Retail Sales Strategy: How to Approach A Customer

child painting the word welcome

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"How to approach a customer?" I’m often asked in my role as a retail consultant.

Whether that question comes from a retailer looking for sales tips as part of their retail sales training program, a distributor 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 words GOOD + (time of day).

Let me explain...

Retailers: How to approach a new visitor in your store

“Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening” should be the first words your sales associate utters when greeting a customer in your retail store. Whether you train that all customers are “guests” – something I’m not fond of – or you train your employees that every customer is a sales prospect, your retail sales training must start every interaction on a positive note.

Most retailers think this is easy; it isn’t.

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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 what to say “Good morning,” with the proper attitude, etc., he blew the greeting five times. Immediately after he blew it again on the sixth try, he turned to the audience and said, “This is much harder than you’d think!”

Yes, it is.

Why? For one, no one is listening to what they are saying, and number two, training and correcting bad habits are largely missing in most retail sales training.

Companies have just assumed employees know how to greet customers and that all that matters is product knowledge. They've completely forgotten about customer experience.

How wrong they are.

I was in a Crate and Barrel once, and they had stationed a greeter at the front door. As people stepped three feet into the store, they were all asked, “How’s it going?’”

Few, if any, answered or looked at the poor woman. Why?

Boring. Forgettable. A waste of the employee’s energy.

Do you want to get people to trust you, to feel welcomed and encouraged? Do you want to foster customer engagement and attract customers? Then start with an open heart using the word “Good” in your greeting.

Sales representatives: How to approach new accounts

Whether you cold-called a new client, took on an existing account, or are new to an area, you want to stand out.

“Is this a good time?” is how most sales reps begin their interactions. Although that should be part of your conversation, it shouldn't be the first thing you say because it makes you sound impatient.

Though slightly different than the retailers', your goal is to get clients to feel you have time for them. By starting with “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening,” you are extending politeness without being phony.

The key is to not continue with a spiel immediately after you’ve said “Good morning.” Wait and let them reply to you. Then, there is time to say who you are and what brand you represent and ask about their available time.

How to approach potential buyers 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 recording yourself and listening 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 another distracted message conveys the message to the caller that they are not important.

For that reason, if you aren't ready to approach that potential new buyer 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.

In Sum

If you want to stand out in a crowded market where too many people have too many choices of who they do business with, approaching a customer with a greeting of Good trumps the greeting of Buy my Widget every time.