How To Reach Retail Customers Despite Their Cocoons

butterfly and cocoons

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Let’s admit it; we are now a society of individual planets.

We’ve created our own worlds by letting in just what we want to…

Trump smackdown videos...yes




People who like X...yes

People who believe in

We have surrounded ourselves with images, content, and opinions to protect ourselves from the fear of the outside world.

Actually, we haven’t created worlds as much as we have created cocoons.

With every new friend we add, video we share, or product we like, the web shapes itself more closely around our cocoon.

App developers have discovered that people trust a machine more if it has a personality, especially a sense of humor, and not just the ability to answer a question correctly.

This NYT article details how the app designers for Siri and its siblings give them more personality by scouring the billions of conversations on the web to learn how to replicate some of that natural banter.

It seems humor with a natural banter can break the cocoon.

Same with your retail customers.

Like when I heard about a woman shopper who walked into a store, held up her hand, and said in response to a friendly greeting, “I’m not buying anything today. I’m just looking.”

Seeing the need to engage, the professional retail saleswoman simply said, “Well, that’s good to know, then let’s just play!”

The shopper ended up buying.

Another time, I heard a salesman use a Window of Contact with a customer who casually mentioned she had a three-year-old as she walked by.

“I have a three-year-old too! Would you like to see a picture?” he asked.

She replied, “Sure.” He then pulled out his smartphone and proudly presented a picture of his Great Dane, and the customer burst out laughing.

And the woman ended up buying.

Or when, many years ago, I was closing a big sale by showing the customer how the luxury items he’d picked out matched what he had been searching for high and low. He stopped, looked up at me, and asked rather strongly, “You’re not trying to sell me, are you?”

I replied, “Let’s get the cast of characters right - you’re the customer who wants to buy; I’m the salesman here to help you buy.”

He laughed and simply said, “OK, I’ll take it all.”

On The Other Hand

Many working in brick-and-mortar stores would approach these three scenarios very differently.

To the woman who said she wasn’t buying, most clerks would accept her at her word, add their narrative about what a witch she was, and retreat behind the register.

To the woman who shared she had a young daughter, most would simply say how nice and wait silently for the customer to pick an item - or leave.

In my case, most clerks would run as quickly as possible from ever saying they were indeed trying to sell something. They would apologize, trip all over themselves, and say, “Oh no, I’m not trying to sell you something,” then leave the customer without pushing through to the other side.

So many salespeople are so unsure of their abilities that if a customer says something to put them off - to keep themselves in their own cocoon -  those employees take it as a purposeful building of an impermeable wall.  

But more often than not, it should be taken as an opportunity to find something funny to share to crack the cocoon.

Humor goes a long way in letting out the butterfly of the shopper.

Otherwise, they’ll walk.

And you need to coax that butterfly out of the cocoon...especially if you sell luxury items.

A sales professional helps customers see everything they’ve wanted is on the other side of fear.

Do you want to sell more, to give better customer service? Here's what to do:

  • Get your employees to talk with their customers about their travels to other cities, cultures, and countries.  
  • Get them to talk about what excites them.
  • Get them to mimic better conversations than they text.
  • Get them to explain, with a few details, what they are feeling or seeing or doing.
  • Get a copy of 30 Days To A More Powerful Vocabulary, and have them use a new word each day.

In Sum

We are becoming illiterate of humanity at an alarming rate.

We don’t know how to talk to each other face-to-face.

The NYT article concluded, “As voice-activated assistants become more prevalent, moving from our smartphones into our cars, living rooms, and television sets, they will need to be more articulate and, most of all, funnier.”

I would modify it for retail to say, “As cocooned shoppers enter our stores and boutiques, our salespeople will need to be more articulate and, most of all, funnier.”

Rather than robotically pushing messages on a smartphone - discounts usually - to consumers, retailers need to pull shoppers into their stores through exceptional experiences they can’t find anywhere…

Humans meeting other humans.

And that takes retail sales training to get past shoppers' cocoons.