Making Conversation Makes for Great Sales
“May I help you?”
“Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?”
Most informed salespeople no longer feel compelled to use such opening lines. They know that these business-related lines usually initiate one response from customers: “I’m just looking.”
Customers must feel comfortable with you and your store as soon as they come in
Developing that feeling depends upon your ability to get the customer to view you as a person instead of a salesperson. But even great opening lines are not always successful. Very often it’s because the opening line does not evolve into a conversation. Even the most creative opening remark can fall short of sprouting a conversation if the salesperson puts forth no effort to cultivate it.
Too many opening lines prompt a simple retort from the customer and sometimes no more than a yes or no. That is not an indication that the opening line should never be used again. It is an indication, however, that the salesperson needs to add follow-up questions or comments to capture the customer’s attention and interest. This enhances your chance of getting the customer to become involved in a conversation.
Suppose you ask a customer if she has tried a new restaurant that just opened down the street. The customer’s response could be brief, leaving you with only an acknowledgment of her response and nowhere else to go. But interestingly enough, if you asked the same question of this same person at a party instead of at your store, your conversation would probably continue. If she has not eaten there yet, you could go on to say that a friend of yours reports that they have barbecued ribs that are to die for, which could lead to a debate on where to find the best ribs. If she has tried the new restaurant, you could inquire further about her impressions of it and what she would recommend. Either way, a conversation is more than likely to occur.
You can’t sound like a salesperson
The solution lies in understanding that customers will almost always react favorably to you if you are comfortable with the idea of approaching them, greeting them and making small talk. People love to talk, but they don’t necessarily love to talk to salespeople. So you can’t sound like a salesperson, and you can’t act like a salesperson. You just have to be yourself. If bantering about the best ribs in town is not being yourself, then think of another avenue to pursue. Faced with the same opening line and response from the same customer, every salesperson would come up with a different angle.
Selling relies heavily on communication skills, and there aren’t many salespeople who haven’t acquired adequate skills from life’s experiences to enable them to succeed in selling. If you’ve ever prompted a spontaneous conversation with a stranger, then you’re capable of initiating a conversation with a customer who walks into your store. The difficulty often lies in the fact that conversing with customers isn’t spontaneous, it is deliberate. Consequently, opening lines may sound forced, or salespeople may feel as though they are imposing on customers.
This perception can lead you to sound like a different person than you really are. If you’re not being yourself with a customer, you feel uncomfortable, and the customer is likely to feel uncomfortable as well. This discomfort can be so extreme that salespeople may even sound different when they greet customers. They become almost robotic and customers pick up on it instantly.
The conversation you develop will establish a relationship
Your communication skills are put to their best use when opening the sale. Be inquisitive. Be interested. If you spend three minutes opening the sale, it is not wasted time. The conversation you develop will establish a relationship or rapport with your customer that will serve you ten times over throughout the rest of your presentation.
As a salesperson, you’re in complete control and totally responsible for whether a true conversation develops or not. It requires effort. Never underestimate the impact that opening the sale effectively can have on the success of your sales presentation.