It never fails. I stroll into the local hardware store, through the front door and past the island of registers just inside and am immediately met with at least one “hello” from whoever is working checkout at the time.

A few more steps in and “can I help you find something?” will come from at least one of their staff walking the floor. This will happen repeatedly as I make my way through, but I’m always struck that it feels genuine and doesn’t seem invasive like some other retail outlets where staff seem to follow you around ready to pounce with the latest in-store promo regardless of why you may have come in.

A recent poll Rural Lifestyle Dealer ran addressed the topic of greeting customers and, while there was a clear-cut winner, it actually raised more questions than answers for me. With roughly 3x the number of responses of the next highest vote getter, “Whoever is available” was the most frequent answer to “Who is responsible for greeting visitors to your dealership?”

Now, if that means each of these respondents have every last member of their staff trained to greet any potential customer walking in, then you’re in good shape and I don’t see a problem. But if it means “we encourage our team to say hello if they’re able,” then we’ve got a situation where if your whole team thinks it’s everyone’s responsibility then it’s likely not getting done because most will assume someone else will pick up their slack. It’s the old story of “If it’s everyone’s job, then it’s pretty much no one’s job.”

A bit shockingly, in that same poll, salespeople and owner/managers who should be the face of the dealership came ranked in the bottom two slots for greetings responsibilities.

If every person who walks through that door represents potential dollars in my pocket, whether I’m a salesperson earning commission or an owner/manager trying to improve my bottom line, you can bet your bottom dollar that regardless of how busy I am I’ll find time for a quick “good morning” or “I’ll be with you as soon as I’m wrapped up here.” It’s essential to create the feeling of a welcoming environment pretty much from that first step through the door.

I recently read a recap of a retail customer study that pointed to the first 10 seconds after a customer enters the store as a critical deciding factor as to whether they’ll continue shopping there or move onto the next option. Those potential customers wanted to be greeted almost immediately and if they were ignored, there was a high probability that they and their wallets would go elsewhere. Now, a rural equipment dealership isn’t exactly the same as the typical retail store and that window may be a bit more open, but the general principle still applies.

 Greeting current and potential customers as they arrive is too important to leave to chance. First impressions can be difficult to undo, so whether it’s someone at the parts counter or a receptionist if your dealership is large enough, I’d make certain that everyone walking through the door with decisions to be made about how to spend their hard-earned dollars gets some sort of welcome as they come in.