Nov 25, 2014

Getting Past "Just Looking"

just looking
The most thought-provoking comment I’ve heard lately came just last week from the mouth of a four-year-old boy.

I was browsing through the men’s department of a mall store when the four-year-old appeared, holding his mother’s hand. A clerk asked the mother: “Can I help you?” and without dropping a beat the young boy replied: “Just looking.” Then the clerk turned and left.

I don’t know which stunned me more, the response of the child or the response of the clerk. Clearly, the boy thought that “just looking” was the proper response to give to a retail clerk; he had probably heard his mother offer the same response dozens of times.

The clerk, too, upon hearing the words turned away, giving no thought to the fact that the words were said to him by a child.

The “can I help you – just looking” scenario is repeated thousands of times per day in retail stores all over the country. No one benefits from such an exchange: the clerk doesn’t make a sale and customer goes away frustrated, with their needs unmet. “Can I help you – just looking” traps both the seller and the buyer in an unproductive relationship.

Sales gurus have claimed for decades that the “just looking” response is a defense mechanism used against what consumers view as “pushy sales persons”. So, the gurus say, sales clerks should not open with the “can I help you” gambit, because it almost certainly assures the “just looking” response. I’m not so sure that this is true. Read more >>>