Posted in Selling & Persuasion

Retail Selling – the approach

Retail Selling is very different to most other sales scenarios, and one of the main differences is that there is often just a fleeting opportunity to actually ‘sell’. Many selling programs have 10 steps or such, but we believe there are just 4 recognisable stages of the sales cycle.

In this post, I will deal with how to approach the customer.

Your approach has these objectives:

To arrive (physically) in a position where you can comfortably assist the customer with the merchandise AND they don’t feel threatened or cornered.

If you can achieve that, you have accomplished the mission.


Look for the following signals as permission to approach.

  • Looking up (and around) * Letting go (of trolley, pram etc.)
  • Reaching out (touching merchandise)

Do a quick attitude and body check before you approach:

  • Upright – shoulders back
  • Unfolded arms/ never in pockets
  • Prepare to make eye contact
  • Smile


Try and match your approach to the customer’s demeanour; if they are slowly browsing, slow down, if they appear to be in a hurry, be brisk. If the customer approaches you (first) then you should meet them by also trying to cover some ground – or at the very least leaning slightly towards them when you engage with them.

  • Don’t apologise, look uncertain or frown
  • Don’t get too close – especially to men

Generally the approach is very casual, but don’t let it appear as if you are sneaking up on people.

If possible, approach from an angle that the customer will be able to see you approach. If they turn away in an avoidance gesture, stop or simply greet and walk past.

Ensure there is no barrier between yourself and the customer

  • Prams/ trolleys
  • Women’s hand bags (and for some men)
  • Children
  • Displays/ Merchandise Mission accomplished.

There are differences between Men and Women and how they should be approached.

Men still tend to treat most shopping as a chore (food/convenience) or as a conquest sport (specialty goods).

Some research seems to suggest that there has been a fundamental shift. Men are certainly more willing to experiment with fashion and with traditionally feminine products, and they are more willing to admit that they actually like shopping. This does not mean that it is a new phenomenon; they just feel able to admit it without embarrassment. But men and women (largely) still approach these things differently. Some differences were already highlighted above. In addition, the following should also be considered when approaching men:

  • Err on the side of approaching sooner rather than erring on the side of later. (Men tend to be more impatient.)
  • Flirting works like a charm – as sexist or weak as that may sound.
  • Offer up even fewer choices – if necessary even one option only, because men tend to more overtly ego-driven and will feel obliged to be more decisive.
  • When approaching couples, approach from the side as the person that is the same sex as you. Next week we will talk about the ‘engagement’; and how you establish a connection with customers.
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2 thoughts on “Retail Selling – the approach

  1. I’ve found that successful salespeople invariably bring two qualities to the table; first, they are passionate about what they are doing, and second, they have a very easy and natural way of engaging people. There isn’t any training or selling process that I’ve ever seen that can compensate if either of these two qualities is missing.


  2. Sorry about the delay… but I agree (and disagree). I think selling can be trained (to some extent) but customer service? Not sure … But I agree that great selling is built on the right foundation…


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