Getting beyond “I’m just browsing”

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Getting beyond “I’m just browsing”

What do you think when you hear the phrase "Is there something I can help you find?". I would bet your brain responded silently with "No thanks, I'm just browsing". How about "What brings you in today?" Right. "I'm just browsing." Ok, but what about "Is there something specific you're looking for?". Yup. Right back to "I'm just browsing".

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In the world of retail sales, "I'm just browsing" is the most common sentence used by customers. And we're all programmed with that response, even when we actually DO need help finding something.

The author of Thinking Fast and Slow might have uncovered the exact reason why this little phrase is always on the tip of our tongues. In his 2011 book, Daniel Kahneman describes the two systems that live simultaneously in each of our brains. He coined them *System 1* and *System 2*. System 1 "operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort" while System 2 "allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it".

For example, System 1 can automatically:

  • Detect sadness in a voice
  • Calculate 2+2
  • Finish the sentence "Peanut butter and ...."
  • Brush your teeth in a certain sequence

However, when you are asked to multiply 22 x 14, System 1 can't help you. Nor can it help when you are asked where you'd like your career to be in 5 years. Both of these questions require deeper thought and focus, which is where System 2 comes in.

How does this relate to browsers of the retail world? Well, all of the traditional opening questions that get asked in retail sales can be answered by System 1. And these System 1 answers provide no insight as to how we can help guide our clients to the right products. What do we do about that? We need to ask questions that generate System 2 answers. This will give the client in front of us reason to slow down and provide an answer other than "I'm just browsing.".

What do System 2 questions look like?

  • In furniture retail, it might be "What room are we working on today?"
  • In jewelry retail, it might be "Who are we buying a present for today?"
  • In automotive retail, it might be "What road trips are you planning this year?"

In the first example, the client will likely stop, look confused and then say "oh, I'm not working on a room, I just need a chair." Bingo. You've just minimized 20 minutes of effort trying to get that information into a 20 second interaction.

In a B2B setting, the same scenario presents itself inviting you to generate System 2 thinking. "What would success look like if together we were able to (insert the blank)." Or "Many of my clients are seeing this trend in their business, how does that compare to what you're seeing?".

If you're struggling to move beyond the hand in your face and an "I'm just browsing", ask better questions, System 2 questions to be precise.

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