What one thing do most people want to talk about?
If you said "themselves" you are absolutely right. So, what does this have to do with retail?
Well, smart retailers engage their customers in conversation. And not just about products or promotions. And they definitely don't wait until the customer is standing at the sales counter to strike up a conversation.
I certainly won't dispute that this can be a challenge, especially with today's consumers. Many customer's tend to be closed, and perhaps somewhat aloof, when we first approach them. The primary reason is that they don't want to be sold something they don't need or want. And, if they know you or your team work on commission, they may be even more reluctant to talk to you.
Another reason people may be hesitant to talk to you is your initial approach.
Too many front-line retail staff approach people with a greeting similar to "Can I help you?" This old, tired greeting does nothing to elicit any type of response from customers except for something like, "Just look."
Finally, too many retail staff wait for customers to take the initiative and approach them rather than being proactive. I think I wrote about this on a previous blog.
Ultimately, we need to change our approach AND our greeting. And how we view this intial, yet important stage of the sales process.
A comfortable way to engage people in a conversation is to focus on THEM. Strike up a conversation, just like you would a friend (just make sure it's professional!). Talk to them about their children, the weather, sports, local events, world news, etc.
If you can't bear the thought of starting a conversation of this nature, change your approach and focus on helping them by saying, "It's looks like you're having difficulty making a decision" or "I see you're looking at our new..." or "That's a great product." Each of these openings encourages the other person to respond, and because it is different, you will generally receive a genuine, open response. Try it...it works.