"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 or brand 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 word, “Good (time of day.)”
“Good morning,” “Good afternoon” or “Good evening” should be the first words out of your associates’ mouths when greeting a customer. 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 be to start an interaction on a positive note.
Most retailers think this is easy; it isn’t.
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. On the sixth try, immediately after he blew it again, he turned to the audience and said, “This is much harder than you’d think!”
Yes it is.
Why? For one, because no one is really listening to what they are saying and number two because training and correcting bad habits are largely missing in most retail sales training.
Companies have just assumed employees can greet anyone just fine and that all that matters is product knowledge.
How wrong they are.
I was in a Crate and Barrel a couple months ago 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 goin?’”
Few if any answered or looked at the poor woman. Why?
Do you want to get people to trust you, to feel welcomed and encouraged? Then start with an open heart using the word “Good” in your greeting.
Whether you cold called a new client, took on an existing account or you are new to an area yourself, 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.
Your goal, though a bit different than the retailers' goal is to get clients to feel you have time for them right now. By starting with “Good morning,” “Good afternoon” or “Good evening,” you are extending cordiality without being phony.
The key is to not continue on with a spiel immediately after you’ve said “Good morning.” Wait and let them reply back to you. Then there is time to say who you are, what brand you represent and then ask about their available time.
The key is to let the person on the other end know it is a good morning, good afternoon, etc. Practice by recording yourself and listen 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 other 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.
See also, Your Greeting: How To Be Interesting In Retail Sales
If you want to stand out in a crowded market where too many people have too many choices of who they do business with, a greeting of “good” trumps the greeting of buy my widget every time.