Here is the real problem I have with “May I help you or can I help you?” as an introduction. (Or their cousins, “What can I help you find? or “Can I help you locate something?”). You just fired a missile to delay your customers’ purchase. They have already shopped; they are here to buy. I wish there is way to sound my words louder! I am not upset with you; I am upset that you may have lost a chance to make the sale or going to waste twice as much time on one transaction.
“No, I am just looking. I was so bored today. My life was so miserable that I decided to come to a flooring store to flip some carpet samples for my happiness fix.”
Or, even better:
“I lost my dog. Can you help me locate him, please?
Is that what a customer is supposed to say to you? Yeah, right! We make customers say, “I am just looking.”
Now think about this: How many people wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to look at carpet samples in a store off the beaten path, just for fun? Haven’t met one, don’t know one. They are there to buy flooring today, tomorrow, this week or in a month from now. Therefore, today onwards, there is a ban on “May I help you?”.
It is a cliché—almost a pure rhetorical question of the last century when we did not have internet. Today, customers do way too much research before setting foot in your showroom. They are there to buy and give you money. By using worn-out greetings, you are reducing your chances of receiving that gift. What does a salesperson expect a customer to say? Aren’t customers afraid that a salesperson is going to come up and hound them by asking how they can help or try to sway them to buy something that benefits the salesperson? That puts all the work and pressure back on to the customer. Of course, they are going to say, “No thanks, I am just looking,” because they don’t know what help they need yet or whether you have what they researched.
It closes the door, builds up a wall and both parties have miscommunicated to each other the true need, and the sale stumbles along from there. The salesperson is angry that the customer is wasting his/her time; the customer is angry that she did not get what she really wanted— HELP in finding the right flooring or the flooring she researched online.
We are the professionals. We are the ones that know what factors to consider when purchasing flooring. Why do we assume that everyone who walks in has seen every corner of our showroom online and has a PhD in floor coverings? There are many other ways to start a presentation with something other than, “May I help you?” There are many examples of good and effective starts that demonstrate to the customer—right from the start—that the sales pro cares and has some value to add to the process. The right greeting will put the salesperson in a mode of being an educator, an expert, and a professional that can guide the sale to its natural conclusion and celebration.
Your store spends a lot of money on advertising to bring in the customers to buy from you; not to get this answer from the customers that they came to “look around”. Today’s customers are pressed for time and have already looked around on the net or other public places. When they come to a specialty store, they are really there to buy.
If they did not buy, evaluate closely. Be honest with yourself and you may find that you may be the reason for them not to buy from you. It is frustrating for your organization to think that you don’t have an opportunity to give each one of them a presentation on what you have to offer. It is not up to you to judge each customer, whether he or she deserves a presentation or not. Customers pay your bills. Every customer should receive the best presentation at least once. That is why, after welcome and pleasantries, one of my first questions as a salesperson would be whether they have been in the store before. That would stop me from giving them the whole story again. My view is that if the customer walks in the store, forget what he/she says… his/her actions are saying, “Hey, I want to know more.” If customers didn’t want to see our product or hear our story, they would be sitting at home on the couch or the internet!
I would recommend that any form of “May I or can I help you?” be completely removed—banned from your presentation and not to be uttered at any time in any way. And you will not miss in a month’s time. It should absolutely be non-negotiable.
Here are a few suggested greetings— mix them, rotate them, do not be stagnant with them and make them your own:
- "Welcome to (store name), the home of the fashion floors, my name is Jesse."
- "Welcome to (store name), thanks for the opportunity to serve you."
- "Welcome to (store name), I am Jane. Is this your first time here in our store?"
- "Welcome to (our store), where we make ambassadors, not sales. My name is ……."
- "Welcome to (store name), where we make homes look beautiful, Scott is my name."
- "Welcome to (store name), where we strive to do it right the first time, I am Bob."
- "Welcome to (store name), where ALL we do is flooring. My name is ……."
You got the idea, create your welcome speech and practice it till it is natural.
Follow-up questions should be: Have you ever shopped with us before? Have you ever been here before? Is this the first time you are here?"
These questions allow you to tell your competitive story. If you do not have a story to tell, all you have is price to sell.
Here are the six pillars of presentation:
1. Would it be okay if I ask you a few questions to understand your project?
Ask the permission to ask questions, then ask questions. It is really beautiful!
2. Have you ever (experienced (a Fabrica carpet) or been here or shopped with us before)?
Allows you to either tell the story or describe the product.
3. How important is the durability and cleanability of the flooring to you?
Allows you to start with the best performing product; she asked for it!
4. What kind of research have you done for this project?
Allows you to know what she knows and who you compete with.
5. If I may ask, why are you replacing your current flooring?
Allows you to find a path to the dream home replacement, selling home or rental.
6. Is there anything else I should know about your project before we start selecting your….?
This is a must question. Allows you to involve the customer and know his/her focus or feeling important.
Above questions allow you to know all that is there to make the compelling presentation. Your presentation has to be so compelling that it creates a competitive advantage. It differentiates you from the competition and sets you apart from the crowd as an expert, not just another salesperson who wants his/her money. Remember we are to make ambassadors with our presentation; not another sale or another customer.
Trust yourself; see it for yourself, it’s good for you, it’s good for your ambassadors, it’s good for your company and it will not work if you never tried. It’s the right thing to do. At least give success a chance, practice for thirty days; it may surprise you. Your success will start with this improvement and everything else may fall in place if you only tackle this issue. This is the single most important upgrade you would like to embrace and help others embrace as part of your personal development effective today, right now, right at this moment.
Thanks to many friends for the inspiration and contribution to this knowledge that I am blessed to share with you. Let us ban these four words—“May I Help You”—from your sales presentation forever.