Seldom should a customer be left alone in the showroom to just look. She will see little, become confused, and you will know nothing about her needs. She needs and deserves expert help. How many times have you observed a customer after just looking say, “Thanks for your time. I want to keep looking. I may be back,” and she hasn’t seen but a mere fraction of your selection? What’s worse is you know nothing about what she came in to buy or the reason she left.

Color, style, quality and value were never discussed, and the odds of her coming back are unlikely. You lost control of the sale and the customer lost her best chance of receiving what she wanted and needed the most. If you are competent and professional, you are her best resource. She left without your expertise, and for that matter, probably misinformed knowledge. She simply wanted a beautiful room and she most likely didn’t find what was actually available. You must gain control for her benefit and yours.

Actually “control” is not the best word of influence because it implies manipulation. Selling relationships do, however, require a certain degree of management—and even a command—during all stages of the sale by the seller. You must establish direction through human skills. There is a magnificent technique called “cushioning” which helps the salesperson connect and relate to the customer. It is empathy based and meets the human condition of feeling understood.

Cushioning is simply making what the customer feels and says important. It is a linking statement. If she says, “Thanks, I just want to look,” you link by saying, “I completely understand—sometimes when I am shopping, I need some space as well.” With this linking statement, you are breaking down her defenses, putting her on your side and making what she said important. Linking cushions her objection, stall or hesitation. Use this supporting dialog each time the customer says something that sustains her reasoning or brings up a point or objection that has not yet been discussed. “Good point,” “I’m glad you brought that up,” and “You are exactly correct” are all cushioning statements. Buyers like to feel correct.

“Since you are just looking, may I ask what type of floorcovering you are thinking of so that I can direct you to a particular place in the store?” Or, “May I ask which room or rooms you are planning to cover?” This is the only time I use a question that can be answered with a yes or no answer. This is no longer part of the initial greeting; we are beginning qualification. If she answers your question with a positive answer, you are in the conversation.

Suppose she remains committed to just looking. Be careful: this is obviously a private person and she may likely have been beaten up by previous salespeople. If it’s a couple, they may whisper a lot. This atypical customer may simply want to simply enjoy her shopping experience in solitude and consider fashion ideas. But somehow, you have eventually got to become involved in the conversation before they walk out the door.

A good reply to this situation is, “Great! This store is designed for just looking. Almost everything is priced. If you have any questions about what’s on sale, how the floor will wear, colors available, warranties, the fiber, other related comments, etc., my name is Buddy. Please feel free to call on me.” Now, she does not likely have a clue to the answers of any of these important topics. Frequently, this will engage conversation immediately. Presto: you are potentially in the conversation, building common ground and on the way to becoming her trusted advisor.

Suppose she acknowledges your statement and keeps looking. Wait a moment or so and add, “Oh, by the way, I have a consumer brochure on how to buy flooring and some information on interior design. I would like to make sure you receive one of these brochures before you leave.” These promotional leaflets are available from most manufactures or fiber companies–or adapt your own with your company logo.

She almost always responds, “Oh that would be great!” Do you want to know why? She doesn’t trust or believe salesmen, she really does need help, and only an authoritative source of information will suffice. You at least offered technical support that she could finally rely on, and furthermore, you have received permission to re-approach your customer. Now, give her the space that she requested, but stay close, without crowding, so you are accessible for any questions. There will likely be some. Now is a good time to organize samples—while staying semi-close. Generally, do not re-approach until your prospect has shown interest in a product and had some time to look. The rule here is to use your human skills.