Selling: Who should make the first move?

Treating a customer like a friend and greeting them first can help improve consumer trust. Leonard Zell explains how smiling and talking first can boost in-store sales

Who should make the first move when a customer enters a jewellery store? In two words, the salesperson. This is what I have observed when I have gone into jewellery stores in the UK, and the other eighteen countries where I have trained fine jewellers:

  •  A customer enters the store looking down at the jewellery counter, not the salesperson and the salesperson looks down trying to see what the customer is looking at, puts his hands behind his back and doesn’t say anything. The customer continues to look, but walks down the counter and the salesperson follows with his hands behind his back and finally says something like, “Can I show you something?”
  •  A customer is already at a jewellery counter looking down at the jewellery when the salesperson sees them and approaches and then looks down to see what they are looking at and there is no eye contact because he feels if he looks up he may be staring. His hands go behind his back, he remains silent and so does the customer. The customer looks up at him, but doesn’t smile, he doesn’t either, the customer says nothing, moves on and another salesperson waits on them. If there is no one else to wait on, the customer leaves.
  •  During a sale a customer is looking at a piece of jewellery and cannot make up their mind.The salesperson‘s hands go behind his back and he remains silent, waiting for the customer to say something and when they finally do – “I’ll think about it”.
  •  At a shopping centre store that has no entrance, and open to those passing by, a customer walks in and looks around briefly showing little interest. A salesperson looks at them, but doesn’t want to approach because they are just another ‘just looker’. The salesperson looks the other way hoping she will leave and she does.

By now you may be wondering what I’m getting at? In all these instances the salespeople were either poorly trained, or never should have been hired. Some salespeople are not outward going and have no idea how to start a conversation, others cannot look customers in the eye when talking to them and still others have poor body language. Their hands consistently go behind their back, implying either they have just started to work there and don’t have much knowledge, or they are shy and lack confidence. They all had one thing in common. They felt awkward making the first move and hoped the customer would. They wanted the customer to smile first and start the conversation.

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Many of you jewellers have seen these scenarios in your store and are wondering why some of your salespeople are so hesitant. The reason is that they don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation – they are afraid if they do they may get an abrupt, “just  looking”. They are more comfortable with the customer starting the conversation. To make salespeople aware of this I ask them, “Who are you most at ease with, the customer you wait on the very first time, or those you see the second and third time?” They always select the latter.

How could all of this been avoided? By the salesperson smiling as soon as they saw the customer, and not waiting until they come into the store or approach the sales counter. I tell my students that if they think about it, every time they greet a friend at their door they automatically smile before their friend does, but in the store they do just the opposite with customers – they wait until the customer smiles first or says something.

I have asked salespeople, “If that was a friend of yours coming into the store how soon would you greet them?” Their answer is always, “oh, right away”. How do you stop this? Greet customers as if they are your friends and always beat them to the smile. If you do they will always smile back because your smile made them feel welcome and they will talk to you and respond to what you say.

The two most important attributes a salesperson should have is the smile and enthusiasm they have with their friend. There is a logical reason. Customers come in to buy for happy occasions. Therefore, it stands to reason they should be greeted by smiling happy salespeople. Those salespeople who have it, and have made it part of their personality, consistently outsell others, even if they lack product knowledge. That’s how you connect to a customer’s buying emotions. Most salespeople use too much product knowledge and that suppresses a customer’s emotions by taking their mind off the hugs they are going to get when they give the diamond ring.

Salespeople who don’t smile have problems getting a customer’s trust, because without smiling they cannot talk to their customer’s eyes as they are staring and therefore look mostly down at the jewellery. An important note – customers don’t trust salespeople who look away from their eyes.

What about those salespeople who couldn’t talk? They will need a lot of consistent training because they have to change their store personality to the one they have with their friends. I tell salespeople at my seminars that the personality they have at home with their friends is the one they should have in the store. If they think about it they are always smiling, talking to their friend’s eyes and expressing themselves with their hands, but in the store their hands are either behind their back or holding onto the counter, motionless. There are rarely any awkward silent moments at home with their friends, but there are often in the store. At home they make the first move and start the conversation.

Regarding the training. Most stores do some training, but do it inconsistently and some not at all. Those select few jewellers who do are always very successful. Selling in many ways is like learning sports. The three most important things coaches tell me in learning a skill are practise,  practise, practise. The problem is that most owners lecture a sales technique, the salesperson listens, tries it a few times then goes back to their previous way of selling.

Roleplaying is the answer, but avoid putting a salesperson in front of their peers and have them try a technique. That is intimidating and has a negative effect on a salesperson’s pride. I recommend you, or your manager, should always play the role of the salesperson and then have your salespeople practice by roleplaying with each other.

Let your salespeople read this article and give them the opportunity to increase their sales and put enjoyment back into their selling. Their customers will see this change of attitude and with a positive attitude you will always see increased sales.

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