How do you greet your customers and open the sale?

Learn proven retail sales opening techniques that you can use over and over again.
Person opening the sale

How do you create a successful sales result? Quite often, people focus on the end result - closing the sale. However, a good outcome starts way back with your first customer interaction and the way you open the sale.

Great opening techniques are the key to breaking the ice with your customer and kick-starting the sales interaction. Making the customer feel welcome in your store helps to build trust quickly, breaks down barriers & sets you up for success! 

In this article, we’ll look at the four parts of opening the sale and a simple, effective technique you can apply to each:

  1. First Impressions: Dress to Impress
  2. Welcome and Acknowledge: The “Fly-by”
  3. Opening Lines: The Current Event, Compliment and Apology techniques
  4. Moving to business: The “What brings you in” transition question

How to greet customers in retail? (4 easy steps)

 1. First impressions

Whether we like it or not, first impressions do matter. Within a few seconds, a customer will form an opinion of you that will influence your sales interaction. And the crazy thing is, it’s often before you even have a chance to speak, so the way you dress and present yourself is really important. Making sure you’re clean and tidy is an easy win, but what else can you do?

Dress to impress

One of the most powerful techniques you can use is dressing to align with your company brand. This helps to reinforce your brand image & builds trust in you and your company. It can also help your customer identify you when they’re looking for assistance. You’ll be easier to find, and you’ll feel more approachable. This is gold because your customer is already engaged, which makes sales so much easier. 

Depending on your brand, this might mean:

  • Wearing your uniform  -  You might not like it, but it can definitely help your sales!
  • Wearing your own brand  -  This is a must if you work for a fashion brand.
  • Wearing your accessories  -  A great example of this is a staff lanyard; it’s like a beacon for your customers.

When you’re well-presented, you’ll seem professional, knowledgeable, trustworthy & approachable. Most importantly, you’ll look like you want to help your customers, so they won’t feel they’re bothering you when they ask for help.

2. Welcome and acknowledge 

The next part of opening is welcoming your customer and making an initial connection. Taking the time to do this properly makes them relax & they’ll feel comfortable with you helping them in-store. 

There are two things that contribute to a warm welcome; what you say and your body language. Both are important, but did you know your body language has the most influence on a customer's experience? You should show genuine interest in helping them by looking and moving confidently and smiling with eye contact. Let’s look at how you can put that all together!

The ‘Fly-by’ technique

Greeting your customer can go wrong if they feel pressured. Signs of this can be that they:

  • walk out of your store soon after you greet them,
  • respond sharply with “Just looking, thanks”,
  • or approach a different salesperson.

The fly-by is a reliable technique to engage with your customer in a casual, non-confrontational way. Best of all, it’s simple, and you can use it with pretty much everyone. 

A successful fly-by follows these 3 steps:

  1. When you’re on the floor waiting for customers, make sure you have something in your hand and appear busy completing a task. A great example of this for a fashion retailer is folding or racking clothes.
  1. When your customer walks in the door, greet, smile & make eye contact with them while you’re doing your task. This will make the customer feel acknowledged, welcomed & most importantly, relaxed. Don’t go over right away unless they’re clearly looking for help. 
  1. Once you’ve completed your task and the customer seems comfortable, head over and use an opening line to continue the sales interaction.

For example: A customer is browsing a table of clothing. While you return an item of clothing to the shop floor, walk past the customer and offer a smile and friendly eye contact. Once you’ve returned the item, walk back to the customer to continue with the sale.

Quick Tip: Position yourself in-store where you can see customers walk in.  Being out on the floor, rather than standing behind a counter, means you look more available and ready to help.

3. Opening lines

Opening lines are key for building a relationship with your customer. These should be light and & non-business related, so there’s no pressure. Skipping this step and moving straight to business is an easy way to scare off customers. Instead, encourage the customer to chat & build some trust. You can’t use the same opener all the time, but coming up with new ideas can be difficult. So, let's look at some techniques you can use to personalise your approach!

Bonus: Finding out even a tiny bit about your customer can come in handy later when you’re uncovering needs and demonstrating products.

The current event 

The current event is all about using a topic that’s super relevant and everyone is talking about. Topics like the weather (only if it’s notable!) or sports can be great neutral territory.  

For example: ‘What did you think of that football final? What a tight game! Did you watch it?’

The compliment

Another option is to offer your customer a compliment. Just make sure it’s genuine & not too personal or embarrassing for them. 

For example: ‘I really love your handbag, the colours are beautiful, where did you get it?’  or ‘Awesome hair by the way, did you get that done recently?’

The apology

You can also use the apology technique to soften your approach. The key here is to apologise for something you have no control over. This could be the weather, the traffic, parking or any inconvenience. The customer knows that you’re not to blame, so they will typically take the time to thank you. Combining this with an open question is a great way to get your customer engaged and talking.

For example: ‘Hi, sorry about the roadworks out there, did you manage to find a park okay?

4. Moving to business

Once your customer is comfortable and relaxed talking to you in-store, you’ll want to move the conversation on to uncovering their needs.  Don’t move to this step too early though, or the trust you’ve built will be impacted.  Ask open questions, which means the customer needs to answer with more than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“What brings you in” transition question 

One of the most successful questions is, ‘What brings you into the store today?’  This is an open question, very straightforward and easy to remember. Your customer could be in-store to:

  • Buy something specific
  • Browse your range
  • Get product information 
  • Exchange or return a product 
  • + more

Asking, ‘What brings you into the store today?’ is great because it covers all bases and lets the customer tell you what they want in their own words! From here, you’re set up to continue the sale and uncovering their needs by asking a few more open questions.

In summary

If you ever find you’re having trouble making those sales, your opening technique should be the first thing you check. Are you creating the initial trust necessary for your customer to want to buy from you? Successfully opening a sale helps to reduce barriers to the sales process and ensures your sales interaction is set up for a positive result. All it takes is a few simple techniques and a lot of practice. So get out there and give it a go!

How to greet a customer when they walk in

Here's how to make a great first impression by greeting customers as they walk into your business:

  1. Present yourself well
    It’s important that you make a good first impression on your customer, and part of that is how you present yourself. Good presentation can vary widely depending on your industry and target market, but the number one rule is to align your own presentation with your company’s brand.

  2. Position yourself in the store
    When your customers are entering the store, you don’t want it to seem as though you’re guarding it. To avoid putting too much pressure on your customers when they enter the store, it’s a good idea to position yourself slightly deeper in the store, away from the entrance. You can also occupy yourself with another task such as racking clothes. This gives you a natural position to greet your customer from without it seeming awkward.

  3. Make eye contact
    When a customer enters the store, ensure you take the time to make some eye contact as you greet them. Eye contact is a powerful way to acknowledge your customer.

  4. Smile warmly
    Make sure that you give your customer a warm smile when they walk in the door. Most people want to be helped by someone who’s in a good mood, and smiling is the most easily recognisable facial expression. Smiles are also contagious, so you might also find that this improves your customer’s mood as well!

  5. Welcome the customer
    Greeting a customer when they walk in is very important. However, you don’t have to head over straight away unless they clearly need help. A great technique is to greet the customer warmly and then finish your task before heading over to open the sale. This allows your customer to get comfortable in the store before you start talking to them.

  6. Open your conversation
    After greeting your customer, you can head over to open the sale. Make sure you use a great non-business opening line to get the conversation flowing before you transition to the product. You can successfully use current events, weather, sports, compliments and more to get a customer talking. You should always try to use an open-ended question to avoid a one-word answer. Awkward! Start by finding some opening lines that you’re comfortable using and add more over time.

  7. Transition to business
    Once you’ve established your conversation with the customer, you’re going to want to move the focus to business. The foolproof way to do this is with a transition question, such as, ‘What brings you into the store today?’ This allows the customer to explain what they’re looking for in their own words and sets you up to ask follow-up questions to uncover their needs.


How to increase sales in retail?

A proven way to increase retail sales for your team is to invest in high-quality retail sales training. A highly trained team can offer a better customer experience, a more efficient sale and greater satisfaction. 

You might also increase sales by altering your store’s marketing strategy, including displays, promotions and layout. Stocking and pricing decisions can also influence who buys in your store and the sales you make.

You will also want to consider how to make the most of peak periods such as Christmas sales.

How to close a sale in retail?

The most effective way to close the sale in retail is to simply ask, “Would you like to take that today” or something similar. At this point, it doesn’t need to be fancy. The work you’ve put into the previous steps to build rapport, uncover needs and find a solution should make this step easy. If you’re having trouble closing the sale, it could be a sign of problems earlier in your process. Learn where you might be going wrong and how to fix in our article on closing the sale (coming soon).

How to achieve individual sales targets in retail?

To meet your individual sales targets in retail, it’s a good idea to set smaller actionable goals for yourself throughout the day. Set goals specific to skills and actions, such as smiling at every customer. Maintaining a positive attitude and putting your total energy into every customer is essential.

You’ll also need to focus on developing your skills in retail sales. With some instruction and practise, there are many strategies that can help you to increase your sales. Ask your manager what training is available at your organisation.

What does a retail assistant do?

Retail assistants, also known as shop assistants, store assistants or sales assistants, are responsible for serving customers and maintaining the shop floor and stock. This includes sales skills such as greeting customers, finding a solution and closing sales, as well as processing transactions, restocking shelves and setting up displays. To be a successful shop assistant, you will need good interpersonal and customer service skills. It is also useful to be hard-working and well-organised.

What are the responsibilities of a retail store manager?

Retail store managers, also known as store managers or retail managers, are responsible for managing the operations of their store, including its stock, budget and staff. Their goal is to manage the store to boost revenue and develop the business by maximising sales and minimising costs. Specific responsibilities include:

  • Organising store layout, displays and promotions 
  • Enabling staff training and learning
  • Recruiting, leading and coaching staff 
  • Handling customer complaints and queries
  • Managing purchases and stock levels to stay within budget
  • Keeping store records for financial reporting 
  • Communicating with a head office
  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations

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