Whenever I do retail customer service training with my client's employees, I constantly bring the training back to a simple analogy: You are on a date with shoppers - they have something you want, you have something they want. Give them what they want and they'll give you what you want and everybody will leave happy - and wanting another date with you.
I think this is simple to grasp - maybe that's because I'm a life-long bachelor and have been on 1,264,293 dates. But no matter our socialization experience, we all get the basic premise - daters on dates are each looking for something and they think the other person can provide it.
Yet when I lay out this metaphor for employees they often misunderstand what each person on the retail "date" actually wants. Trainees (especially young ones) believe they're after the shoppers' money and that the shopper wants whatever goods and/or services the employee is selling. Each assumption seems reasonable. Yet both miss the mark - and are indicative of why so many people dislike the words "sales" and "selling." (I'll talk about these concepts at great length in a later post)
Let me go back to the dating analogy - there is a clichéd, offensive, sexist yet still somewhat credible fear we hold about dating, that men date women to "get in their pants" and women date men to "get in their wallets." Certainly there are men and women motivated by these desires. But there are also plenty of people who date for one reason - love. They want to find someone who loves them, that they can love.
This is the analogy that sticks - shoppers want to be loved.
At this point my trainees are usually snickering, and even you may be thinking that I've had one too many first dates. But let me explain it this way.
Love is the first "commodity" we receive after we've left the womb. It is given to us by our mothers, fathers, those around us who love us. We receive it (under healthy conditions) unconditionally, without the giver asking for anything from us in return, other than to just be a baby and do baby things.
To show the power of this thought, I have my trainees do the following exercise:
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself as when you were a baby. See yourself naked, lying on a soft, fluffy blanket - feel the softness against your back, your skin. There is also a pleasant light that shines down on your naked baby body - feel it's warmth. A hand gently touches you - then two hands. They start at your feet, softly massaging, then move along your baby legs, across your knees, thighs, up to your belly, your arms, hands and neck, then slowly back down again, to your feet - touching and caressing your skin. The owner of your hands is your mother - and as she looks down into your eyes and softly coos, you feel the warmth and love of her hands and voice and gaze, which bring you such joy and comfort that you begin to giggle, and giggle and giggle - it is the most joyous moment of your life.
From that point forward, we spend the rest of our lives trying to feel that loved once again. We seek it in a thousand different ways (some healthy, some not) but most significantly, we seek that love from our mates. And in retail, we seek it in the things we buy and the places we buy them.
The lesson for business owners - figure out what makes shoppers feel loved then love them - and they'll love you right back. Because isn't that what we spend our lives looking for?
Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," which airs Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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