The ‘I’m Just Looking’ Customer

Before answering this month’s question—how do you handle the customer who’s “just looking”?—let me say I hope that you, as a salesperson, didn’t elicit the customer’s response by asking the age-old question “Can I help you?” That almost guarantees you’ll get back a “No thanks, I’m just looking” from the customer.

I believe that “I’m just looking” has become simply a programmed response from a customer every time a salesperson says anything. In some cases the salesperson doesn’t even need to speak and the customer will still say it.

Another important point to consider is that salespeople should never assume a customer really is “just looking.” If a customer has taken the time to go into a store, then the customer, either consciously or subconsciously, has some kind of desire or need for the merchandise in that store. People don’t randomly wander into stores just looking around.

When customers come into a store, you should welcome them with a warm, friendly greeting just as you would greet a friend coming to your house. Don’t pounce on them the second they walk through the door; give them a minute or two to get their eyes and ears used to the surroundings and then offer your greeting.

At this point they may respond with “I’m just looking.” If not, try to start a nonbusiness conversation with them. If you can’t do that, then just ask: “So what brings you into our store today?” At this point they will either tell you what they’re looking for or give you some version of “I’m just looking.”

No matter when in a presentation customers say “I’m just looking,” offer them a “verbal map” of the store. You might say something like this: “We always welcome browsers here at our store. Let me tell you where you can find things. Over here we have a terrific watch selection, our gold jewelry is over there, and our diamond selection is in these display cases.”

As you’re giving customers a verbal map, one of two things is likely to happen: They will say “OK, thank you, I will look,” or they may come clean and tell you what they’re looking for. At the very least, they will probably start heading in the direction of the merchandise they had in mind.

Another option is to start selling the store by saying something like this: “We always welcome browsers here. Let me tell you about a couple of things that you won’t find in the cases. We have an award-winning jewelry designer on staff, and we do a lot of custom-designed pieces, so if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, we can probably make it for you.”