How to Approach Customers in Retail Sales


The overused approach, May I help you? has created resistance among customers to engage in conversation with retail salespeople. Also, it’s a close-ended question and you risk getting a No for an answer.

A successful Mercedes-Benz salesman2 uses, “Welcome to our dealership.” You can use the same approach and change it to fit the industry you’re working in.

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In this blog post, you’ll read the best way top sellers greet their customers.

How to Greet Customers in a Retail Store

There are basic approaches in retail sales. When greeting clients you should always do the following:

▪ Make eye contact.

▪Welcome the customer with a hi or hello,

▪ Listen to the customer.

However, what to say when a customer comes in, beyond hi or hello, depends on many factors:

◼️ The Seller’s Perception of the Consumer’s Attitude

Salespeople should observe their customers’ behavior and body language as part of the process to determine customers’ wants and needs.

Whether they seem relaxed or rushed, and whether they seem interested in a particular item or they are mindlessly looking through the racks.

◼️ Merchandise and the Store Environment

The selling process involves trust, emotion, and logic.2

Trust. Establish a connection. Be genuinely interested in your customers, their wants, and needs. Don’t ask your customer, how’s it is going? If you don’t really mean it.

Emotion. People buy on emotion even with high-end products. So, show your customers you relate to their wants or need.

Logic. Connect your product to your customers’ problems.

However, this process works best for high-ticket items than inexpensive, low-risk products.

Great sales performers - greeting customers

Three examples from fashion retail1:

▪ High-end fashion:

“The approach would be soft and refined and could center on the positive reaction to the new collection. Support the sale with photos from the media depicting the styles or a video of the runway fashion show.”

▪ The merchandise is casual and the music louder:

“The approach should be more casual and friendlier. Making eye contact and acknowledging with a simple hello might be in order.”

Impulse items-quick sales transactions:

“No approach is likely necessary or appropriate.”

◼️ A Solo Buyer vs a Group of Buyers.

Dealing with a couple needs a different sale strategy than someone that’s buying solo. Why? Because there’s always a No in a couple.2

One person would be the decision-maker and the other person will try to make the decision-maker change his/her mind.

A successful Mercedes-Benz salesman process would go like this:

▪ Say hi or hello.

▪ Introduce yourself.

▪ Shake both people’s hands.

▪ Salesman mindset. Think about developing a friendship and business relationship. Becoming potential friends and lifelong customers.

▪ Listen. Get to know their wants and needs. Also, this conversation will reveal who’s the decision-maker, and the partner’s point of view against or favoring of the purchase.

▪ Never attack an objection. Ask, Can you tell me more?

▪ Match the customer wants and needs with the product that best fit a solution.

Importance of Greeting Customers in Retail

According to Sherman, the first 15 to 20 seconds of interaction between the salesperson and customer mark the pace for the average retail sales transaction.

In these few seconds, the salespeople have the opportunity to check if their observations match the customers’ needs.

All this preliminary work will help salespeople to make recommendations to fulfill customer’s needs and generate a good first impression to help with the transaction.

If you don’t ask the right questions and pay attention to your customer ideas, the situation could go awry, and these few seconds could feel like an eternity.

How to Talk to Customers in Retail

A positive first impression is necessary for customers to make a purchase and build loyalty. A perfect store lay out and a great welcome approach go together.

Confidence. It’s important to know pretty well the products you’re selling. It will give you the confidence to match the customers’ needs with the best product to fulfill what the customer requires.

There’s plenty of strategies telling salespeople how to manipulate customers’ behavior to get a sale. Sometimes, it’s just common sense. Show enthusiasm and genuine interest.

How Long Should You Wait to Greet a Customer in Retail

The successful Mercedes-Benz salesman approaches his customers the minute they show up in the showroom.

On the other hand, the fashion retail salesperson waits until the customer is looking at or handling an item. It helps the salespeople approach a customer and begin a conversation about the item to break the ice.

The right approach is a salesperson’s best chance to win a customer’s loyalty, a sale, and sometimes a long-lasting friendship.


Sherman, G, Perlman, S. (2015). The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling and Management. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. 2nd. Edition. ISBN 978-1609019334.1

Harvill, S. (2018) Secrets of Million-Dollar Sellers. Touchstone. Reprint Edition. ISBN: 978-1501153464.2


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