ten foot rule

I have been involved with front facing retail businesses for a number of years. Last week I attended a sales manager’s meeting and we discussed some basic issues around the sales process and how customers were to be treated. The follow up by the Sales Director reminded me of something which was overdue and a crucial part of the sales process, namely the 10 foot rule.

In the follow up there were reminders about how customers should be treated and this was in one of the opening paragraphs

All dealer staff are responsible for ensuring customers are acknowledged and welcomed as they enter the showroom/used car display area. Any member of staff coming within 10 feet of a customer should acknowledge them and ask if they require any help’

I was reminded that this was a great way to treat customers and giving them the impression that they are welcome. It seems that this idea was generated by the founder of Walmart who first developed the notion that engaging with other human beings would actually be a good thing.


I am sure many other retail outlets have something similar, and training people to ‘smile as they answer the phone’ seems to indicate that it is not hard to do and becomes something obvious and normal in a sales environment.

My comment on this is why does it take a sales environment to promote this? Surely, we can put aside some natural reserve and shyness and apply this to our everyday lives. If we are thrust into the vicinity of other people why can’t we treat then as customers in the sense that a conversation with them may be a profitable and enriching experience. How many times have we sat on buses and trains and not spoken to our fellow passengers? The impact of mobile phones seems to indicate that we would rather tweet than talk, meet in virtual rather than real reality and generally be more self-contained. Less compassion would appear to be behind this trend.

Bit of a shame, Mental health is now becoming more talked about and again, research has shown that opening up and talking is beneficial to us all. Whilst the internet is extending our circle of contacts, we should not forget that meeting people is a sensory experience and much more multi-dimensional than a blog or a tweet. It also allows space and time to listen to what the other person has to say and get the tone and feeling behind the words, something you don’t get via the internet.

The 10-foot rule is a good reminder that face to face contact can be rewarding in more ways than one and not just about making that next sale but supplying a basic human need for friendship