When it comes to selling mattresses, your body language matters as much as your well-rehearsed sales pitch
Depending on which research you believe, somewhere between half and virtually all communication between two people is nonverbal. We’ll let the experts quibble about the particulars, but it’s clear that things like how you stand, the expression on your face and the gestures you make with your hands can say more to your customers about you and your store than the well-practiced words that come out of your mouth.
Smart retailers regularly address nonverbal communication during sales meetings, “discussing how clothing, hairstyling and other personal-appearance choices can affect interactions with the public. Posture matters. A person slouching their way through the store, with a sour or surly facial expression, doesn’t look approachable,” says Bob Phibbs, a customer-service expert, sales coach, author and motivational speaker known as “The Retail Doctor.”
In this month’s Tip Sheet, we’ll help you become more aware of the nonverbal cues—good and bad—you’re giving your customers.
The eyes have it
Make initial eye contact with every customer who enters the store and maintain good eye contact throughout the sales process. Don’t let your eyes flit back and forth to other shoppers, the floor or people walking by outside. But remember that eye contact isn’t staring, which can be off-putting and even a little creepy.
Stand up straight, with your weight slightly forward on one foot and your shoulders back. Don’t cross your arms and or put your hands in your pockets. “These poses encourage you to slouch and send a message that you do not want to talk to the customer,” says the team at Retail Training Services, a sales and training firm led by David Goodwin. If you need to hold sales materials, keep them in one hand so you don’t close yourself off behind a folder or tablet. Most importantly, never interact with customers while standing behind the sales counter—until, of course, you’re writing up that final sale.
You know it’s important to smile, but do you know the best way to smile? “Don’t flash a grin the second you spot your customer. It’s too pat,” writes author and communications expert Leil Lowndes in a blog for Specialty Retail Report. “Make the customer feel your smile is especially for her by using a split-
second delay. Look at your customer’s face for a moment, then—as if you’re recognizing an old friend—let a big, warm smile flood over your face and into your eyes. That smile will convince your customers that it’s genuine—and just for them.”
Don’t crowd a customer—or stand so far away she feels like she has to shout. A good rule of thumb is to stand 3 to 4 feet away from a customer, according to Retail Training Services.
Fidgeting—whether tapping your foot, smoothing your hair, rubbing your eyes or adjusting your glasses—makes you look nervous, or even worse, untrustworthy, Lowndes writes. Co-workers can often point out tics that you don’t even know you have so you can quell them. O