Sales Training - 5 of The Stupidest Questions to Ask Retail Shoppers

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Retailers must stop tripping themselves up, or their brick-and-mortar stores will bleed customers.

Don’t blame online sales…

According to McKinsey, however, despite the relentless onslaught of online retailers, 85% of transactions are still expected to be done in a brick-and-mortar store well into 2025.

Since that’s the case, it would be good to stop looking at omnichannel and online retailers as the real foes of a brick-and-mortar store and confront the real ones…

Most retailers don’t make us feel comfortable enough to buy from them.

Usually, this is due to a complete lack of or poor sales training allowing employees to speak before thinking. To help improve conversions, you must give sales training to retail staff. Part of that is knowing what not to say.

Here are the five stupid questions never to ask your shoppers:

1. How are you today?

Admit it, you don’t care; the shopper knows you don’t care. This leads the customer to parrot a specific answer, “Fine, and you?” To which the retail employee responds with another expected answer, “Fine,” or they launch into another unthinking question or go silent.

Why it’s wrong: You never want to make customers have to lie to you.

What to say instead: Good morning. Feel free to look around, and I’ll be right back.

2. Are you looking to buy today?

I know, shocking to read, but that is still asked by people trying to sell you everything from a car to eyeglasses, to you name it.

Why it’s wrong: Choosing between lookers and buyers based on their answers is ludicrous. People often go into a shop not intending to buy, but they get so romanced by the environment, displays, and sales professionals that they treat themselves anyway. And just as many intend to buy, a pushy salesperson’s comments and attitude have made them leave without their intended purchase.

There is nothing to say instead.

3. Isn’t this weather-related noun (heat, snow, rain) awful?

It doesn’t matter if you are in the deep South during a brutal, humid summer, the Northeast during a windy spring, or the drought-struck Southwest; you rarely – if ever – will get another person to agree with you. Then you just look foolish.  

Why it’s wrong:  If you get someone to agree, you’ve put yourself in misery’s company. First, you build rapport with a potential customer by discovering what positive things you have in common – not fishing for misery. And not about the weather.

What to say instead: Something positive about what they wear or hold.

4. Can I help you find something?

The mark of a truly untrained salesperson.  You’ve heard it hundreds of times when you’ve shopped, but that doesn’t make it right. Customers will tell you, "I'm just looking," to avoid such an aggressive question.

Why it’s wrong: It starts from the idea that customers know what they want and are trying to fix something. But that’s not the case. Most trips to a store are unlike a hardware store where, “Can I help you find something?” leads to, “Yes, I’m looking for #2 screws.” Most trips are based on a customer trying to solve a larger problem.

What to say instead: If you are a hardware store, What’s your project today? If you are a furniture store, What room will get the makeover today? If you are an electronics store: How can we connect your world today? You get the idea; ask an open-ended question or two about the customer's needs.

5. Do you have a budget?

This is another hack question determined to tie down the customer. While customers often say a sale is only about price, they’re liars. The salesperson risks not getting true customer feedback by asking this question upfront.

Why it’s wrong: This question supposes customers won’t spend more than they plan. It allows the salesperson to limit the customer’s choices and removes what probably would be the best solution. The best solutions cost more. You know this yourself...if you see something you like, you’ll move heaven and earth to get it and pay whatever it takes.

What to say instead: We have various options and price points. To find your best solution, may I show you them all?

See also: Bad Customer Service Examples: 50 Things Retail Employees Shouldn't Do


In Sum

There are a lot of mistakes we make when selling ourselves and our products. Use these retail management tips to eliminate these bad customer service examples from your selling presentations, and then give your crew sales training to grow your sales.

Of course, I'd suggest you look at my retail customer service programs to help you do that...

And if you're looking for how to convert more lookers to buyers and create a store your customers will love, check out my online retail sales training program, SalesRX.


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