Through the years, one of the questions I've received the most from folks during in-store training sessions is, "What's the best way to begin a conversation with a shopper?" When I say that my personal favorite opening line is, "Hi", they often smirk.
Their responses are frequently something like, "Yeah, okay. But what comes next?" When I tell them that I usually have no idea, they begin to wonder why I'm the guy standing in front of the room.
I then try to explain that there is danger in thinking that there are "can't miss" opening lines or scripts to use on potential customers.
I ask them to consider the last telemarketing call they received. That opening was likely scripted by "experts." How long into their monologue do you get before you stop listening, interrupt them to say "No thanks," or simply hang-up?
While folks tend to be a little more subtle when you are standing face-to-face with them, their mindsets are often the same as during that telemarketing call. If you sound scripted, you have an obvious agenda. And that agenda likely involves you wanting something from them. Five seconds into the interaction, they're planning an exit strategy.
I like my odds better when I do everything possible to have interactions and/or conversations without wearing a sales-agenda on my sleeve.
That being said, there is one type of gesture that I recommend folks use as often as possible with potential (and existing) customers. Whenever possible, look to pay a compliment to people or their kids. There is no better relationship-developing technique than making folks feel good about themselves or something they care about.
And don't feel badly if you don't get the opportunity to discuss business during that particular interaction. If you compliment a person, believe me, you'll get the chance to talk to him again. He'll go out of his way to interact with you in the future.
But maybe the best thing about paying compliments is something few people consider. When you pay someone a compliment, he or she immediately wants to trust your opinion. When you say something nice about me, I'll naturally choose to believe that you're an extremely astute individual.
They'll think that you're smart and look to talk to you again! (That's not a bad combination.)
How many folks can you make that impression on today?
I read two articles about seasonal promotions over the past couple of weeks that reminded me of the power of "limited offers." The first was about a quintessentially American culinary masterpiece.
I'm, of course, talking about the McRib.
Truth be told, I've never even taken a bite of a McRib. And I'm not an anti-McDonalds snob. I've got kids and am no stranger to Mickey D's. I think when the sandwich first came out ions ago, I honestly thought there was a bone in it… and decided then and there I wanted nothing to do with it.
But through the years, the McRib has developed a cult-like following. Up until recently, McDonalds had never offered the sandwich nationwide at the same time.
And I had to laugh when I read why they only offer the McRib sporadically. People get tired of it. The same folks who would drive 50 miles to find a McRib (and there are those who've driven farther), stop wanting them after a few weeks.
McDonalds' genius with this particular product is the limited offer. If the McRib was a regular menu item, it would likely go the way of the Arch Deluxe. (Go ahead. Google it.)
The other article that drove home this point was about the "pop-up" stores that proliferate around the holidays. Places like Harry and David have become quite adept at opening temporary stores in high traffic areas. They call theirs "orchards."
These pop-ups are only open for a few months and reach profitability very quickly. And while the holiday shopping season definitely plays a roll in their above-average traffic, the fact that the stores themselves are a "limited-time offer" creates a sense of urgency with potential customers.
As hectic as our lives are, most of us fall into pretty standard routines. It often takes some type of prodding or catalyst to get us to deviate from the status quo to consider a new product or to shop a new store. Sensing that an opportunity is limited is frequently enough to nudge us into action.
While we aren't in the pop-up branch business (yet), limited-time offers can be a useful tool. Whether it's an individual branch's simple promotion or a bank's company-wide campaign, there is benefit in creating some sense of urgency for customers to consider an offer.
You never know what new opportunities may "pop-up" for you as well.