It was a slow Thursday evening at the iconic sportswear store. There were more sales assistants than customers silently wandering through the displays across polished black tiles. Alan decided to approach a customer who had just picked up a premium shoe, turning it over to check out the price.
‘Can I help you?’ he said.
‘No, I’m just looking, thanks.’ she replied.
‘It would be good to get out of those Nikes. Have your tried our SuperBOOST shoes?’ said Alan.
‘No.’ said the customer, as she hastily put the shoe back.
‘They’re really comfortable and last longer.’ Alan said to the customer as she started to walk away.
We would never say half of the things we say or ask many of the questions we ask if we stopped for a second to think how the customer was likely to respond. What if instead of following a script that leads us to a dead end, we anticipated where our questions would lead the customer? We know that 99% of the time the response to, ‘Can I help you?’, will be, ‘No.’ So how can we do better?
An if-then storytelling strategy invites us to be more empathetic towards the customer and more discerning with our questions.
If the customer is browsing for more than a few minutes, then I will ask how I can help.
If the customer is looking at running shoes, then I will ask her what kind of training she does.
If the customer picks up an item, then I will ask her if she’d like to try her size.
If the customer asks for her size, then I will try getting to know more about what she needs from her shoes.
Better brand stories, marketing and sales conversations always start with understanding what unmet need or unspoken desire brought the customer to us, rather than with our need to say something when it’s convenient.
Image by Amira A.