Lessons in Dating for Retail Salespeople

By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Perhaps, if you think about it, you can remember the experience of having a first date. 

Whether it was with someone you knew, or arranged by friends as a blind date, the feeling is the same.  It’s a combination of nervousness and excitement which results in anxiety.

You think about where you will go, and what you will say. Then you prepare to wear your best outfit for the occasion. You drive to the destination, or wait to for your date to arrive, being sure to be ready on time. You pop a couple of Tic Tacs and look in the mirror just to be sure.  And then the moment arrives!

Many of us born in the 1950s and 1960s have had the experience of first dates twice in our lives.  For me, it was in my teens, and then again in my 30s. There’s a difference in dating at those ages. In our teens we are more concerned with impressing our date with our bitchin’ wheels, groovy clothes and being extra cool. A mature 30-year-old is concerned more with learning about their companion — their likes and dislikes, what they do for work and fun, and where they are headed in life.

Our retail world is filled with first dates.  The obvious example is the retail shopper who walks into our store every day.  Your sales team is charged with meeting a stranger and creating a positive impression in 20 seconds. Some call that speed dating.  Too often your customer is greeted by a retail sales associate who acts like an 18-year-old kid, hoping to make an impression by using “dig me” methods.  Greetings like “Our biggest sale ends today,” “Everything is 65 percent off” or “We have 72-month financing” are closing statements, not greetings, and are a sure turn off. They have no meaning until your shopper gets to know your store and its offerings.

Some sales associates want to jump to the good-night kiss (closing the sale) before dinner and a movie (discovery questions and product demonstrations).  Savvy salespeople who date like they are in their 30s or 40s know that one of the best parts of meeting people for rendezvous is learning their experiences, dreams and desires. On the sales floor they ask these questions:

  • “When was the last time you shopped for a mattress?”
  • “Have you seen anything on TV or online that you like?” or
  • “Who else will be using the mattress?”

They find out what turns on and motivates the shopper, and they dance to the music that’s being played, tailoring the shopping experience to their date for the day.

Some people meet potential dates at bars, others at church. For others, dates are arranged by friends and co-workers. In the 21st century, more first dates are arranged online than ever before.  Match.com, eharmony, OurTime, FarmersOnly and other dating sites are becoming the way to consider and communicate with people.  Chances are your store has an online dating site also — it’s your website! Properly placed and promoted, your website should draw hundreds or even thousands of potential suitors daily. They click on your profile, see what you look like and what you have to offer, and then decide if they want to get to know you, to join you for coffee or dinner, or more!

Is your website a good first date? Try this: Ask some of your single friends (in this case, non-employees) to visit your online store and examine it like it was a dating site. Is the initial impression intriguing, friendly or exciting? Does your site move to the same groove as the viewer?  Can your website ask the right questions and is it hiding some of its personality? The responses you get will help you change your company’s website from a disappointing Mystery Date dud to romance, love and marriage!

Second and third dates are great, too. We get there because of mutual trust and affection.  Repeat buyers are like those second and third dates; shopping is more fun and buying causes less anxiety. Unfortunately, many relations don’t get past the first date, and many be-backs never return.

You can’t control the actions of your date or your potential customer. But train your sales associates to become caring gentlemen and ladies who are interested in your shoppers’ interests and well-being, and there may be many wedding bells and honeymoons in your future!

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.