Are you a retailer (or retail sales associate) who’s struggling with how to approach shoppers? Worried that you lack the magic touch, or that you’ll come off as an annoying salesperson? Would you rather be awkwardly staring at your store’s point of sale software screen than actually talking to the customer in front of you?

2015_MAY_ALL_MARKETING - Retail Sales Tips: How to Read Customers and Sell to Them Like a Pro

You should keep reading because, after years of being one of the strongest sellers at my store, I can assure you: anyone can sell.

That’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of practice. But over the years, I’ve found that a customer will tell you verbally and/or physically how to sell to them. If you’re listening properly and looking for the right cues, you can always tell if a customer is interested in what you have to say, what approach to take with them, and what exactly they’re looking for.

Check out the tips below, put them into action, and you should find yourself successfully closing sales:

Practice Active Listening

Active listening isn’t just about standing in front a customer silently. There are a few important things you should be doing to engage in this practice:

  • The most important part of active listening is to not form a response while the customer is speaking. This is really hard to do, and is going to take a lot of practice. It’s very natural to latch on to one part of a comment and form a response to it, and then shut out the rest of the comment. To become a good listener, a sales person must resist doing this.
  • Active listening should engage your whole body. Things like nodding and having an open stanceshow the customer that you are listening to what they have to say.
  • Once it’s time for you to speak, give the customer a quick summary of what they said. This has a few purposes. First, it allows you to come up with a response post-comment without things being awkwardly silent. Second, showing the customer that you heard everything they had to say will often open them up to providing you with more information than they initially supplied.

Practicing active listening means that you are fully engaged with learning what the customer wants. This engagement makes a huge difference. Not only will you understand what the customer wants in a deeper way, but you also gain their trust easier.

Next: Pay Attention to Body Language

Along with active listening, you should be practicing ‘active looking.’ (Yes, I just made that term up.) People will betray a lot of what they’re thinking in the things that they do with their body.

A lot of body language experts will tell you some odd things to look for, like watching if someone scratches their nose, but I don’t think that level of depth is necessary. In fact, I think that if you’re watching for a customer to scratch their nose, you’re probably not practicing active listening.

However, there is still plenty of body language you should be paying attention to while you’re actively listening. Let me give you a short list of tells you can easily pick up on during a conversation with a customer.

1. Eye Contact

Where a person’s eyes are looking is one of the easiest ways to tell what they’re focusing on. If the customer is looking at you, or the products you’re working with, that’s a good sign. It means they’re engaged with you and are interested in what you have to say and sell.

If they’re looking around, at someone else, out the door… anywhere that’s not where you are – that’s not a great sign. Usually if this is the case you should say something like, “Let me know if you need anything else,” and let them do their own thing. No eye contact doesn’t mean you won’t be able to close the sale – but it could spell trouble if you don’t pay attention.

2. Hands/Arms

Another important thing to pay attention to is what people do with their hands and arms.

Typically, if someone’s arms are crossed, they are uncomfortable and probably not interested in what you have to say. You should tread gently: let this customer know you are there to help. If you’re talking with a customer who is clearly shy and uncomfortable with talking to you, I recommend acting in a more reserved manner and avoiding things like answering questions the customer has yet to ask. In addition, because this posture reflects a closed off mind, I mostly suggest avoiding suggestive selling. Suggestive selling does not work well on someone who is not interested.

Open arms and palms facing towards you, however, are an excellent sign. If your customer has taken this sort of posture in your conversation, you’re doing well. In fact, I would definitely suggest going for it with suggestive selling. (Of course, make sure you’re showing them items that are actually related to what they want, not just some pre-placed item that your manager wants to get rid of.)

3. Facial Expression—Particularly the Curve of Their Mouth

Lastly, you should be paying attention to the expressions you customer is making. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to pay close attention to your customer’s facial expressions. Even if a customer is pulling a straight face at you, most people’s mouths are fairly expressive in small ways.

Often, the corners of the mouth will be curving slightly up or slightly down. Down is not good for you – it indicates frustration or annoyance. Curving up, though, is an excellent sign. Additionally, you should pay attention to how tightly the lips are held. If they’re pressed tightly together, it can mean the same thing as crossed arms.

That’s the three major areas of body language you should be paying attention to while actively listening to your customer. Keep in mind that while the customer’s body can give you an indication about how they feel towards you and your product, it’s the listening that is going to yield you the important information about what they want.

Now that we’ve established good customer reading techniques, let’s talk about what to do with the information you pick up:

Respond With Similar Body Language

One of the easiest ways to set someone at ease is to “mirror” their body language. You don’t want to go overboard on this – that can seem creepy or just mean. But little things are really important.

Start with urgency. Is the customer in a hurry? Or do they want to take things slow and steady? Speak and act at the same pace as the customer. If she’s in a hurry, speaking quickly and speed walking across the store, then you should speak quickly and speed walk across the store as well. If she’s speaking slowly and moves slowly, your speed talking and walking will only come across as aggressive to her.

In addition, you can do subtle things like adopt a similar posture, or use similar hand gestures. With the hand gestures, be careful. You don’t want to come across as mocking your customer. Don’t make exact replicas of hand gestures, keep it general.

More tips?

Those are my tips and tricks to help anyone become a good sales person. It’s important to remember that truly good sales people work on creating trusting relationships with their clients before they sell them anything. If you are capable of creating a trusting relationship, you are capable of selling.These tips are intended to help you create that relationship.

Cara Wood Vend