For retail customers to let down their guard, share their desires, and get over their fears of purchasing, you must get them involved...
I was at South Coast Plaza and stepped into the Harry Winston boutique. A pleasant young woman greeted me and asked if it was my first time at Harry Winston’s. I told her I had been to the one in Manhattan. She replied, “That’s our flagship.” After a few moments of my browsing around she asked me if I had ever seen a Harry Winston diamond up close. I told her I had not, so she unlocked a case, carefully removed a 10 carat diamond ring, and held it out for me.
Wow I thought. She was so engaging, she engaged me.
Contrast that to the feeling I had as I walked into another store…
A woman greeted my back - not my face - with, “Good afternoon.”
I replied the requisite, “Good afternoon.”
Shortly after she asked, “Are you here to buy a watch today?”
“No,” I replied casually, "I’m just looking around.”
A few seconds later she summed it up, again to my back. “So you’re just looking around, not really looking to buy anything.”
Geez, how do people like that get into retail? It's no wonder so many stores struggle to sell.
In the first example, the saleswoman engaged me with “Have you ever seen…” which was the beginning of building rapport.
In many stores, to build rapport, just telling a customer that you’ve got a new product and asking, “May I show you?” can do the trick.
In a hair salon, it could be playing around with a different hairstyle before the cut saying, “Let’s just see how it might look.”
In a music store, it might be showing a customer how to create a simple song on an instrument, record it, and upload to their smartphone.
In a photography store you could set up an area of the store like a photo studio and ask shoppers, “Can I show you a quick way to take a better picture with your smartphone?” Shoppers would be encouraged to experiment with different lighting.
Notice none of these were about pitching a product. You have to get the customer involved if you want them to care enough to buy from you.
Involvement coupled with creativity reduces fear of purchase.
What to do
The secret of how to engage customers is to ask them a question that begins, “Have you ever…”
Yes, it has to make sense.
You wouldn’t ask, “Have you ever ridden a unicorn?” unless you could answer, “Well now you can,” as you gesture toward a stable.
To stand out, find something unique in your store you can ask an opinion about, a new product that can do something special, or a product you’ve had for awhile but have something new to point out.
Then you can engage the customer with a conversation rather than a pitch. A conversation that leads to a Wow customer experience.
Most employees are so limited in their people skills that they have little ability or interest in trying to find out why that shopper is in their shop today.
When the customer doesn’t walk in the door asking for what they specifically say they want, the poorly trained sales clerk gets frustrated; they can even blurt out inappropriate and highly offensive things to your customers. Remember the watch store above?
That’s why smart thinking is on retail sales training. For when you engage a customer by piquing their curiosity and sharing, you have truly connected.
You have engaged them in a conversation.
And that’s why people buy...when they can feel comfortable, intrigued and engaged.