“I’m just looking” can mean so much more

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYour customers have said it. You’ve probably said it yourself. “No thanks, I’m just looking” is the most common response to the oft heard question “May I help you?”

How can you avoid the “I’m just looking?” response from customers? The first step is to stop asking closed-ended questions. By using inquisitive, open-ended questions, you’ll initiate a dialogue and side-track the automated “I’m just looking” comeback. (Check out this previous blog post for tips on asking open-ended questions.)

For many salespeople it’s just too easy to respond to the “I’m just looking” comment by saying “okay” and waiting off to the side. More often than not, they’re still waiting as they watch customers walk out the door. Great sales associates distinguish themselves by turning obstacles into opportunities. It takes energy and practice to engage customers right from the start.

Begin by recognizing there’s a reason why the customer has come into your store. Perhaps something caught their eye. Maybe they’re visiting the area and are hoping to find something unique and memorable. Or maybe it’s just hot outside and they were hoping to cool off a bit. No matter what the reason, you have an opportunity to create an exceptional customer experience. Remember – There’s a reason they’re there!

There’s a reason they’re there!

Next time a customer comes in to browse, try one of these three approaches to foster customer engagement:

Offer to provide information

When someone says “I’m just looking,” assume they’re looking for something. You can help them find that something by being knowledgeable about your brand, store layout and product offerings. Here are some suggestions (alternative wording is offered between slash marks):

  • “Well, you’ve come to the right place. We have so many beautiful things to look at. It would be my pleasure to give you a short tour / help you navigate / assist you in finding something special.”
  • “We always welcome browsers. Allow me to suggest some of our unique / interesting / most popular items. Over here we have…”
  • “I love browsing too. Perhaps I can help point you in the right direction if I know what type of things you like.”

Create a dialog

The goal is to get your customer talking. The more your customer talks, the more cues you can gather about what he or she likes. Here’s where open-ended questions can help.

  • “What enticed you into our store today?”
  • “We’re pleased you chose our store to explore. What do you know about us/our brand?”
  • “I see you’re looking at our newest design. (Share a fact, for example, “It’s a new interpretation of an archival design.”). What do you think of it?”
  • “Before you walk around the whole store, imagine we had exactly what you might want. What would that be?”

Make a Social Connection

There’s always something to talk about. If you’re having difficulty figuring out what your customer likes, you can always inquire about…

  • whether they’re visiting the area. You can make suggestions about things to do or where to eat.
  • something they’re wearing, such as an interesting scarf or piece of jewelry.
  • the weather. If it’s hot outside offer your store as a place to enjoy a cool respite (perhaps offer a beverage as they browse) or vice versa, as a nice place to warm up when the temperature is chilly.

Of course, sometimes people do just want to browse to see if something strikes their fancy. Their body language and your own emotional antennae should help you know when to engage and when to step aside. Just remember “I’m just looking” doesn’t need to be an obstacle; it can be an opportunity to help your customer find just what he or she is looking for.

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5 thoughts on ““I’m just looking” can mean so much more

  1. Establishing the right culture is more important than trite intrusions . For example just remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and don’t underestimate customers . Malls and grocery stores survive by people just looking . Displays , great merchandise , Please , thank you and short checkout lines really help . Finally go visit some great stores like APPLE and get some ideas .

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  2. Sorry, but I’d walk out if a salesperson asked me what enticed me to walk into their store. Also, as a shopper the problem with answering any of the first three questions is that once the salesperson points me in the direction of something I say I like, then I know they’re going to be hovering over me and commenting on everything I look at. That would drive me right out of the store. I’ve had sales people comment every time I touch or look at something, such as picking up a scarf and hearing, “Isn’t that gorgeous” or “That color would look wonderful on you”. At that point, I’m out the door never to return.

    Sometimes when I shop, I’m looking for something specific, and in those cases I’ll tell the salesperson what I’m looking for. But the truth is most of my purchases are made because I’ve come across something I really like, not something I need. I’m not shy. When I want some help, I’ll politely ask. When I say, “I’m just looking”, I really mean it.

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    1. Simone, you are right that the best sales professional knows how to reach that perfect balance of engaging the customer without being overbearing. No one wants a salesperson “hovering” over them. It’s about using your emotional intelligence to read body language, understand verbal cues, and assess your client’s needs. I’ve definitely encountered sales professionals who are too pushy. On the other end of the spectrum, though, I’ve seen many sales associates who casually ask “Can i help you?” and leave it at that.

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