectation for these scenarios, but what will make your customers happy at the end of each transaction?
Having a customer-centered shopping experience is the key to increasing return customers. Become comfortable with releasing the worry of customers taking advantage of policies. Don’t be afraid to let go of the rules! When you do, it releases the friction and tension for employees and customers alike when bringing up the dreaded returns or damaged goods.

It’s the time of year that we’re all hyper-focused on being thankful for what we have, but according to scientists, feeling thankful year-round will boost your well-being, improving your chances for success, and in turn, I believe your sales will increase as a result. An easy place to start is to be thankful for your customers, showing them through their experience with you.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Do These Things This December to Ensure Santa Gives You a Holiday Bonus

Follow this weekly plan to ensure Santa pays you a visit this season, too!




Ready to maximize every moment possible and give yourself a fabulous winter bonus? Follow this weekly plan to ensure Santa pays you a visit this season, too!

Nov. 27 – Dec. 3
Focus on Giving

This week, go big with the theme of shopping for others. Showcase products and wording that supports giving to all the dog lovers in their lives. Have sales associates ask about those extended family pets and other dog lovers on their lists to bring them to top of mind. Suggest creative and fun items like people clothing, picture frames, bakery treats, and doggy beer or wine. Offer a variety of price points to cover any budget to make shopping for multiple pets easy and affordable.

During this week, your register area needs higher-priced items (puzzle games, tech products, fancy holiday collars). Customers will feel good about purchasing for others, so they will be ready to spoil their own pets.

Dec. 4-10 Focus on Them

This week focus all your marketing efforts on the idea of spoiling their pets. Recommend a new coat, a new bed, a new collar, maybe even some new toys for the toy box. Take the spoiling one step further, and give everyone who walks in a free stocking! Require that they have to fill it with at least three items of their choice (and provide their contact info for future mailings). This will turn browsers into buyers.

Continue with high-ticket items at the register area. But move things around or fill with new merchandise to keep it looking fresh. If you use the free stocking idea, high-ticket items that fit in them (like bully sticks or de-shedding brushes) should go at the checkout area as well.

Dec. 11-17 Focus on the Grinch

Use the Grinch to steal the show this week. Have him make appearances throughout the week or stand outside waving to draw attention. You could also hide a Grinch toy somewhere for people to find for a free gift card to use in January. Get creative and interactive with the Grinch on social media. And most important, say to each customer … “Does your dog have a present under the tree for Christmas?” … “No?! Well don’t be a Grinch! Let’s find him something special. Can I show you some of our best dog toys? What’s his play style?”

This week your register should be filled with three- and six-packs of bakery treats. Include other edible holiday-themed merchandise in the mix as well. Customers are sure to stock up and buy more than they need, so they don’t find themselves forgetting someone on their shopping list.

Dec. 18-24 Focus on Holiday Merchandise

There’s only one week left to move out anything and everything holiday. Remember the winter-themed merchandise, too (snowmen, penguin, etc.). We all think it’s going to sell after the holidays, but it rarely will. Remerchandise this stuff all together and move it to a visible area. For SKUs or categories with lots of inventory left, now is the time to mark it down 25 percent, or go even deeper with a “buy two, get one” of all the stuff you want to move out. You’ll sell more discounted holiday merchandise before the 24th, than you will after the 25th.

Make sure your register area is covered this week with any remaining holiday merchandise. Bundle items (two toys with a chewy, wrapped in a big red ribbon). If you don’t have much holiday merchandise left, use this area to feature long-lasting chews to keep pets entertained while your customers are enjoying time with their families.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at Contact her at

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