My Sales Training travels took me to Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta last week.  They gave me the opportunity to reflect on the most typical reaction retail customers have when asked the standard question “How can I help you today?” Here’s the best way to deal with that response.

We have all said it many times before. “Thanks, I’m just looking” is the typical response we have when greeted by a Sales Associate at a retail store.  Let’s break that down to best understand why we say it.  Then, we’ll share a way of approaching customers that we would all appreciate.


No one is really just looking

We all have many things to do and not enough time to accomplish them all.  To say that we are “just looking” implies that we are killing time with no purpose.  When is the last time you wondered into a store and suddenly asked yourself “Why am I here?”  We enter a place of business or retail store with a want or need.  We have an attraction to investigate the products or services offered for two reasons:

1.  Personal Benefit – We are enticed to consider a purchase because there’s something in it for us.

2.  Pain Removed – We have a specific problem or challenge that causes us to find a solution.


Has this even happened to you?

Many years ago, I wanted to buy a large, modern high tech TV.  Of course, I did – I’m a guy.  I did some research online and decided to walk into a leading national electronics retailer.  It’s the same one that just announced 65 store closings.

CBC News – Future Shop Stores Lost Out to Fulfilled Online Shoppers

Armed with my credit card and the decision that I was walking out with my dream TV that day, I marched into the store right up to the wall of TVs on display.  “This must be what heaven’s like.” I said looking at all the choices in front of me.

I was greeted with this introduction from the overly excited Sales Associate – “Looking to buy a big screen TV today?”

My immediate response was nothing like my true intent.  Before I even realized what I said, the infamous response came out.  “No, just looking, thanks.” 

The Salesperson looked a little dejected and replied, as he walked away, “OK, just let me know if you have any questions.”

“I will.”  With hands in my pockets, I started to check out the TVs to find the one I was most interested in buying based on the advertising I had seen.


The Retail Kiss of Death

After about 10 minutes of looking around, I realized I needed help.  I couldn’t locate my TV of choice, and had other questions about other interesting models on display.  The Sales Associate who greeted me was nowhere to be found.  I looked around with that gesture of “Can someone help me please?”  No one noticed me.

It was as if I had been prejudged as a tire kicker with no intent of purchasing.  The thought of the Salespeople on the floor?  No commission.  I had been given The Retail Kiss of Death.  I finally went to Customer Service and actually asked for assistance.  The next Salesperson who showed up made an easy $2,000 sale in about 20 minutes.


 Why do we say “Just looking, thanks”?

Even when we need and want help, we will push it away based on two considerations:

1.  Approach – If the greeting by a Sales Associate makes us feel uncomfortable, we will revert to the old standard line.  Intent and agenda are everything.  We can smell a poorly trained, commissioned Salesperson from a distance.  Closing techniques and scripted qualifiers seem artificial and solely designed from the agenda of trying to make a quick sale and move on to the next customer.

2.  Previous experience – After experiencing the wrong approach many times, we assume that all Salespeople are guilty of retail assault until proven innocent.  When we say that we are just looking, here’s what we are actually communicating:

“Go away.  I am tired of being treated like a prospect, inquiry, walk-in or any other definition in your sales terminology.  I do not represent part of your commission cheque and am not here to serve your purpose and be characterized as such.”

That’s direct and 100% true.  Even with our jaded attitude, it creates a great opportunity for Salespeople who offer sincere, authentic great service and expertise to help customers make the right purchase.


The right greeting

Imagine experiencing this style of approach:

“Welcome to (name of the store).  I’m Dave.  Please feel free to look around the store and get acquainted with what we have to offer.  I’ll be standing over there. If you have any questions whatsoever just look my way and I’ll be happy to help you any way I can.  Is that fair?”

What does this approach accomplish?

  • It’s inviting.  When you walk into a store, you are paying forward a very large compliment – This store is worth my consideration and investment in my time.  Why wouldn’t you feel good about being welcomed and acknowledged?  Isn’t that an incentive to encourage you to want to buy something?
  • It’s sincere.  You are a person, not a potential sale.  You should be treated with respect and given the opportunity to peruse the store without retail assault and the agenda to buy.   It’s extremely important  for Salespeople deliver this message in their words to ensure it’s authentic and heart-felt.
  • It’s helpful.  When you are ready to ask questions, it’s reassuring to know that a Salesperson will be there for you.  In fact, this approach makes you open-minded to ask questions quicker, if not immediately.  After all, you walked in for a specific reason, right?
  • It makes you want to buy.  Once you reach out to ask questions, you are engaging the Salesperson.  It’s as if you’re saying, “Please answer my questions and give me the best information to make my decisions.  If you do, I will probably buy something just because I’m impressed with your attitude and willingness to help me.”


What do you think?  Would this approach impress you?  Do you have any great customer service stories to share?  I’d love to hear about them below.  Like this post and share it on your favorite social platform.  The more we share, the more we all learn together.


Thank for reading!


Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY 





PROSALESGUY TRAINING offers Keynote speaking, Group Sales Training,  Individual Sales Training, Sales Management Mentoring and Consultation,  and Business Consulting Services in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.  Training can be done on site or via web conferencing.