Did a teacher ever pick you to come up in front of the class when you weren’t prepared to speak?
It felt like hell, I bet.
There’s an area of your retail store shoppers will avoid: the first eight feet after your doors. Some call it the decompression zone, some call it the threshold area—it should be called The Hell Zone.
Shoppers don't want to go into the Hell Zone
They might remember a past experience where an aggressive employee pounced on them, wanting to shake their hand. Or they might remember another employee asking them a question when all they wanted to do was get their bearings. They had to blurt out a No to get rid of the pesky employee.
Employees don’t want to go in the Hell Zone either
They’ve asked a stranger in their most helpful way, Can I help you? And those darn shoppers always answer No! Or no, I’m just looking! After weeks of this rejection, your employee gives up trying, says nothing, and retreats to the counter to text a friend.
Because shoppers repeatedly answer these greetings with a negative, employees feel dehumanized. That negativity and lack of connection also open the door to rudeness. Customers turn their backs and walk away; they talk on the phone at the register; they haggle over prices or make unrealistic demands.
It’s hell, too, because owners and managers see this happening repeatedly but don’t know how to change it. Until now…
Wait at least 10 seconds, but no more than 15, to greet a shopper.
This gives them time to settle. Fifteen seconds may sound like a really short time, but it isn’t. Use a timer and walk through your store. You can usually reach the back of your store within 15 seconds. I think you’ll find your sweet spot will be around 10 seconds.
By greeting your shoppers within 10-15 seconds, you achieve several goals:
It trains employees to keep their eyes up to see who’s coming in.
It makes them wait and not pounce, and it helps provide a welcoming atmosphere.
And as a bonus, it also helps prevent shoplifting.
Grab a prop during those 15 seconds.
This has to be something large enough to be noticed by a customer, like a book, a box, or a sample. This creates the appearance that the employee is interrupting something else to notice the shopper rather than swooping down on them like a hawk on a mouse.
Approach the shopper walking at a 45-degree angle.
Ten seconds have passed, and you're holding the prop and look busy. This approach angle will allow you to give your greetings and then move past them without blocking them.
Greet them as you go by with "Good morning. Feel free to look around, and I’ll be right back," or say "Good morning".
By not asking a question such as "How are you?" or "Can I help you find anything?" the customer is not obliged to respond, though many will with a simple thank you.
Most shoppers will appreciate having the time and space to look around. They’ll feel comfortable enough to stop the employee and ask them if they need something.
This retail sales training technique of greeting with a prop puts the customer at ease, gives the employee a reason not to linger, and dissolves The Hell Zone.
With the right approach, "I'm just looking" turns into "Thank you!"
Let’s say you are an employee at an electronics store. As a person walks in, you pick up a Bose headphones box and head towards them within 15 seconds.
Approaching the customer at a 45° angle, you move past them with your prop, pausing to meet their eyes and say, “Good morning. Feel free to look around, and I’ll be right back.” If you do this correctly and with the right intent, the customer always says, “Thank you.”
Skeptical? Try it right now, and you’ll be surprised. If they don’t thank you, consider that you may have approached at about a 90° angle, which blocks their path, or you might have lingered too long when you said the comment, or you didn’t look them in the eyes.
Now, you don’t need to do this when you are slammed on a busy Saturday afternoon or during the holidays, but for those times when no one else is in the store, it is perfect.
It lets the shopper off the hook and lets them relax, gain their bearings, and look at all you have to offer.
Remove the Hell Zone by making your greeting more human, timely, and engaging, and ultimately... your selling will be more profitable.
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