Idiom: Rhetorical

Multiple choice. How does the typical customer respond to this question:

“How can I help you?”

A: “I’ve come to fork over my hard-earned money on some of your fine merchandise. Here’s my wallet – please, just take whatever you need!”

B: “I need a king-sized bed, two nightstands, a dresser, mirror and chest in a solid cherry finish with brass accents – and I can wait if you need to order it.”

C: “I’m just looking…”

C is correct. How many times does your customer, Ms. Jones, say it to you it in a day? It’s the bane of any salesperson, but it’s self-inflicted. “What brings you in today” and “How can I help you” are the retail equivalent of asking your teenager, “How was your day?”

You’ll be disappointed if you expect any answer other than, “Good.”

How are you? “Fine.”

What did you do today? “Nothing.”

Where did you go after school? “I don’t remember.”

Unlike your sullen teenager, Ms. Jones doesn’t have to answer your questions. She can turn and leave any time she wants. You have one chance to get her attention and start a conversation.

Here’s another game: list ten ways you can greet Ms. Jones that make it impossible for her to respond, “I’m just looking.”

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10 Responses to “Idiom: Rhetorical”

  1. Mary says:

    Amy,
    I missed your byline but you know I think the world of you and the way you think! Good thinking exercise, Amy!
    So you miss the sales floor, huh? I’ll bet there are some retailers nearby who would let you get back into the swing of things.

    Seriously, I agree that if we welcome customers into our stores like we would into our homes, we’d set a better atmosphere for business. Asking me hard questions like “have I been there before” (is there a limit to how many times I can come by or do I need a sponsor to get in?), “what brings me in”, “what ad I saw”, etc., makes me anxious. Sincerity wins me everytime. I’ve long thought furniture sales was using my knowledge to solve the customers problem. It was less about “selling” and more about “matching” – my knowledge of the furnishings available to her need.

    Since we no longer hold the keys to the furniture kingdom and furniture can be secured from many other channels beside furniture stores, the experience in the store needs to be worth the effort. It needs to feel good – smell good – sound good – look good – it needs to make me happy I’m there and cause me to wonder when I can come back.

  2. Amy says:

    A complimentary greeting always worked well for me, but it has to be sincere. Jumping straight into selling mode never worked for me. When I started with a simple, “Hello, how are you?” it gave me time to size up my customer while they gave me the once over, too. People are usually caught off guard when they’re greeted as a potential friend rather than a prospect. Once I broke the ice with an innocuous comment, they let me ease into questioning or they start talking themselves. Man, I miss the salesfloor sometimes!

  3. Dave Carlson says:

    I’ll talk to the kids…or try to break the ice with something like ” Hi I’m Dave and welcome to Carlson’s…I’m sure you’re here to buy your wife(husband/kids) something really nice today!!”

  4. Tom McMinn says:

    It may be rhetorical, but it definitely stops the upheld hand saying “I’m just looking.” But I get your point.

  5. Amy says:

    Isn’t that still a rhetorical question?

    What greetings do your best salespeople use to open a conversation, ones that eliminate the possibility of a “yes or no” answer?

  6. Tom McMinn says:

    I love Phil Gutsell’s idea…

    Hi, welcome to “Store Name”. Would you like to look around?

  7. David Lively says:

    Mary, I wish I could take credit for this post. Look closely-it was written by my brilliant wife.

  8. Joe Capillo says:

    Well now. I really like Mary’s #2 greeting. I’d it tweak to “Hello, WELCOME, Thanks for coming in today.” Then I’d let the customer say something. Surprisingly, 80% of customers will tell you why they’re there. For the 20% or so who say something like “I’m just looking” or “I’m just looking for ideas”, then I’d say what Mary suggested. What’s most important in this initial 5 seconds is your overall demeanor. You have to be smiling, and non-agressive in your approach, extraodinarily polite, and truly warm and welcoming. People respond to people they like, and they like people who truly want to help them – not sell them. And, in our current economy, you should be VERY glad to see them.

    The real engagement comes when you re-approach, which it is your job to do as a retail salesperson – yes, even when the customer opted for “I’ll find you when I need you.”

  9. Pete Hudson says:

    Wanna know the greeting that super marketing guru Jay Abraham came up with that increased a furniture stores sales by a whopping 400%?

    Don’t need 10 when you have the right one…try, “…and which ad brought you in today?”

  10. Mary says:

    !. Hello, I’m Mary Frye. If you don’t have anything in particular you need to see, I’d love to show you a…This caught my attention because…

    2. Hello, I’m Mary Frye. Thanks for coming in today. I’m here to help you if you need any help or I can stay out of your way until you give me a signal. What works best for you?

    I’m working on the other eight ways and will come back with more to post in a bit.

    This is a good exercise, David!

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