Influence pool and spa sales with ease

Quick, what's the typical greeting used most often by 60 percent of retail stores? You're right if you guessed, "Can I help you?" The visitor's usual response: "No thanks, just looking." This greeting only reminds visitors that they're not here to buy. It's a lousy selling strategy.

The way you and your front-line employees greet walk-in customers has a huge impact on your bottom line. Here are some tips to ensure that you and your employees greet customers in a way that makes them want to buy and keep coming back.

1. Show that you recognize them.

If you deal with customers, the most important words are not "please" or "thank you," but rather your customers' first and last names. Take a restaurant I patronize, for example. As I walk in with my friends, the owner shouts, "Jeff, you're back! Welcome!" He smiles at the rest of my party and says, "I see you've brought your friends. Excellent! We'll clear one of our best tables for you!" At this point I don't care what the food tastes like - this guy gets my business.

If you don't remember the customer's name, you need to at least let them know that you recognize them and are happy to see them. So an effective greeting would be, "Well, hello! It's nice to see you again." Customers return to secure, friendly environments. Show that you recognize them, and they'll want to come back.

2. Ask if they've been in before.

A completely different (but similarly effective) greeting is, "Hi, have you been here before?" Michael Gerber, author of the best seller The E-Myth, says that his clients who have switched from "Can I help you?" to this greeting have seen sales increase by an average of 16 percent. While Gerber claims to have no idea why this works so well, I think it's because this greeting reminds the customer that they have been at your business before, so it's a familiar place. Familiar means safe. Safe means trust. And trust means buy.

With this greeting the employee can also add, "Welcome back, we appreciate your coming to see us again." He can ask the customer about what he bought on his last visit and how he likes what he bought. That provides the opportunity for positive reinforcement and/or clearing up any concerns.

If this is the customer's first visit, then the employee has a great excuse to show him around, identify needs and point out specials. At any rate, if saying, "Hi, have you been here before?" can increase sales by 16 percent, then it's certainly worth a test with unfamiliar customers.

3. Ask about the weather.

I realize the weather is an often-used topic, but it's disarming and gets the customer talking about something about which she can be the expert. The critical step that's often missed is you need to respond to the customer's comments. That shows that you're listening - not just "techniqueing" her. Once you've addressed the comments, you can then transition from the weather to identifying her needs. Example: "Well, at least you're out of the wind now. What brings you in - aside from the cold weather?"

4. Compliment appropriately.

Be careful with this one. If you do it incorrectly, you can be construed as being a phony and will lose the most important thing you need to sell - trust. So don't offer a general compliment such as, "Don't you look good today." Instead make sure your compliment is relevant and specific. Working in a pool and spa store you might say, "Nice tan. I can tell you've been spending some time by the pool."

5. Use a conversation piece.

Interesting artwork, a talking parrot or anything you place near your entrance that draws comment is great. It gets the customer talking, questioning and interested.

Timing Is Everything

More important than what you say, is the fact that the visitor is acknowledged - not necessarily served - the moment he enters. One study revealed that 68 percent of customers who leave do so because they feel like no one cares that they're there. Imagine yourself entering a store and waiting to be served. Then use your watch to count off 30 seconds. You'll realize that even half a minute is too long to wait.

One of my seminar participants, a bakery owner, ensured a fast greeting if the employees were working in the back room by installing a doorbell that rings as the visitor enters. They call out, "Hi there, I'll be right out!" That's simple and smart.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

The Five Worst Greetings

1. A stare - like employees are watching to see if you're going to steal something.
2. The daze - they pretend they're so busy they can't see you.
3. "Can I help you?"
4. "Next!"
5. Any canned, phony-sounding speech.

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