November 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 11
Approaching customers in a "Good" Way
In my role as a retail consultant I’m often asked, "How should I approach a customer?"
Whether that question comes from a retailer looking for sales tips as part of their retail sales training program, a distributor or brand wondering if their reps are "doing it right," or someone asking about the correct phone etiquette, the quick answer is to start any customer interaction with the phrase, "Good (time of day.)"
Let me explain...
Retailers: How to approach a new customer in your store
"Good morning," "Good afternoon" or "Good evening" should be the first words out of your associates’ mouths when greeting a customer. Whether you train your employees to treat all customers as "guests" – something I’m not fond of – or you train your employees that every customer is a sales prospect, you must train your employees to start each interaction on a positive note.
Most retailers think this is easy. It isn’t.
In one of my full day retail sales training programs, I had a regional manager for a major brand come up and role-play with me in front of the audience. After being taught to say "Good morning" with the proper attitude, etc., he blew the greeting five times. On the sixth try, immediately after he blew it again, he turned to the audience and said, "This is much harder than you’d think!"
Yes, it is.
Why? For one, no one is really listening to what the greeters are saying. For two, correcting bad habits is largely missing from most retail sales training.
Companies have just assumed that any employee can greet customers, and that all that matters is product knowledge.
How wrong they are.
I was in a Crate and Barrel a couple months ago and they had stationed a greeter at the front door. As customers stepped three feet into the store they were all asked, "How’s it goin?’”
Few if any answered or even looked at the poor woman. Why?
She was boring. Forgettable. She was wasting her energy.
Do you want to get people to trust you, to feel welcomed and encouraged? Then start with an open heart using the word "Good" in your greeting.
Sales Representatives: How to approach new customers
Whether you cold called a new client, took on an existing account or are new to an area yourself, you want to stand out.
"Is this a good time?" is how most sales reps begin their interactions, and although that should be part of your conversation, it shouldn’t be the first thing you say because it makes you sound impatient.
Your goal, though a bit different than the retailers’ goal, is to get customers to feel like you have time for them right now. By starting with "Good morning," "Good afternoon" or "Good evening," you are extending cordiality without being phony.
The key is to not continue on with a spiel immediately after you’ve said "Good morning." Wait and let them reply back to you. Then there is time to say who you are, what brand you represent and then ask about their available time.
How to approach customers who call you on the phone
The key is to let the person on the other end know it is a good morning, good afternoon, etc. Practice by recording yourself and listen to your inflection, or role-play to get the sound of your phone greeting just right.
Why? Because again, you must sound like you have time for the caller right then. An exasperated tone, a "Hold please," or other distracted messages convey to the customer that they are not important.
For that reason, if you aren’t ready to approach that potential new customer on the phone, don’t answer it – let someone else get it or let it go to voicemail.
What about dealing with a person you already know? There’s no reason for it to be any different.
Bottom line: if you want to stand out in a crowded market where too many customers have too many choices of who they do business with, a greeting of "good" trumps the greeting of buy my widget every time.
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Writer's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at http://www.retaildoc.com/guide. He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author
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