Just about any retail sales trainer I’ve ever listened to will tell you to greet your customers at the door and never leave their side until they buy or walk away.

I was reminded of this when I saw a commercial showing a couple of frustrated car buyers saying, “When I go to buy a car, I’m immediately surrounded like a guppy in a shark tank. They want to sell me what they want to sell; not what I really want.”

It’s this kind of traditional selling tactic that has given the selling trade the negative reputation we have today. This hard selling, pushy, in your face aggressive style only tells your possible buyer you are just like the rest and only interested in one thing—and that is not, “How can I make your day?” But how you can make her day is to relax the situation and give her some space at well placed times.


The old saying about first impressions meaning everything is even more important than that. Your greeting with a new, prospective buyer will either set you up for success or failure. It will tell the buyer she can be comfortable and relax with you, and enjoy this often-dreaded situation or if it will be the “guppy in the shark tank experience” she expected.

A great deal of debate is given to just how soon you should approach and greet a customer when she walks in your showroom. Most will tell you to greet her the second she enters because its professional and proves you think she is important.

To me, that can seem like a shark smelling blood. In most cases a customer who wants help immediately will walk directly to you. That’s the very direct type and one that already knows what she wants and needs. This is the kind of shopper I am. For example when I walk into a big box, I walk right to a cashier or first worker near the door and ask where are the items I want.

Most shoppers are not sure what they need, and are prepared to be attacked. Then they are greeted with the three dumbest words in a sales clerk’s vocabulary: “May I help?” You already know the conditioned response: “No I’m just looking.” The old “give me a minute to absorb the surroundings before you try to sell me something” line.

The key is to know when and how to approach the “timid” type of buyer. There are several ways to greet and open a conversation—not start a sale. The simplest is to give her about 20 seconds to get her bearings and then approach with a simple hello. Hello is not a question that can be answered yes or no—it’s simply a way to say welcome.

If the response to your hello is, “I’m just looking,” you know you have a real guppy on your hands. Take this time to be your first chance to relax the situation and walk away. Simply say, “Sure, take your time. I’m (Kelly), I’ll check back with you if you need something later.”

Then, in about two minutes, I check back using a more direct approach: “I hope our selection is not too big; it can be overwhelming.” That usually starts her questions flowing.

Personally, I always try to open the conversation with a fun comment to lighten the situation. Here’s a few examples: When it’s hot out, “Some people will go anywhere for free air conditioning.” When they are wearing a sports team’s jersey or logo ball cap, “I can see you’re no fair weather fan, wearing a (Denver Nuggets) hat.” When there are two or more women together, “Which one of you is the president of the design committee?”

These types of comments work for me because of my personality. All I want is for my buyer to feel more relaxed with me and break that awkward ice that comes at most greetings. Whatever way you find comfortable for your personality, start with a question or comment that leads to a conversation about anything but sales.

Let’s face it, sales advisors want to enjoy this experience, too. So find something in common to discuss. I can’t tell you the vast amount of things I’ve learned from my customers. Old timers tell me the history of this area, local park rangers give me tips on the best places to camp and hike in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. One lady, whose father was a local historian where I live in Loveland, Colo., had a hand-painted picture of the first home I bought here that was built in 1899. One customers asked about a few fishing photos on my wall. We’re now fishing buddies.

When Warren Tyler and I tell you to make friends with your buyers, we mean “make some real friends.” Enjoy your job more. My current home is facing the main highway that leads to Rocky Mountain National Park. So it’s hard not to go by my house if you live in Loveland. Often, to let people know I’m a local, I find a way bring out where I live.

Many now honk at me or stop by when I’m out in the yard. It’s not exactly Andy in Mayberry, but it is a great feeling to get honked at and waved to by my customers/friends on my days off—it’s either that or I just look good in a pair of shorts. You’ll find that your time making new friends can selfishly be a great way to make a living as a Trusted Sales Advisor. It’s not selling when you’re advising friends.

As always, you can learn much more about methods to make your selling more productive and learn how to relax and enjoy your job more in my training manuals. Thanks for reading.