I was reading a story in social media recently (so it must be true right?) of a person who, after getting tired of people ‘just looking’ in her shop decided to charge $5 for anyone who came in for a look without buying.

Now that might seem like a good idea to some and I understand how frustrating it can be to spend hours of your time providing information and advice to people who proceed to leave and either buy somewhere else, or worse still buy nothing at all!

The problem I see is this – by charging people to look around you’re now no longer in the business of selling widgets. You’re now in the business of selling information or ‘looking services’!

Secondly, how many people that you know would be willing to pay an entry fee to simply browse a store? (certain evening-entertainment venues excluded…)

What this ‘cover charge’ will do is keep people away…the exact opposite effect that anyone in retail (or any business) wants! As a retailer, in fact as any business owner will tell you, one of the keys to success is LOTS of enquiry and visitation to your business right?

So, what would be a better solution for this person than a cover charge for looking around?

Well, there’s one simple little question that can change everything for every business owner with something to sell.

Here’s how it usually goes…

(Prospective customer walks into your business)

Owner: “Good morning, how are you?” Prospect: “Good thanks” Owner: “Can I help you with something?” Prospect: “No thanks, I’m just looking” Owner: “Oh, ok then. Let me know if you need any help”

Sound familiar? No doubt you’ve been the Prospect at some stage and told a salesperson or business owner exactly the same thing – that you’re just LOOKING.

Hang on though, what are you doing in the shop or business in the first place? To just look?

In more than 80% of cases, the prospect may indeed be looking BUT they’re in your shop because at some point, even if not right now, they’re interested in BUYING!

Here’s the simple way to short circuit the broken record of prospect/salesperson interaction…

(Prospective customer walks into your business)

Owner: “Good morning and welcome to our business!” Prospect: “Good morning” Owner: “What brings you to our store/business today?” Prospect: “I’m looking for a widget” Owner: “Great! We have lots of widgets here…so I can help you best do you mind if I ask you a few quick questions?” Prospect: “Um, sure. What do you want to know?”

They key thing to note is that we’re out to change the dynamic of the usual “I’m just looking” scenario by asking the prospect some questions. This does one important thing – gets them talking about themselves. We all love to talk about ourselves, so by encouraging your prospect to do the same, they’ll start to trust, like, feel comfortable with you and stay in your store or business a little longer.

You’ll obviously need to work out what you’re going to ask them next in order to keep it relevant, succinct and productive but by simply changing your ‘script’ in this way, you’ll engage more prospects and get them talking about their needs and wants. Now, instead of talking about the weather, you’ll be able to actually show the prospect how your product or service is the best solution for their needs.

Heck, they might even buy something!

You can apply this same principle to phone enquiry, website enquiry, email enquiry…ANY time someone enquires with or visits your business.

Go ahead and give it a try, and most importantly – measure the results for a month or two so you can see if it’s had any effect on your conversion rates.

Now go help some people…