Everyone freaking hates Becky.  Or Billie, or Bennie, or whoever that condescending assistant is behind the counter. She tilts her head with a cocked eyebrow and judges you overtly with a lingering head-to-toe assessment.

“Yeaaaaah,” she drawls out. “I don’t think we have anything your style here”.

Ugh. Becky’s. If only they’d use their preconceptions for good instead of evil.


The shocks we receive from encountering staff like this don’t only come from the social prejudice just endured. They are compounded by a feeling of bewilderment. We’re dumbfounded by the way someone can so blatantly behave in the exact opposite manner to how they were trained, and how most of us were raised.

You know the drill. Just as your parents always told you, “Never judge a book by its cover”, every manager and trainer in every sales and service related company should be telling their staff, “You should never judge a customer by how they present themselves”. It’s a customer service standard that ensures no potential client is ever overlooked, and just plain good business practice.

It’s a concept so fundamentally important that most salespeople are too fearful to question. Yet, those that do can boost their sales and excel with the addition of one simple word…

You should never judge AGAINST a customer.


So we’ve established that you should always treat everyone with respect, and that every customer is an opportunity. To varying degrees though, some customers make themselves easier to serve than others by providing visual clues to their needs and cueing us as salespeople to increase their spend.

For this reason, fanboys and fangirls are my absolute favourite customers to serve – and the best example to start with. They are so openly proud to show their hobbies and affiliations, and excited to discover new products related to these interests that they are the easiest to entice and respond so enthusiastically to add-on sales techniques. A Marvel cap or a Dr Who T-shirt is an open invitation to strike up a conversation and show off all the associated comic or science fiction merchandise you have on hand.

Sports fans are the same, and can even be cheekily goaded into a purchase if you determine them to be susceptible to banter.  My favourite move is to see someone wearing Port Power garb strolling toward me. With a cheeky smile, I’ll hold up an Adelaide Crows calendar for instance and tell them I’ve got just what they need until they feign sickness and ask to see the equivalent Port Power calendar. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but at the very least it’ll brighten both of your days and you’ll be heeding Wayne Gretzky’s famous words: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.


Beyond such obvious examples, there are as many different ways to read a customer as there are customers themselves.

It’s not about getting it right 100% of the time though. It’s simply about influencing those sales statistics. Boosting the chance that we can connect with customers, arming ourselves with insights to better anticipate their wants and needs.

A great tip to look out for is what else the customer may be carrying. What else have they purchased and walked into the store holding?

A jaded jewellery store employee may dismiss a male walk-in as nothing more than another window shopper, but did you notice the plastic ‘Sportsgirl’ shopping bag he’s holding? This guy has come out on a serious mission to spend money on someone special, and if he’s still shopping he still has money to spend on her. His presence warrants extra attention calling on your most genuine customer service skills. By striking up a charismatic rapport his susceptibility to suggestive selling techniques is increased, and the best salesperson in the store becomes evident simply because one of you better identified the full potential of the sale.

All you have to do is pay attention. What are they wearing? What are they holding? What are they talking about on their mobile phone? Not for any prejudicial reasons, but for valuable cues. For invitations and opportunities to cater and converse.

It’s ok to judge people.  You should just never judge AGAINST them.