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Connecting Up Front

Thanks to technology, you may have found it easy to learn a bit about new customers before they’ve even walked through your doors.
    For example, you may have chatted with a bride on social media, responding to her questions, or you may have noticed some common themes among all that she’s “liked” and “hearted.” From this, you likely have formed some idea about this customer’s personality and taste, and she’s gotten an impression of you, too.
    However, when a bride walks into the store, that’s when the real connection begins. From that point, you’ve got about five minutes to validate her impression. If you fall short of her expectations, the sale could go south. Yet meet or exceed them in these crucial five minutes, and you’ll be on the path of selling success.
    Given that it only “takes five” to make or break that first moment, here are some ways to best utilize that time.

Seek to greet. If your customer is about to walk through the front door, be upfront, ready to greet her – don’t make her stand there and look around in question or wait when she comes inside. Even better, if you can see that the bride is walking up (regardless of whether it’s your customer or not), beat her to the door, go outside and open it with warmth and a smile. If she’s got her hands full of pictures, folders, a coat, a bag or a purse, offer to help her carry them inside. When she and any of her friends/family members step inside, ask if you can stow any purses in the dressing room so they don’t have to schlep them around the store.

Safeguard the decompression zone. When a bride comes into the store’s main entrance, she’s transitioning from her daily life and the real world into one that’s a bit of the unknown—or like a dream for some. Within that first few feet of the front door, she’ll be taking in what’s unfamiliar and new, so you want it to feel safe, comforting and supportive. Make sure it’s clean, keep it clutter-free, and consider playing soft or relaxing music, displaying a small water feature, or incorporating some light aromatherapy to help soothe the senses. Make sure chairs are easy to access and comfortable in case she’s early and must wait a few minutes. Also, have something handy she can do, such as look through a bridal magazine or photo album showcasing some of your favorite past brides.

Offer something to sip and snack on. Just as you would any guest in your home, be hospitable and tend to your customer’s needs. This could mean handing her a sparkling water, lemonade or mimosa. Or it could be inviting her to enjoy a mini snack bar up front, which includes something salty, something sweet and something gluten-free. Make sure signage to the restroom is clear in case she’s in need of immediate relief or simply wants to powder her nose.

Check your personal presentation. Working in a bridal salon may be a blast, but there’s nothing easy and breezy about it. Whether it’s your first customer of the day or last, commit to looking your best professional self. Keep a brush and makeup handy for necessary touch ups, break out the deodorant a couple of times of day, and address any disheveled clothing. Feeling tired? Regain stamina and focus with a quick, nutritious snack and a bit of hydration. All of these moves will help ensure the smile on your face remains enthusiastic and genuine.

Find out something new. You may already have some general background on the bride (e.g., wedding date, venue, hometown, etc.) but in those first few minutes, dig a bit deeper to get to know her and those who’ve come along for the shopping experience better. You don’t necessarily have to talk about her goals or the dress of her dreams just yet; in fact, discussing something more general (where her fiancé is from, how they met, where they’ll go on the honeymoon, where they went to college, etc.) can give you all kinds of insight into your customer. Use these more casual, light conversations to find common ground to connect on and establish trust.  

Read her energy. If you’ve been in touch with this bride via online or phone connections prior to her appointment, you may already have a sense of her personality – introverted, extroverted or some combination of the two. But regardless of what you know, keep in mind that her normal persona may change when thrust into this emotional and unique shopping situation. Take notice of her energy and how she’s feeling, paying careful attention to her verbal and nonverbal body language. Is she fidgeting? Is she cross-armed and cautious? Is she bubbling with chattiness? When you read her energy, you learn something more about where she’s at emotionally and mentally in this journey. And this can better position you to be the right kind of guide.

Mind your own communication cues. While you want to tune into your bride’s energy and ways, you also want to be aware that what you say and do can impact, even subtly, the first impression your customer will have of you. Are you speaking in a hurry? That could come across as “pressuring.” Are your eyes checking out what she’s wearing or are you holding back from a warm, friendly handshake, perhaps communicating judgment unintentionally? Are the words you’re choosing more about you and less about her? There are so many subtle verbal and nonverbal cues that can make an experience suddenly feel askew for the customer. Remember, your goal should always be to maintain awareness of your communication behaviors and send only the most positive, reassuring messages to each and every bride.

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