This week I stopped in a clothing store to return something. An hour later, I walked out with a bag full of clothes I had absolutely no intention of buying when I set foot in the store. It was all the fault of an uber sales person whose technique was so subtle and enveloping that I hardly minded being “had” even though I knew exactly what she was doing. Here’s how she did it.

  1. She learned my name. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? From the very beginning, she put herself on the level of a girlfriend by asking my name and sharing hers. From that point on, she repeated it—often. “Oh, Crystal, did you see this? It’s on sale.” From the dressing room, I could even hear her repeating my name to her colleague. “Wouldn’t this color look great with Crystal’s hair?”
  2. She found something good about me and worked it. “You have a great waist,” she said. “You should really play that up.” How rare is that? In a world that’s increasingly impersonal, here was someone focusing on my good stuff. For a middle-aged lady who is readily dismissed in lots of places, someone who focuses on my good stuff is big stuff.
  3. She solved my problems. When I shared my figure problems, she began searching for solutions with accessories and layers. “Oh, that look’s great!” she affirmed. “See how it draws your eye upward.”
  4. She learned my preferences. Once I was in the dressing room, I was like putty in her hands. She became my personal shopper, bringing me item after item, usually under the guise that it was on sale, although she cleverly slipped in some full-priced merchandise to the mix. Mainly, it was her way of finding out what I liked and didn’t like. “Do you wear pink? Because this is on the clearance rack. How do you feel about prints? Do you wear them?”
  5. She respected my opinions. One of her suggestive selling items was a fun leopard print dress that fit perfectly. (I wasn’t even looking for a dress, but all things seemed possible with her!) I loved the dress, but I had one major objection. It was too short. As soon as she heard that, she wisked it away as if it were anathema–but not without bringing me a longer alternative. Unfortunately, it had an unflattering neckline for me and I told her so immediately. To learn how she handled that, see item #6.
  6. She didn’t take rejection personally. When I rebuffed an item, she quickly agreed with me and moved on, undaunted from the task. “You know your own body,” she said. “If you aren’t comfortable in it, it’ll just hang there in your closet, right?” Now she was deep in my psyche–someone who understood the travails of a woman with a full closet and nothing to wear.
  7. She treated me like a rock star. When I stepped out of the dressing room, she would sprint across the store to see how each garment looked. “Oh, Linda,” she would say to her colleague, “You must come and see this! Doesn’t she look great in it?” Together, they formed a conspiracy, lathering on compliments. By now, they were my friends, so it was all very genuine, right?
  8. She assumed only one thing about me—that I could and would buy. Remember why I came into the store? To return something. This fact could not be overlooked because I announced it from the beginning. She could easily have dismissed me as a waste of her time. Instead, she embraced a challenge. How I admire that!

Here’s the big takeaway for anyone who doubts the vibrancy of bricks and mortar stores. Personal connections matter. I love shopping online, but it’s very impersonal. When I shop in a bricks and mortar store, I want to leave with more than a piece of merchandise I could have easily bought online. Only one day earlier, I shopped the same chain in another city and purchased just one item. The sales staff was friendly, but never made a real connection with me. That experience was so non-descript that it didn’t set itself apart from an online shopping experience. So I left with a purchase that I regretted almost immediately. The next day, I met Christina. How masterfully she sold me! While other people are out there thinking about sales as a job, she made it all about having fun together and becoming my friend. I salute you, Christina, from the bottom of my checking account!

P.S. If you want the same treatment and you live in the Indianapolis area, you can stop by the Chico’s at Greenwood Park Mall.