Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 1/21/2016
As stores begin to make room for their summer assortment, they discount their winter outerwear making January a great time to buy. I decided to take advantage of this and headed to the mall to find my next winter jacket. (It did not hurt that holiday weekend sales events were in full swing.)
Walking towards the storefront of one of my favorite brands, I saw signs proclaiming “EVERYTHING UP TO 60% OFF!” The signs only served to feed my expectations as I entered the store and walked past a salesman posted just inside the front door. It was poor form of him to not greet me as I passed since he was not busy with anything. Continuing further into the store, I began checking out a rack of men’s winter jackets. The clerk finally called out a friendly greeting.
“How are you doing today?”
“I am doing well,” I answered.
“What brings you into our store today?”
“I just came in to kick around and check out the sale,” I replied as he continued to approach me with a sincere looking smile and a sense of urgency.
“Great,” he responded and taking note of the jacket I wore he added, “We have a number of jackets just like the one you are wearing.”
This guy was on the ball. My “kicking around” response had not deterred him from engaging me. Next, I pitched him a receptive response to see if he would move me from being a browser to a buyer.
“Maybe I need something different since I already have a jacket like this one.”
The smile disappeared from his face replaced by a look of confusion. “Hmph, well okay then” he said as he walked away. Stymied.
“Maybe I need something different “ was an opening that gave him permission to start asking me qualifying questions or at least show me jackets that were different from what I was wearing. Did he do that?
No. In fact, he did not even give me the typical clerk response, “Feel free to look around and let us know if you have any questions.” He seemed to perceive my response as resistance. He must have thought the thing to do at this point was to give me space. Or perhaps he was looking for an excuse to go do something other than help me. The interaction had started out with such promise when my original “just looking” signal was deflected and he persisted in trying to serve me. He left me frustrated.
I explored the store for another ten minutes feeling a bit abandoned. When I finished my exploring, I headed towards the door. I spotted the salesman who had greeted me in the cash wrap folding clothing as I went by and I made eye contact with him. He did not acknowledge me missing an opportunity for service recovery. He allowed me to walk past him and on into the mall, empty-handed.
The Teachable Moment
As managers, we need to spot teachable moments like this one and to coach our sales staff. (Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about a simple coaching model that can be used on the sales floor.)
An inexperienced or a cheerleading manager might recognize this salesman for his persistence in his greeting. Avoid that pitfall. While such persistence is laudable, praising the persistence would likely verbally erase what really needed to be coached.
The best teachable moment here was to correct how the salesman responded to my last statement; “Maybe I need something different since I already have a jacket like this one.”
The clerk focused on the fact that I already had a jacket and not on the possibility of needing something different. By thinking that I was not interested, he had missed a perfect opening to begin to ask qualifying questions or show me outerwear that was different.