Why going off-script with your clients, and personalizing your approach, matters

True story: I entered a retail store the other day. The two clerks said “Hi” right away and smiled.

A few minutes later, the first one (let’s call her Abby) came up to me and began with the usual script: 

“Are you looking for anything in particular today?” 

To which I thought: “Not again,” and replied out loud: “I’m good for now; I’ll just browse around.”

Abby said “Ok” and—to my delight—walked away and didn’t pursue about her latest product or store rebates. 

A few minutes later, the other clerk (let’s call her Betty) saw me looking at a purse, and said: “Are you satisfied with your current one?” 

I thought: “Oh, great question,” and replied out loud: “Yes, it is so practical because… but… ”

Betty added her view on it, and shared that she owns the same one (“No way!” I thought). 

We began to chat as if we were longtime friends exchanging honest opinions.

It soon felt like I was speaking with my shopping buddy: the one who will give me honest advice—as opposed to the salesperson who will want me to buy that product, while explaining its fabulous features. 

Features I probably don’t need nor am looking for at the moment.

I eventually bought a tote bag, because, well, Betty and I agreed it was a great local and sustainable brand—something I care about—and the colour is to die for—it will make me stand out.

Why going off-script is key

Abby’s approach is not only typical, it is also sales-y. (Almost) everyone knows the script, and most people don’t care to hear it. 

Betty’s approach, however, surprises—is curious about me. It goes off-script! 

With the first approach, Abby doesn’t get a glimpse into my story. And my story is key to her—and her business’—success.

With the second approach, Betty might get more insight into other aspects of my life. 

She could eventually learn about my car-loving son starting school soon and suggest the backpack with a firetruck on it. Or my mother’s upcoming birthday; that blue is her favourite colour. And the list continues…

Remember who the hero of the story is

Your client is the hero. As the seller, you’re the guide. And the personalized solution to your client’s issue(s) might be your product or service. 

In other words: your product is not the hero.

(Unless clients know about the product and received feedback from their peers. In which case they don’t need your guidance, they already know the solution to their problem, and they just need to buy it.) 

For the other, curious ones (who are starting to seek solutions), it’s what your product or service does to them that matters. Whether it makes them: 

  1. Look good; 
  2. Feel secure; 
  3. Stand out; 
  4. Smarten up; 
  5. And the list goes on. 

Your client is not seeking your random product. So don’t try to sell it. 

Your client is interested in solving their problem.

Do try to listen, so that you can offer the best, most honest, and highly personalized advice.

Think of that favourite bookseller, at your local bookstore, who took the time to get to know you and can now match the book to your interests (i.e. helps you smarten up).

The one who calls you as soon as a book is available so that you can be the first to share it (i.e. helps you stand out).

Bottom line for businesses speaking with curious clients

  • Don’t start by selling your product; start by asking questions, listening, and eventually offering advice
  • Don’t just stay on-boring-script; surprise your clients, by asking a specific question about them, and they just might open up 
  • Don’t be the salesperson who scares them away; be the “shopping buddy,” guiding them along 
  • Don’t focus on up-selling or cross-selling; focus on building a relationship

Get to know your hero and her story in order to best guide her moving forward, for years to come.

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