Help! Need tips on opening conversations with strangers...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by NickSo, Jul 31, 2002.

  1. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    I just got a job at SportChek/Coast Mountain Sports... They're opening their 100th store on Aug 15, and im gonna be working there...
    Well, their company did like a huge survey awhile back, and created this new selling technique that they say increased the profits of stores who used it 15%. So now, they're training us future salespeople to use this technique...
    The new technique is called Conversational selling... We are not allowed to ask the ususal "hi, how are you doing today, do you need help with anything" anymore.. we must open a conversation, get them interested, start a sale, KEEP them interested wtih GOOD CONTENT, and close the sale.
    The problem is... starting a meaningful conversation with total strangers is not really my forte. I've worked retail before, but I usually used the "hi, how are you? Can i help you with anyhing?" approach... But now, i gotta start a conversation, and keep it interesting.. THATS the hard part.
    I mean, how can i start one while being subtle? How would i lead off one topic to another? Not just for selling products, i mean just like in normal life. You see a person, you start a conversation with them. how do you do that?
    We learned some techniques, but i still find it hard. I went to the lecture/training/seminar thing a few days ago, and the guys who lectured were totally amazing... They were funny, kept our attention, smooth transistions, quick thinking, and all. Me however, cant even strike up a meaningful converastion with a cute girl... [​IMG]
    Help?
     
  2. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Tough one Nick. It's so difficult to maintain a conversation with someone you have nothing in common with. Your best bet is to find some springboard, such as something they're looking at. Then try to get a conversation going from that. Another tip is to try to read about esoteric, but interesting, human interest stories.

    If all else fails, lie up a storm with an interesting story. Your trip to the Andes, for instance...
     
  3. Micah Lloyd

    Micah Lloyd Stunt Coordinator

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    Nick, something that might be fun would be to have a gimmick. Approach your target and jovially state, "Hi! You are allowed to ask me ONE question. If I can't answer it, you win a prize!" I'm thinking most folks will ask something store-related. Of course someone will inevitably come up with some cute question that has no answer. Where-upon they win something very inexpensive (likely paid by you) like a piece of wrapped candy or a sticker. Regardless, you could then shift the conversation to a more pertinent sales-related topic or issue the challenge to another in their party...

    They might ask right away, "What's the prize?" Where-upon they've asked their question and you could respond, "Ah! I can answer that one! Whew, thanks! The prize would've been..."

    This is just off the top of my head - there may be a fundamental flaw I'm missing.
     
  4. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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    Observe the product the person is looking at. Then act like you are organizing things and say something like: "Hello. You know, that's a great ____. I bought that for my ____ and he/she loves it." I think you should be able to finish that conversation.

    ~T
     
  5. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    You want to have interesting conversations with your clients? KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SELLING!!! I don't mind a salesman striking a conversation with me even when I'm simply browsing, but for God sake please make sure you know your stuff before you open your freakin' mouth! There's no worse turn-off than finding out the person talking to you doesn't have a damn clue of what they're talking about! And it's not just home theater stuff. It's also cameras, furniture, cars, motorcycles, condominiums...
     
  6. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Don't worry, thats one of my biggest pet peeves as well.. ill be sure that wont happen... [​IMG]
     
  7. Scott Tucker

    Scott Tucker Stunt Coordinator

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    Nick, I can empathize with you as i am in retail sales. Just ask the customer open ended questions that can't be answered yes or no. 90% of the time if you ask "can i help you?", the customer will say "i'm just looking." Try saying "did you get caught in that traffic jam on the way here? There must have been a bad accident." There is no way a customer will answer "just looking." You will be suprised at what kind of conversations questions like this will lead to. After chatting with the customer for a while and they don't feel threatened by you, then you can ask qualifying questions that lead to the close. Good luck, it is very hard to form good sales practices, but you can do it. Stick to it and good luck.

    Scott
     
  8. Scott Tucker

    Scott Tucker Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry Nick, i guess the traffic jam question was not the best idea. Yeah, I know that question can be answered yes or no. But, you get the idea i hope. Ask them about their car, hat, t-shirt, the weather outside, last nights Canuck's game or whatever. Just don't talk about the product in the beginning.

    Scott
     
  9. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

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    Good luck with that. This technique seems like begging customers to get irritated. The last thing I want when I'm going to buy something is to be pestered by the sales staff (which is what I would consider this to be), especially if they're trying to strike up a random conversation.
    I'm assuming you're paid commission. (I'd want to be if I had to do it.) Whenever I've started conversations with strangers, they have been based on environmental observations. I'm not sure that helps you if you're in a store, especially since it sounds like they don't want you opening a conversation with the natural hook (do you need any help, would you like to know more about that, etc.).
    So, in summary, that's a tough one. [​IMG]
     
  10. Mark R O

    Mark R O Stunt Coordinator

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    Nick,
    Don't set yourself up for failure right from the start!
    As you say, you are a rookie. If you even attemptto use a "technique", you'll look just like a rookie trying to use a technique. Nothing will alienate a customer more quickly than trying to "work" them. It's an insult! Even when honestly delivered as in your case, canned lines suggest the salesman feels he can manipulate the customer ("sell"), and that means they must not be as clever, or as bright, etc. Nobody likes being viewed as a potential victim! Crap like "Hey, buy that shoe today for 29.95, and we'll throw in the other one for free!" or "You know thats a left handed bat?" will amuse someone 1 out of 50 times. The other 49 will just think you're another nimrod salesman. You know, the best source you have for learning to be a skilled salesperson is the customer. Tell people you are new in the store. Ask them to help you! Ask if they will tell you why they like that 7-iron better than another. Soon you'll be helpful and knowledgable, and that will make you confident and at ease. Plus your sales totals will jam! You'll do great. Congrats on getting the gig and good luck!
     
  11. Mike__D

    Mike__D Supporting Actor

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    I hate being pestered by sales people. I usually know a lot more than they do on the products I'm looking at since I usually do research before hand. I found the best approach that does not irritate me is when they say "Hi, if you have any questions, feel free to ask." Then they go about doing something else. That's fine with me, and whenever a question does come up, I'll track that person down.
     
  12. Dave_Brown

    Dave_Brown Supporting Actor

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    I usually try to start a conversation in a topic that is unrelated to why they are actually in the area. For instance, I absolutely HATE it when I'm looking at a product and the sales person says "you know, I just bought that for ______ and they love it." First, I think they are lying, and second, maybe I don't really like it and you just made it less attractive to me. I was looking for shoes and the sales lady gave me the "I just bought those for my boyfriend." I spent a couple more seconds there then left.

    Now, the folks who engage in every day conversation without pushing a product I find much easier to be around. Depending on how busy they are and see me approach, I almost always get "is that your car out there? wow, looks really nice. what year is it?" After a few minutes of small talk, it is much easier for them to then say, "so, is there anything in particular you're looking for that I can help you with?" Since I've already spent 5-10 minutes talking about something other than a sale, I'm more willing to say, "actually, I'm looking for a ________" and go from there.

    The hard part is, you have about 15-30 seconds to size up the customer and try to come up with something personal to them. View them as an individual, not just another drone entering your store. Make the experience personal for them and they will usually be more likely to respond to your conversations. An up beat attitude and a true sense of interest goes along way. People can tell when you are just going through the motions. Smile, make eye contact.

    BTW, this can work in your life outside of work, too.....
     
  13. Mark C Sherman

    Mark C Sherman Second Unit

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    I was in retail for a while and I always found ways to get people to laugh and that always gets them talking. if you come across as just a person and not a SALESMAN you will do well. See what they are wearing Hat,Watch,Car keys,shirt. and use that as an in. if they are wearing a STAR WARS hat talk about that. Don't have your watch on some days and Just ask if they have the Time and if they have a nice watch comment on that. or something that makes them feel good about themselves. After they have your trust go from there

    But like anything Practice practice practice, you will find a GROOVE that works and works well




    I worked with a guy who would ask questions like so "WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE CARE BEAR"
     
  14. Mike__D

    Mike__D Supporting Actor

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  15. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  16. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    NickSo
    Sales has one of the highest satisfaction ratings and hope you do well.

    Scott Tucker
    Hey, props to the new guy. You win the award for best advice.

    Ryan Wright.
    Agreed. Dial fast and make as many phone contacts as you can per hour. Pretty much the opposite of face to face contact selling.

    It isn't hard to compliment a person, couple or family on something about them that you observe. If you are sincere it will help you build rappor. It will also help you remember them when and if they return.

    The thing that holds us back from complimenting someone is when we are lacking in self esteem. As you meet more people and gain product knowledge and enjoyment meeting people the conversations will come easier.

    When salespeople are uncomfortable meeting people they resort to using "I" in their conversation. The focus should be on the customer.

    Which salesperson would you rather deal with?

    "I am certainly glad I get to show you our new line of sports parka in florescent teal. Everyone on the slopes will know where this came from!"

    "Hello, you folks picked a fine day to come in from the (hot sun to cool off) or (cold and rain to get warm and dry). Let them respond. What gets you out to pay us a visit today?"
     
  17. Luis Esp

    Luis Esp Supporting Actor

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    How about a simple "Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening"? Just make sure you say it like you mean and not just going through the motions.

    And good body language is also a key factor in approaching a customer. I can't tell how many times I've walked into a store and some schelp couldn't even make eye contact or say hello or even crack a smile.

    What's worse though is people who give that phony "I hate my job, you're bothering me" smile. If you hate dealing with people, why the hell are you in retail?

    Don't even get me started on people who don't even bother to acknowledge you b/c they're too busy talking on the phone or with other associates.
     
  18. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are Cinematographer

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  19. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    ... and if a salesperson says "I'll be right over here", they should actually be there! Unless they're helping another customer of course. But if they just went elsewhere in the store to talk with another salesperson, I'll leave.
    I'm always happy whenever I get a good salesperson or waitress or something. I bought my car from a great salesperson, and will be buying from her again when it comes time for a new one. And I've got a favorite salesperson at Tweeter, who gets all of my business. Certain resturants I'll always ask for the same waitress, since she knows how to do her job.
    By the way, there's always the classic Simpsons line: "So, do you like... stuff?"
    Friend of mine got a date last week with that. So it's gotta work in sales too [​IMG]
     
  20. kevin_tomb

    kevin_tomb Stunt Coordinator

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    Ive found several good thing to start a conversation. DONT EVER USE THE:can I help you...or what are you looking for, or any questions. MOST people hate those and say im just looking or no. Ive found a few good ways. One is to say "which big screen is your wife gonna let you get"...or "What happened to your old TV?"....or one of my most successful..."I get paid to annoy people like you"..that last one always gets a laugh and a "you arent.." and they just start talking to me as a person then


    Kevin
     

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