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Jim Green's blog

For Sales Associates # 7

November 9, 2012

I have been identifying concepts and tactics which retail salespeople might utilize to better optimize their sales. My hope is that managers will use these as topics for group discussions with their associates. I would love to hear back from readers for feedback.

The First 15 Seconds

It has been said, and I fully believe, that most sales are made in the first 15 or 20 seconds of interaction between a salesperson and a prospective customer. It is also abundantly true that a person has only one chance to make a positive first impression. These two realities point to the fact that the introduction and opening of any sales connection is of paramount importance. Too strong and run the risk of completely turning the customer off. Too weak and the customer may not gain the confidence that the salesperson can be of help. ‘May I help you?' absolutely invites a ‘No...We're just looking.' ‘What can I sell you today?' is smarmy and drips of hucksterism. ‘What brought you in today?' or ‘What can I direct you to?' while better, still opens the door widely for, ‘we just want to look around.' As discussed in an earlier post...virtually no one, but no one goes to a furniture store to ‘just look around.' People visit furniture showrooms for a reason; it may involve themselves or others but they are not just browsing. Even if they are just looking for ideas, there are still a great many possibilities of items they may be sold. Lamps, accessories, area rugs can go a long way to freshening or livening up a room.

A few more realities: 1) Many if not most potential consumers are wary of salespeople thinking they may try to sell them something they don't want. ‘I'm just looking' is a customer's way of throwing up a wall against the interference of a pesky salesperson. 2) Many customers just want to get the lay of the land when they come into a store before the shopping process begins. 3) The customer generally would like to know that there is someone there that is knowledgeable that can be of help if the need arises; that their presence has been acknowledged.

I have personally used this technique for the opening introduction very successfully. I have also taught it to many sales people and they have reported excellent results. Instead of jumping on the customer when entering the store why not use the following tact: Tell the customer, "I know that you may want to just browse for awhile, and we want you to do just that." (This eliminates what might be threatening from the selling process; that the salesperson will be intrusive). At this point if the customer wants some guidance they will probably ask for it. If not, continue on that "I would like to orient you to the store so you won't waste time wandering around; then I'll let you browse at your leisure through all the great furniture and values we have to offer." (this says to the customer, ‘I'm concerned about your shopping experience, but I won't intrude". Finally, after briefly describing how the showroom is laid out, "If you have any questions I'll be close by and I'll check in on you from time to time." Again, if they have any questions at this point they'll voice them now. During this introduction it is always a good idea to introduce yourself by name and try to elicit theirs.

Perhaps, some more aggressive salespeople may not subscribe to this strategy. They may think it too weak; that the customer is given too much latitude. That's fine...don't use it. I believe, however that it is critical to make the customer comfortable in the showroom without feeling threatened but knowing there is someone close by that is interested in their shopping experience without coming off as a used car salesman; that it is never prudent to pounce.