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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sell Vs. Cell: How can you sell when your customer is on their cell?

I commonly hear frustration from design consultants regarding the rudeness of customers shopping in their showroom on their cell phones. Here are some quick tips to deal with a cell-phone browser.

First of all, keep your cool and come from a place of understanding. Everyone has more on their to-do list than they can usually accomplish in a day. So, our culture is multi-tasking more than ever. That means it's quite common for people to shop and at the same time conduct business or connect with friends on the phone.

If you look at it from the customer's perspective, it's their time and they can do with it what they want. They don’t view shopping in your furniture store any different from browsing at Pier One or Ikea. And would you even think twice about using your cell phone in those stores?

So it’s usually not that they are doing it to spite you. Although, I have heard some Design Consultants mention that the customer’s phone has actually rung while they were “talking” on it – meaning the customer was using their cell phone as a defense against having to interact with a “sales person.”

Again, I encourage you to approach the situation with understanding and compassion. If you think your customer is pretending to be on the phone to avoid you, they obviously have had very negative experiences with furniture sales people in the past. They don’t know you, or your talents, or how nice you are to work with…yet. So, they assume that all furniture sales people are the same. They assume you will be just like the others they’ve encountered.

If you ever come across this situation, remember – it’s not you. It’s all the other “sales people” that have come before you that are causing this customer to feel they have to use their cell phone as a defense mechanism.

So how should you deal with your next “Cell Phone Shopper?” Here are my quick tips.

1) Interrupting or disturbing their conversation in any way will make you seem like the rude, pushy one – which is exactly what we are trying NOT to be. This customer may already have preconceived notions that all furniture store sales people are pushy. We are trying to step out of the “sales person” role and into the role of trusted, design professional. So don’t attempt to conduct a regular greeting over the customer’s conversation.

2) Instead, just give them an acknowledgement – maybe a smile, quick “Hello” and a wave. If you happen to get a chance to make eye contact with them, and you feel it’s appropriate, you can say a quick, “I’ll be here for you when you’re ready.”

3) When you see them conclude their conversation, approach promptly (before they get a chance to make or take another call ;). Acknowledge your courteous behavior by saying something like, “I hope you didn’t think I was ignoring you. I just didn’t want to interrupt your phone conversation so I figured I’d wait until you were finished.”

Then, try to make some social conversation before getting into “talking business.” Social conversation is the foundation for trusted, professional relationships. So, you’ll probably read something about it in almost every one of my blog posts. If they have an interesting cell phone or unique cover for it, you might even use that as your conversation starter.

4) If you think this customer may leave without ever getting off their phone, write a quick note inviting them back in the showroom when they have more time. Then hand it to them, along with your business card and any type of catalog or flyer that you have on hand to peak their interest in returning to the store, right before they’re ready to exit. Your note might say something like this:

I noticed you were on an important cell phone call and I didn’t want to interrupt it. My name is (Your name), a Design Consultant here at (Your store) for the last (number of years you’ve worked at the store). I would love to work with you on creating a beautiful, comfortable home - whether it’s picking out the perfect finishing touches for a furnished space or designing a whole new room. I invite you to stop back in any time. Or, if you’d like to schedule an appointment to make sure I’m available to give you my undivided attention, feel free to call or email me and we can set something up.

Have a wonderful day!

You might have a couple of these notes ready to go so you aren’t trying to scribble it out before the customer reaches the door.

These techniques will work much better than getting upset about your “rude customer” being on the phone. Keeping yourself in the “positive zone” is a key to long term professional success.

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