Learning to Greet

April 1998

For Your Staff

Learning to Greet

More than a polite hello, your greeting conveys your store's business philosophy and gives you a chance to engage customers in conversation before you lose them to "just looking"

by Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson

What have I gotten myself into? Two weeks ago, I was folding sweaters and pants at The Gap. Now I'm selling diamonds, gemstones, gold and watches.

My first day on the job. There is so much to think about, so much to learn. Will I ever be able to absorb it all and succeed in this business?

For starters, I'm glad I did my hair and nails. And this suit fits right in with what the other associates are wearing. I guess when you sell fine jewelry, you have more credibility if you look the part.

One thing I learned in my training class was to follow the leader – if I want to be the best, I should emulate the best. So I make it my business to observe the top sellers here. And I'm already picking up some helpful hints.

Seems like it's more important to sell myself rather than the jewelry when the customer first walks into the store. Because people are going to spend a lot more for a diamond than for a pair of khakis, they must have confidence in me and this company from their very first encounter.

Though each successful seller is unique, I can't help but notice several common traits in greeting customers. First and foremost, they smile warmly. This seems very important in making the customer feel at home and removing some of that sense of intimidation that can come with entering a fine jewelry store.

They move toward the customer with positive body language – none of that "arms folded, feet together and head down" stuff that sends a message of disinterest and imposition. Even if they're having a bad day, their facial expressions and body language communicate "Welcome!" to the customer – almost like going on stage. Lights! Camera! Action! No reason for the customer to suspect we're not in a great mood today.

One other observation: No one says "may I help you?" when they approach a customer. In fact, now that I think about it, no one asks any question that can be answered with just a "yes" or "no." It must be fear of a negative response. They all seem to start with a warm verbal greeting that makes the customer feel welcome and evokes a descriptive response.

Interesting how different top sellers approach customers in very different ways. I guess you have to find a greeting that conforms to your own personality; no one uses the exact same greeting for each customer either. Even when I sold apparel, I learned you have to be a retail chameleon when you sell, adjusting your personality to fit the customer's whenever possible.I watch Julie, the store's No. 1 sales associate, the whole morning; she's a perfect example. She greets the young people shopping for a wedding set in a much more light-hearted manner than she does the older gentleman shopping for a 40th wedding anniversary gift. The young couple giggle; the older man is reserved. Julie reacts to them differently. By laughing with the couple but "toning it down" with the gentleman, Julie establishes a rapport that will no doubt bring them all back to her again and again for future purchases.

Another top producer, Scott, greets a young woman shopping for a watch for herself. He takes a minute or two to play with her infant son and that wins her over immediately. Later, he welcomes two middle-aged women who seem to be browsing. When they say they are "just looking," he responds by showing them a diamond bracelet, explaining that it's a new arrival and asking them for their opinions of it.

Pretty clever, that Scott! By showing the piece, he gets the conversation going and focuses on jewelry; by asking for their opinions, he flatters them and at the same time removes that threat of high-pressure selling.

Kathy handles her greetings differently from Julie and Scott. As soon as she welcomes a customer, she offers to "sparkle up" a piece of jewelry they are wearing. Customers rarely refuse the free service, and the time the item spends in the cleaning machine is time Kathy spends presenting merchandise to the customer, often resulting in a sale.

Several other salespeople begin by greeting the customer with a compliment – maybe on their clothes, maybe on their hair, maybe on the jewelry they're already wearing.

So what have I learned today, my first day on the job? I've learned so much, my head is spinning. But one thing's certain. There's no "canned" greeting that works for everyone. I have to mold my greetings to my unique personality while at the same time adjusting that greeting to each customer to make him or her feel at home and welcome. The smile and the positive body language should become second nature soon if I'm going to be good at this. Well, it's home to a frozen pizza and to begin studying these product knowledge books my manager loaned me.

Six Tips onGreetings
  1. Smile warmly to make the customer feel at home.
  2. Be careful that facial expressions and other body language don't show disinterest.
  3. Ask questions that can't be answered "yes" or "no" so you can engage customers in conversation.
  4. Tailor your conversation to the customer and to the situation so it doesn't sound memorized.
  5. Get jewelry into customers' hands quickly so you have something jewelry-related to talk about.
  6. Offer to clean a piece of the customer's jewelry for free, then present the latest merchandise while the customer waits.

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson are sales trainers and consultants in the retail fine jewelry industry. For information about their sales training seminars, training manuals or their copyright jewelry-specific Client-Retention Program and Record Keeping Books, contact them at Anzell & Levenson, P. O. Box 46801, Las Vegas, NV 89114, fax (714) 770-8811, e-mail cmanzell@juno.com.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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