It was too late.
I entered the shop and my escape route was cut off in an instant.
The shopkeeper had closed the door and I was trapped.
I had no alternative but to look like I was going to buy something. I
browsed around, looked at the shirts, all the while planning how I could
break out to freedom.
Perhaps I could rush him, bowl him over and run out of the door. Then
I thought what if he’d secretly locked the door? No, that wasn’t a good
idea. I kept thinking of my options for escaping this hellhole. Nothing
came up so I kept looking at the merchandise, stalling for time.
He hovered nearby and I felt the pressure of his presence. It was not
supposed to be like this. I thought I would pop in and buy a shirt and
then go down the road for a coffee. The coffee would have to wait.
He occasionally glanced towards me and smiled. But he didn’t fool me.
He was up to something. And I figured I had little time left before
something dreadful would happen to me.
I subtly edged around the shop trying to cut the distance to the door.
He did the same, blocking my potential escape route.
Then it happened.
The phone rang.
He looked up and walked towards the phone to answer it.
As he did I saw my chance.
I moved quickly to the door and turned the handle.
The door opened.
A huge relief!
I walked out a free man.
Hovering salespeople can make customers feel claustrophobic and
their discomfort will make them far less likely to buy anything.
Here’s how to avoid the pushy salesperson syndrome and allow your
customer to ‘breathe’ so they’ll feel happier buying from you.
Curb the impulse to rush over to the customer as soon as he enters
your shop. If you practically leap over the counter and rugby tackle
him, you’ll likely put him under pressure. You can cover the same
distance with a smile and a greeting without moving your feet.
When you greet your customer you’ll know whether he wants to
engage you in a conversation or just wants to be left alone to shop.
If he wants to be left alone, do so until he’s ready to talk to you.
At this stage, switch off any aggressive, pit bull tendencies you may
have and stay put.
When a customer enters your shop try to stay in sight while he’s there.
Your visibility will make it easier for him to motion to you, ask a
question, or walk up to you if he needs help. If you’re invisible to the
customer he will probably disappear too.
If the customer can see you, then avoid any movements that make it
appear you’re stalking him. For example: he moves, you move; he
stops, you stop. Instead, go about your business naturally and be
available when the customer is ready to be served.
Allow enough space between you and the customer so he doesn’t feel
overcrowded. This distance should be at least an arm’s length away.
A customer can also have his personal space invaded if you watch him
while he’s shopping. So avoid staring.
You can still see him without staring, by using your peripheral vision.
Here’s an exercise to help develop peripheral vision.
• Stand upright and extend your arms out in front of your body,
about shoulder high.
• Now wriggle your fingers and look at them.
• Keep looking straight ahead and now slowly move both arms to
the sides of your body.
• Keep your fingers wriggling while you are doing this.
• Without moving your head you should be able to see your
fingers still wriggling until they are pointing out from the sides of
With practice, this exercise will allow you to develop your vision so you
can see a wide area in front of you without having to look or stare at a
This is an ideal skill to have because it allows you to respond to a
customer when you need to.
It’s probably not a good idea to practice this exercise while a customer
is in the shop. Someone may throw a net over you and drag you away!
Great customer service occurs when you allow your customer to buy
without feeling pressured or closed in.
Footnote: A chapter from our ebook ‘How To Lose Customers Without Really Trying – The A-Z Guide’ – available in our online shop