Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

4 minutes reading time (824 words)

Conversations with customers

conversations with customersI believe the selling process comes down to having conversations with customers, to help guide them toward a healthier lifestyle. 


I believe the selling process comes down to having conversations with customers, to help guide them toward a healthier lifestyle.

I also believe the biggest challenge for managers and owners of specialty retail stores is training staff on how to have conversations with customers to satisfy the customer’s natural lifestyle needs.  This varies from customer to customer. If I wrote a book on health, it would be called Seven Billion Lifestyles.

When hiring new staff, before education or product knowledge, the ability to like people and have conversations is important.  Conversations are the magic of successful selling/service in a health store.  A person with a keen interest in natural health will easily be taught the key messages to serve and sell products in the store.  However, no amount of product knowledge will teach a person to care about helping another person on their journey of wellbeing.

The health food store staff play an important role in communities across Canada.  Why? Because their conversations change people’s lives. Across Canada, thousands of women and a guy or two act as “lifestyle guides” helping customers sort through the mass of confusion about what diet, antioxidant, probiotic, or gluten-free fermented nut bar is best.

Products come and go, however, you want customers coming back.  The conversations do not need to ‘sell,’ ‘up sell,’ or ‘arm twist.’  They need to make the customers feel like coming back.

The two key ingredients in your conversation handbook are probing questions and listening.

Probing questions

I suggest you have a staff meeting to just come up with probing questions. Make it fun, yet a learning experience, especially for new staff who may require some help to open the customer up to a conversation.  Here are a few probing questions:

  • So what brings you in the store today? This is the number one opening retail question based on research.
  • Have you shopped in a natural food store before? Helps understand their level of engagement with products you sell.
  • The customer may ask if you sell detox cleanses.  Yes we do, have you done a cleanse before? This helps identify the level of experience with a cleanse. If they answer no, ask another probing question.  So, why are you doing a cleanse?  They might say my friend told me it would be a good idea.  And what results are you looking for? This leads to choosing proper product. Please let me know how it works! This shows the customer you actually care.  Here is some information on the ABC Cleanse. I suggest you read it before using. I believe this creates the mind-body connection which will make the product work better.  Say ‘thank you’ as often as possible, and input the customer’s name in the database to ensure you stay in touch.

Some other questions you should ask: 

  • How long have you been a vegan, homeopath, shaman, etc.?
  • Do you take any other supplements other than vitamin C?
  • Did you see we have an entire freezer dedicated to gluten-free products?
  • Tell me more about your raw food diet, homeopathic medicine, eating grass-fed meats.  Use “Tell me more” as a way to get the customer sharing information that could help another customer.
  • So, you are an an athlete.  What do you eat and drink to prepare for an event?
  • Do you use xeno estrogen-free body care to complement your detox program?

Take the time to sit with all staff to come up with questions, especially if you find staff have difficulty engaging customers in conversations. (I am hearing young staff today need support and guidance to feel comfortable having conversations with customers.)  The more the customer talks, the more they trust you.

Listening is the key to building trust throughout the conversation. Listening heals and is one of the reasons health food stores play an important role in healthcare, as the staff listens and do care what the customers are saying. Listening attentively to a person while they talk helps their immune system, creates happy hormones, happy neurons and ignites a variety of healing properties.

Can you name another retail business in your community that has people who listen and help guide customers on a journey to wellbeing?

 Probing question to you

Do you provide staff with a list of probing questions so they feel comfortable starting a conversation? Some personalities find getting others to talk easy.  For those who find it a bit awkward, create a list of questions to have at your disposal until you have the experience to do it naturally.

A final note: in today’s ‘no time’ world, I understand customers do not want to carry on long conversations. This is not about long conversations, it is about uncovering the customer’s needs in the most direct way possible, so you do not end up wasting the customer’s time.

Happy sales! 


CNHR News Podcast

cnhr radio hour

News, Views and Happenings in the world of Canadian Natural Health.

Check out this month's podcast here

Get into the hands of 10,000+ retailers

Reach 10,000+ natural health store professionals via CNHR Magazine.  CNHR is delivered by Canada Post six times per year to virtually every health food store across Canada.  Retailers are your true sales force.  So, get your product into more stores and get them selling for you.  

Remember, your first sale is to the retailers.  CNHR can get your message in front of them. Connect with the retailers who sell and recommend your product.

Put CNHR’s many resources to work for you:  Display ads, Product Profiles, Trade Talk news in CNHR Magazine along with Facebook, CNHR web page, podcasts, inserts, videos posted to our website, sending product samples to stores…we have the access to Canada’s natural health retailers.  Put our many resources to work for your company and products today.

 Katherine Stevens:   647/975-3370         Celange Potocki   905/869-4870

Community Board

Watch here for Job Postings, Wanted Ads, For Hire, etc. To add, contact Donna

Check out the Community Board