Bob Phibbs: Don't Alienate Your 'Buyers'!

Customer service advice from Bob Phibbs

8 ways not to lose the people
who want to get their eyewear from you

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 edition of INVISION.

We’ve been hearing for years how traffic is down in brick-and-mortar stores and how people are browsing and buying online. So when someone actually walks through your doors, they are more likely to buy.

You can’t turn all lookers into buyers, but I’ll bet the behaviors of your untrained retail employees are actually turning buyers back into lookers.

How do they do that? By the way they relate to customers. People come in with the desire to buy something. It feels good to buy something. Whether that is a $2,000 pair of premium eyewear or $20 plano sunglasses for spring break, exchanging money for product feeds a primal need.

When an unthinking employee either ignores the customer, tries to control the customer, or pushes a customer’s buttons due to their own need to feel in control, he pours water on that customer’s intent to buy.

As a result, those shoppers, who wanted to be buyers, walk out empty-handed ... to start looking again.

Years ago, I wanted to get the new Cadillac El Dorado. I’d seen one in an ad and thought it was the coolest coupe ever. I walked into the Cadillac dealer and asked, “Can I see the new El Dorado?” When he showed me the dark polo green one, I knew it was for me.

“What makes this one so special?” I asked. “It has a Northstar engine,” he answered. I assumed it could run. I was taken aback. His curt response did nothing to engage me and resulted in me feeling stupid. I left for one of his competitors, one who understood what a big deal this was for me.

Impossible to turn customers away in your store, you say? Here are eight unfortunate employee behaviors that can transform buyers into browsers:

1 An employee — standing either on the sales floor, or worse, standing near the entrance — with his hands locked behind their back, like he’d just been arrested. Nothing turns off shoppers more than seeing a stance that yells, “I’m bored.” Keep your hands at your sides and engage.

2 An employee’s need to be right is a bigger turnoff than bad breath. Product knowledge is one thing, but the need to be right breeds condescension. Don’t rain on a customer’s excitement.

3 An employee’s messy appearance: A wrinkled shirt and rushed-out-the-door look shows disregard for the shopping environment. Customers buy from people who look professional. Have some self-respect.

4 Being passionate about just one brand makes the customer feel he would be stupid to buy something else, even if it is something he came in to buy. Well-rounded employees who know many brands and their stories sell more.

5 A clerk who is social media-obsessed feels customers are a distraction. Put. Down. The. Phone.

6 An employee who is quickly trying to qualify every shopper as either a tire-kicker or hot to trot puts pressure on every customer he comes in contact with. People can sense it if they aren’t deemed worthy of the employee’s help, so they avoid engaging any employee.

7 A salesperson who is apathetic about what she is selling is unable to share someone else’s excitement about buying. Empathy builds sales. Hire people who love glasses.

8 Employees who vomit fact after fact. Author David Mamet famously said, “The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.”

It’s not like your crew are trying to turn people off. I’m sure it is just the opposite. But without training to see things from a customer’s perspective, they can sabotage your best sales efforts.

Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, is a nationally recognized business and sales coach who offers on-demand retail sales training at To learn more about his work, visit