How You Should Greet Customers in Retail

Did you know that how you greet customers in your retail store can make or break your sales success?

Many retailers I work with either feel awkward greeting a customer when they walk in their door or they fall into a standard response, because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do. The problem with this is that you’re not setting your customer up for a great experience in your store.

Consumer psychology tells us that a customer is more likely to buy when their dopamine is flowing – when they’re feeling good, when they’re happy, and relaxed. But often they walk into a store already on the defense!

They’re programmed to expect a salesperson to walk right up, get in their face and try to sell them something they don’t need or don’t want, and that they’re going to be forced to push the person away. So they get defensive. And when they’re on the defensive, ready to deflect, tense – they’re much less likely to buy.

Your job is to help the customer feel instantly welcomed, to feel relaxed, and to feel comfortable. So, how do you start?

Steps to welcome your customer


When a customer first walks in, no matter what you’re doing, the first and most important thing to do is to acknowledge the customer.

Maintain eye contact, smile and say, “Hello, welcome!” If you recognize them, tell them, “Good to see you again.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember their name. It’s so important to acknowledge their presence and to show them that you’re genuinely appreciative that they took the time to come into your store today.

Then, give them a moment or two to get oriented. Allow them to take in your store, and revel in this beautiful first impression that you’ve set up for them.

Now I recommend going nearby in the area where they are. Start straightening a display or a counter or sizing something, just to be closer to them and in their presence.

Next you’re getting ready to exchange your first words with them. And what I want you to know is that all you have to do is start a conversation. You don’t have to worry about the sale right now.

You’re just here to build a relationship, because your true success is dependent on having relationships with customers, not just one-off transactions.

When you think about this from a conversation and relationship building standpoint, and not worrying about the sale – Doesn’t that take the pressure off? For both you and your customers.

So to start a conversation, begin with an ice breaker of some sort. Compliment them on something they’re wearing, anything that’s going to lead to a conversation.

Use open ended questions. For example, if it’s a Monday or Tuesday, ask “Did you do anything fun over the weekend?” Or if it’s a Thursday or a Friday, “Are you doing anything fun this weekend?” Anything that gets the conversation going.

NEVER say this!

The one question you should NEVER ask is, “How can I help you today?”

This standard retail greeting adds instant pressure. It’s a closed-ended question – they can only answer yes or no and it usually triggers the automatic “No thanks, just looking” response.

Saying, “Hey, if you have any questions, I’m just going to be right here.” is equally bad – it puts the responsibility to continue this relationship on your customer, and they probably won’t!

I’m not even crazy about “How about this weather?” You wouldn’t say that to a friend if you were starting a conversation with them, right? Of course you might reference the weather in context, saying, “Oh, my gosh, what a beautiful day. It was just like this last Sunday when we went sailing. What did you do last Sunday? It was so beautiful, wasn’t it?”

From Greeting to Sale

Eventually the conversation naturally slows down and that’s when it’s time for you to discover how you can best serve their needs. You don’t do this by interrogation. The phrase I have found works like magic every single time is: “So, what brings you into the store today?” This invites them to share their intentions with you, and shows them that you’re available to show them products.

Because we’re all so programmed to have a salesperson in our face, to not ask for help in a store, what I’ve discovered people so often say is, “Oh, nothing. I’m just looking for a baby gift.”

Bingo.

I had a kids store so that’s all I needed to know! Then as long as they’re sharing with you, keep asking open-ended questions so that you can learn more and show them relevant products in your store. 


Now, for sure it happens that they’d rather just look around on their own, and that’s okay! Give them the space to do so and just stay out on the floor and continue straightening, because the second you go back behind the counter, you put a wall between you and the customer. 


Be perceptive to their needs and when they pick something up, say, “Hey, can I tell you something about that item?” Then, you can share something about that particular item.

The point is that if they look like they have a question about something or they’re lost or looking for something, it’s your job to respond accordingly. You want to make sure that you’re there for them and that they don’t have to come looking for you.

So to recap, how you greet your retail customers really is all about building a relationship. Use these tips to improve your customer experience – and your sales!

Teach them to your team and role play until they get used to it, and feel more comfortable. With opening the sale with someone and working to create a relationship with that new raving fan that just walked through your door.

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