Is your body language telling customers to go away?

Discussion
Nov 03, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Retail Doctor’s blog.

Looking for how non-verbal communication impacts sales? Your body language sends wordless cues long before you try to close a sale.

Studies show that 55 percent of our language to communicate with another person is non-verbal. Slumped shoulders, crossed arms and averted eyes can all send bad vibrations long before words arrive.

The more we understand about what our bodies are saying — oftentimes without our knowledge — the more we can see how often they get in our way. And that is especially true when it is your body and you are selling to a shopper in a store.

Here are nine ways to improve your non-verbal skills:

Lift the sternum (that’s the flat bone at the front center of your chest). This allows more oxygen into the lungs. A good image to maintain is that of a string pulling your posture up from your sternum. This allows your shoulders to become more relaxed when engaging strangers.

Sales associate

Lean forward (but just a bit). Yes, it’s subtle, but it keeps you from leaning backward, which shows a negative attitude.

Smile. A smile is your best tool to get someone to like you, and when you don’t smile, it’s the quickest way to turn someone off.

Use your hands. Don’t overdo this but when you gesture with your hands in a natural way, you are creating energy.

Meet their eyes. We like people who look at us. Too much eye contact can feel threatening, but too little comes off as insincere. Yes, this is a balancing act to practice.

Gesture. Point directly at a feature and look at it with the shopper. They will follow your gesture, and so will their eyes as you describe the benefit. Use an open hand or two fingers together; it’s perceived as more open and friendly.

Nod. Nodding is another sign of being engaged and agreeing with someone.

Open your arms. Hold your arms open and loose to show a welcoming attitude. Arms folded over your chest indicate you are unsympathetic, authoritative and, at some level, closing yourself off from the other person.

Stand side-by-side, not face-to-face. When you present merchandise standing by your shopper’s side, it allows you to do a sideways lean, which is friendly and non-threatening.

Is the importance of body language typically addressed in retail training and in-store practice? What tips would you have for associates around improving body language?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Judging from my experience in stores, body language is never addressed in training. I am glad to know that my natural instinct to talk with my hands is a good thing though!"
"All of Bob’s suggestions are totally legit. I’d raise his 55 percent by 20 points. Body language is all part of the energy your store broadcasts to potential shoppers. But here is the problem: Your body cannot lie."
"Very practical and effective advice in Bob’s article. Body language training is not sufficiently prevalent as it should be in retail. From my view, that 55 percent of communications is body language gets a huge boost when you add the tone of your voice."

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "Is your body language telling customers to go away?"


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Zel Bianco
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Judging from my experience in stores, body language is never addressed in training. I am glad to know that my natural instinct to talk with my hands is a good thing though!

Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Body language is important in any human interaction. With many Millennials preferring interaction with devices to face-to-face interaction, body language is an important skill to learn. I would couple teaching it with basic verbal skills — skills that demonstrate empathy and caring. Customers want an experience when they shop. Overall retail ambiance should be combined with interpersonal skills to create a more powerful selling venue.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

In my experience proper use of body language is not a meaningful part of sales training. Of the techniques mentioned the only one that gets much attention is smiling. One method of teaching body language that people either seem to like or really hate is role playing.

I have seen much, much more of this type of training being given to people in the corporate world than those that work on the sales floor.

Ian Percy
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

All of Bob’s suggestions are totally legit. I’d raise his 55 percent by 20 points. Body language is all part of the energy your store broadcasts to potential shoppers. But here is the problem:

Your body cannot lie.

If the positive intent, attitude, eagerness, caring and spirit aren’t within the sales person, none of this will work. You can train someone to part their lips in an upward movement and show their teeth, but you cannot train them to smile.

As has been mentioned in this space many times, there are uncountable energetic points of connection that send “attractors” or “repellers” to the person trying to become your customer. It starts before they’ve even left the house. We have not scratched the surface in understanding the physics of retail.

Kevin Graff
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Any worthwhile training in retail addresses body language (our does!). Bob’s does too!

Bob’s list is spot on … this isn’t magic, just common sense that isn’t that common, as they say.

This is one of the reasons that conference calls and webinars are so ineffective. There’s so much communication lost when you can’t see what the other person is doing or how they are reacting.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
6 years 6 months ago

Very practical and effective advice in Bob’s article. Body language training is not sufficiently prevalent as it should be in retail.

From my view, that 55 percent of communications is body language gets a huge boost when you add the tone of your voice. That tone is highly influenced by how you feel and carry yourself (manifests in body language).

There is also the notion of having congruence between the verbal component and body language. The latter always trumps the former. Although research varies on the specific number, with only around 7 percent of communications coming from actual words spoken, if you don’t address body language you’re missing the boat.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

This is an excellent article for retailers to heed. Take the advice and train the employees to relate to the customers. I bet it would be huge if they worked on commissions. Forget being order takers and cashiers. Work on customer service skills and be more productive.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

In almost 40 years in the retail biz, I have never seen this aspect of customer service addressed effectively in any retailer around the world. I think the basic tips given in the article are a great way to introduce the concept of appearance to shoppers. Regardless of format of store (grocery, apparel, etc.), the majority of staff do not welcome shoppers with positive physical language.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
6 years 6 months ago

This may be the checklist to follow, but when someone approaches me that seems to be friendly, pleasant and enjoy what they do it’s captivating, especially when it feels like they enjoy helping me.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Just as employees should learn to control their body language they should also be taught how to observe customers’ body language. It would make their lives easier.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
6 years 6 months ago

These body language tips are excellent ones and if heeded would make good employees even more effective. However, when the main issue retail managers report having with new employees is getting them to show up for work when scheduled and on time in appropriate attire and frame of mind, it seems that this more nuanced body language aspect of associate training is probably far down on the list for initial training.

For sales associates who have made it past the first nine months or year, though, making this type of added training available seems like an excellent way to help them improve on their success and to retain their services.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

One long forgotten purpose of morning meetings and management’s floor presence was and should be to lift the spirits of store associates. If the company wants something like this to happen, the company must get management to lead from the front with constant messages of guidance, encouragement, positive feedback, and example.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Judging from my experience in stores, body language is never addressed in training. I am glad to know that my natural instinct to talk with my hands is a good thing though!"
"All of Bob’s suggestions are totally legit. I’d raise his 55 percent by 20 points. Body language is all part of the energy your store broadcasts to potential shoppers. But here is the problem: Your body cannot lie."
"Very practical and effective advice in Bob’s article. Body language training is not sufficiently prevalent as it should be in retail. From my view, that 55 percent of communications is body language gets a huge boost when you add the tone of your voice."

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