No Such Thing As A Timewaster


By Paul Laville. T21UK

Here’s a true story.

When I was an account manager for an audio brand, I was visiting a hi-fi store, sitting down with the manager at the cash desk, talking through our new range. A part-time lad was also with us, looking over the manager’s shoulder.

There was no one else in the store. It was a quiet day and it was raining.

Then suddenly, somebody walked in off the street.

I stopped talking, thinking that either the part-time lad or the manager would want to go speak to this potential new customer. They didn’t. Instead they told me to carry on. The guy browsing didn’t venture far into the store. He looked like he didn’t really know what he was looking at. And he was wet through.

Eventually the store manager, without moving from his seat, barked out, “Can we help you there, sir?” Whereupon this guy who’d had the temerity to just walk in out of the rain and start looking at hi-fi stuff paused, then shook his head, mumbled something and left.

“Bloody timewasters,” the manager swore.

Keep that in mind.

One of the most successful elements of our sales training academies is when we task trainees to look at ‘the customer journey’. We ask them to analyse every step somebody makes before, during and after a purchase.

And every single time, without fail, our trainees conclude that getting customers in through the door is hard and expensive work.


Just consider it for a moment:

How do Mr & Mrs Customer decide what they need? How many hours do they spend looking through magazines and websites, poring over comparisons, reviews, manufacturer’s blurb and recommendation? And once they’ve decided what they want, how much more time do they spend trying to figure out where to buy?

You need to be on Mr & Mrs Customer’s shortlist of places to buy. So you advertise – online with powerful SEO, in the papers and magazines, maybe on TV or radio; you spread your gospel through social media, fighting for hits and views, shares and likes. Shouting through the noise. And you’re not just marketing your product range, you’re marketing your business. You’re not so much telling potential customers what they can buy from you, you’re showing them why they should buy from you.

So you’re shouting about your great customer service, your expertise and the value of your advice.

Maybe you have demo rooms or the facility to ‘try before you buy’. At every one of these customer touchpoints your highly-skilled marketing managers are mining every USP you have, using every tool within their reach to pull that customer ever closer to your door. And that takes time, effort, expertise and money. Which is great – but then, every other retailer is doing the same. Trying to convince customers to make the journey to your store in a fiercely competitive marketplace is a massive undertaking.

Back to this hi-fi store then, where, after all that hard work and expense, the store manager had already made up his mind that the soaking wet guy in his shop was a timewaster.


One of the key lessons from our customer journey task is this:

There is no such thing as a timewaster.

So what if somebody just wanders into your shop to hide from the rain or check on the football results on your TV display? Or wants to spend fifteen minutes browsing camera lenses whilst the rest of the family shops for shoes next door? And so what if they look like they don’t have a clue what they’re looking at? You can help them, right? Even if they really don’t want to buy right there and then, you can be sure that whatever you say to them, however you treat them, will define an experience that will influence their decision to buy from you (or not!) when they are ready.


That ‘timewaster’ will remember how they walked in from the rain and got talking to this great sales person who treated them well, answered a whole bunch of questions and invited them to pop back at any time. And even if they don’t ever want to buy from you, maybe a couple of weeks later they’ll be talking to a friend of theirs who does, so they’ll recommend you – or not.

It’s up to you.

We generally tell our trainees that ‘assumptions in sales are bad’, and it’s true, but if there’s one assumption you can allow yourself, it’s this – everyone who walks into your store must at least have a passing interest in what you’re selling. After all it’s unlikely that a strict vegetarian would walk into a butcher’s shop, even just to get out of the rain. I personally would much prefer to sit out the rain in an electrical store than a shoe shop, looking at what’s new, scoping out the offers and deals and maybe just talking to someone for a bit of advice that’ll influence a future purchase.

If it costs time and money, expertise, dedication and persistence to entice customers into your store, how great is it when people just walk in of their own accord, or the rain forces them in, for free?

What a gift!


This article first appeared in the October 2015 issue of ERT. Reproduced here by kind permission.




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