2 Stores, 2 Salespeople, 2 Experiences


Last evening my wife and I were out for dinner and decided on impulse to head on over to our local mall. We had nothing immediate in mind other than a walk around prior to heading home for the evening. Now I can tell you honestly there was hardly any traffic in the mall, and that set the stage for very different encounters with sales staff in different stores.

Given it was a Thursday evening the first thing I noticed was that many of the stores only had a single Salesperson on the schedule. As the night was light in terms of traffic, it was interesting to note as we entered each store how the activity the person in the store was engaged in and their behaviour changed or not.

One store in the mall is a primary destination for the two of us; it has unique items ranging from swords and fire pots to glass dragon eggs and wind chimes. Every time I go in the store, I’m immediately greeted with a, “Hello how are you today?” which I can only assume is in the training manual. I like that they acknowledge me upon entry, and the subsequent question is whether or not they can be of assistance in finding anything. Last night was no exception. We were greeted cheerfully and engaged in discussion – but only because I’m the talkative type. I had the feeling the Salesperson was happy for someone to both talk and interact with.

As it so happens, they didn’t have an item we were looking for, and so we browsed. The Salesperson moved in synchronization with us around the merchandise; close enough to hear and respond to any inquiry we might make, but just far enough away that she wasn’t a reason to leave. She smiled; she laughed and was the right mixture of attentive and respectful.

Now I contrast this experience with the lone Salesperson in a second store we entered. It was a women’s clothing store; a well-known brand name chain. Here the signs proclaimed up to 80% off and that the entire inventory must go. To me, it was obvious the winter stock needs clearing and the Spring line is the reason.  Upon entering, the person was occupied with a broom and dustpan, sweeping the floors. The word industrious would best describe her; efficient, focused on cleaning and keeping herself busy.

Now being a fashion store for women exclusively, I would have thought she’d attend to my wife; offer to help her and I’d be left to wander. She did something different however. She stood and talked to me about the lack of activity in the mall; told me that if she herself needed something she’d be in a nearby city because they have more stores and more selection. She went on about how the two or three large stores coming to the mall wouldn’t in her opinion; make much of a difference in terms of bringing customers to the mall over the long-term. She was intense, almost bitter, and I just wanted to exit the conversation.

Oddly enough, my wife was ignored throughout her monologue, and was creatively using one garment to lower another garment she was unable to reach directly behind the Salesperson. “Ah my wife could use a hand” I said. Turning she said, “Oh did you want to try that on?” and I was free. While my wife tried on the clothes, I wander to the perimeter of the store and the Salesperson again cleaned. She was thorough and dressed in black looked like a storm cloud moving about on her hands and knees dusting everything that she could find in a meticulous order.

The two Salespeople were very different, and I have to say I would not want to return to the latter one for fear I’d be again trapped into a conversation I didn’t want to engage in with a person holding a negative attitude. While she was an excellent cleaner and no one could find fault with her ability to keep herself busy when no customers were present, she didn’t encourage people to stick around when they did come in.

The first Salesperson on the other hand did have me leaving the store with a good feeling. I felt that I was in control of how much or little we engaged in conversation; and I’d certainly walk in again. Were the two people’s employers able to watch how they interacted with us and hear what they said to us, I wondered if they would be pleased and approve.

There was actually a third experience with another Salesperson; and my wife and I were drawn to her immediately upon entering the store and into an immediate conversation. In fact, my wife would have allowed me to shell out just under $800 on the spot for an item in the store we hadn’t planned on buying. Oh sorry, I failed to mention the Salesperson was holding a miniature poodle puppy in her arms. That’s a real attraction for many people and you can’t help but smile and go, “Awww” as you greet the Salesperson. I resisted any urge to produce my wallet and we exited shortly after before reality completely disappeared.

Wherever you’re employed, never lose sight of the customer; acknowledge their presence, offer your assistance and do it all with a smile. These things get noticed.

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