When Not to Help

posted: Friday, September 25, 2015

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It's a part of the human nature of salespeople to help any prospective customer. It goes against our training to leave a shopper to their own devices. Sometimes though, that’s exactly what we have to do, because that’s what the buyer wants!

There are many times when a patron is just shopping around or gathering information ("Researching") and they prefer to do it independently. If a salesperson engages the customer and receives the answer that indicates unreadiness to continue, then the best action is to respect those wishes, while leaving room for a future opening.

Professional sellers will recognize signals from the shopper indicating a readiness to accept assistance and hopefully the completion of the sale. Perhaps this takes the form of an off-hand question, or desire to compare one product with another. Customers often are experts at "excluding interactions" with sales personnel until the customer satisfies whatever is driving the need to operate independently. Failure to honor the wishes of the consumer carries the risks of dissatisfaction or departure.

A friend of mine was recently shopping for a new television. He began on a Saturday just to get some ideas of what he would like, and to narrow down his choices. As we all know, there are hundreds of choices when buying a television these days, and my friend wanted to get a better idea of what he wanted before speaking with a salesperson.

At his first stop, a salesperson approached. My friend politely declined his help but the salesperson just would not listen. Despite being told that the shopper was just looking and had no intention of buying on that particular day, the merchant would not listen or heed his requests for autonomy. The salesperson kept going over options of the various televisions, offering too much or irrelevant information. Eventually my friend left the store in self-defense.

After a couple of weeks of research and shopping around, my friend decided to buy the television that he first looked at during his visit to the first store. Had that salesperson respected my friend’s wishes to be left alone, then he probably would have eventually made a sale. However, the salesperson’s constant badgering caused my friend to purchase the television from a different location.

It’s important for a retailer to be available to their potential buyers and it is certainly ok to ask if there’s anything they can help with; but when a customer declines their assistance, then that must be respected.

If a salesperson respects the customer’s desire to be left alone, and observes readiness signals from the shopper, chances are that same customer will return that respect to the salesperson and buy from them.

FINAO - Brad Huisken

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