Walking into most retail store these days, you are often greeted with “Hello.” It appears management is well aware of the need customers have for feeling welcomed and recognized when they enter. They could be sitting at home ordering those office supplies, two new blouses, running shoes and golf clubs on line, but instead have taken the time and gas to drive through traffic, find a perfect parking spot, and walk themselves into the possibility of buying from you. Even if these potential buyers, are showrooming, comparing your prices to prices of your competition by phone, right in front of you; they are potential buyers if you know the 3 things they care about more than anything when it comes time to pulling out the plastic and cash. It begins before Hello.
As a small business owner, I understand the dark cloud of big competition that may hang over your head like a thunderhead waiting to drown your business progress. After running my own retail business for over 22 years, sometimes single handedly, I absolutely understand the worry. But this is what I know about customers and saw its’ results for myself, over and over again. And it’s how I beat the big competition, daily.
1. It begins before Hello.
Consider how your potential customer first makes contact with you. Is it by phone? Are they checking over your website? Or have they decided to walk into your store and check you out in person? In the first three seconds of making contact, your customers subconscious mind has already signaled a positive or a negative message to their conscious mind. When they phoned the store, was their call answered within 3 rings, by a welcoming voice and message? Or were they promptly stuck on hold while three other callers vied for attention? Positive or negative, you’ve got 3 seconds.
Is your website up to date with current store hours and easy to find phone numbers and information. Would you feel welcomed by the appearance of your website introduction if you were a customer? Step back and be objective or ask trusted friends and customers. Updating your site when necessary, is a sound investment and doesn’t have to be expensive.
BEFORE, they walk into your store, as they approach the entrance, does it invite them in? Is it swept of debris? Are your windows cleaned routinely? Are there fingerprints and smudges on the front door or is it wiped clean as needed? Is there a welcome sign? Is the entrance free of clutter and your hours of business are easy to read and replaced when worn? Is your front entry telling your potential customers they are expected and welcomed? Are they picking up “warm and fuzzies” before the door swings open or do they instantly feel they may be just another inconvenience to you because they don’t feel welcomed. Because, dear hard working, small business owners, that is where you make your sales with your customers. In their heart, where they feel pleasure in purchasing your wares and services. Because you make them feel good within 3 seconds. You initiate trust. It’s safe to do business with the those who really care about how I feel.
2. Secondly; they want to be acknowledged.
“How can we help you?” becomes the invitation to explore how you are going to take care of them. “Can I help you?” Only leaves space for yes, or no. Invite them into the wonderful possibilities of doing business with you. Find out what they want and need. Show them you’re listening.
3. “May I know your name?”
“My name is (you) and I can take care of you today” Ask permission to get to know them so you can start a conversation that’s worth both your time. A gentle hand on their shoulder or forearm melts resistance and offers a safe place to solve their problem. Dialog is a boring ping pong game of words bounced back and forth that have no feeling or desire. When you offer to have a “conversation” you open the space between the two of you to get to the heart of their need. “A conversation of equals……inside the intensity of creative originality,” so writes David Whyte in his book, “Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.”
Pay attention to their name. If you practice deep listening and repeat their name and use it throughout the sale, 8 out of 10 times you will have a new customer. There’s always the 2 that got away. But they make good practice and help sharpen your skill of listening.
Test out these principles next time it’s your turn to be a potential customer. Start paying attention to how your subconscious mind is making you feel and directing your choices. Where do you love to shop? Why? Where do you avoid having to walk in?
Understanding these 3 crucial needs of your customers can revolutionize those 3 seconds in your favor and chase that dark cloud of big competition away, forever.