3 of the dumbest questions to ask consignment shoppers

August 12, 2019

This post has been updated from August 2015

Carl Sagan once wrote, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.” He obviously was never a salesperson

During my early years as a salesperson, our sales training involved listening to multiple Zig Ziglar tapes. That guy was the cheeriest man I ever listened to. The number one lesson I learned was to always put myself in the customer’s shoes. That person is always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” According to  The Retail Doctor Blog, I’ve been asking all the wrong questions during my lengthy years of selling. Have you or your employees asked your consignment shoppers these questions?

Question 1. “How are you today?”

Now, when I first read this I thought, “Well, why wouldn’t I ask that question?” The usual response you receive is “fine” which immediately ends the conversation. Plus, The Retail Doctor asked, “Do you really care?” Of course I care. Well, sometimes I care. Okay, so maybe I don’t really care, but what am I supposed to ask instead? The first communication you have with your consignment shoppers sets the tone. Vend suggests having a variety of greetings on hand. Ask, “Are you enjoying your afternoon?” If you recognize the shopper, ask “What brings you in to see us again?” Finally, try and find something you like and genuinely say, “I like your … (shoes, coat, scarf, etc.) Where did you get them/it?” I certainly love it when I’m surprised by a cheery salesperson. Or, when I hear “My pleasure” when I order my chicken sandwich at a Chick-Fil-A. So, it’s time to get more creative as you greet those consignment shoppers coming in the door.

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Question 2. “Can I help you find something in particular?”

dumb questions to ask consignment shoppersA customer often gives the rote response of, “I’m just looking” and then the conversation is completely dead.  As The Retail Doctor points out, not every shopper is looking for something but all shoppers do have a problem. Whether it’s the need to kill 30 minutes of time before a meeting, or they’re looking for the perfect dress for an upcoming event, they have a problem that you need to fix. So what questions should a savvy sales associate ask? For furniture consignment, ask “What room gets a makeover today?” For clothing consignment, ask “What special event are you shopping for today?” A children’s resale shop should ask, “Which color…pink or blue?” Make the shopper give you more than a “yes” or “no” answer to keep the conversation going. If you still get the “I’m just looking” response, try and make another connection. Ask “Would you like a basket?” or “Would you like me to hold your cup of coffee at the counter so you can shop easier?”

Question 3. “Isn’t this … (weather-related noun such as heat, snow, rain) awful?”

Although the intention of connecting with your consignment shoppers is good, you’re starting off with a negative. As Vend writes, “Every interaction should be positive.” Try instead, “Are you managing to stay dry with all this rain?” Or, “Are you enjoying all the sunshine we’ve been having?” Vend also stresses the importance of “reading” your customers. Watch their body language. Are they shy? Then, they will be uncomfortable with too many questions. Pick up on verbal cues. Is their tone angry? Find something to genuinely compliment them about. Always make eye contact.

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.