Explore the psychology of sales with 10 helpful and effective retail sales techniques that can turn more of your shoppers into buyers.
All humans naturally have some basic sales skills in them—whether it’s your chosen career or not. If you’ve ever enticed your picky-eating children to sample some veggies, or convinced a friend to try a new activity, you’ve “sold” something.
The science of sales always boils down to basic psychology. While some people are naturally more perceptive to people’s wants and needs, it’s a skill that can also be coached.
We’ve combined the expertise of both psychologists and seasoned sales people to compile the following list of tips and tricks. After exploring these techniques, you and your sales team are sure to have a box chock full of new tools!
10 Retail Sales Techniques
No matter if your business just opened or if you’re a retail veteran, these effective sales techniques are meant for everyone!
1. Utilize the Scarcity Principle
For those unfamiliar, the scarcity principle is relevant to both economics and social psychology. It says that humans place a higher value on things there are less of and a lower value on things in abundance. Now, take that idea, and apply it to a situation where you’re interacting with a customer.
If you’re selling an Apple watch, for example, the default may be to share the x,y,z benefits of the watch to the buyer. However, the scarcity principle would encourage you to sell the watch by telling the customer about the things that aren’t possible without the product: you won’t exercise as effectively, will miss notifications, so on and so on. This practice is also referred to as creating FOMO (fear of missing out).
Of course, you don’t want to oversell the “scarcity”. You should certainly mention the pros. But don’t shy away from the cons, they might just drive the deal.
2. Practice Active Listening
One of the first things relationship therapists teach you (and your partner) is how to actively listen. As salespeople (and people-people) it’s our reflex to start thinking about what we’re going to say next when we’re listening to someone else speak. You can pleasantly surprise your customers by breaking that cycle and instead actively listening to them. To demonstrate what we mean, here’s a hypothetical exchange:
Salesperson: Hi, welcome to Cycle City, can I help you find anything today?
Customer: Hello. I’m looking for a new bike. I’ve had my bike for over eight years, it’s a Pinarello and handles trails and travels well. I really need it to work for east and west coast terrains.
Salesperson: Okay, so what I’m hearing is you need a bike fit for someone with experience, and possibly exchangeable parts?
In this example, you’re taking the extra time to show the customer you were listening, and you want to understand and fit their needs. If you had instead responded with, “I think bike x is perfect for you….” you’re not laying a foundation of trust. Active listening is an easy way instead to form a bond that is far more likely to foster a positive sales experience.
3. Lay the Foundation for Referrals
As a retail worker, it’s important to think of your role as selling products as well as selling yourself. If you can treat customers like a friend (complimenting them, asking questions about them and their interests) you start to build a relationship. If you as a salesperson become more memorable, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll generate positive word of mouth resulting in your own kind of downline.
4. Employ Touch When Possible & Appropriate
A lot of people shy away from touching others because they think it’s too personal or crossing boundaries. We get it. But business-friendly touches such as a handshake can often be welcome and appropriate in a retail sales environment.
In a recent experiment called The Communication of Emotion Via Touch, participants were asked to convey 12 different emotions by merely touching a blindfolded participant on the forearm. The resulting rate of accuracy for sales-relevant emotions such as gratitude and sympathy ranged from 43-83% (without even a word being spoken!)
Touch is a very powerful nonverbal sales tool that, similar to active listening, can really make a customer feel valued often resulting in closing a sale.
5. Break Down Pricing Structures
In some retail environments, you see the “same” product offered at different price tiers. As a salesperson, the goal is to upsell. A helpful way to do this is by breaking down a customer’s existing product perceptions.
Similar to the scarcity principle, customers are going to expect you to sing the praises of the expensive options. Instead, focus on the downfalls of the cheaper options. Explain the product in a way that describes how they’re different and what they’re losing by going for the other options.
6. Introduce a Little Mystery
People love to speculate. When it comes to retail, people also love to guess what’s coming next. Look at any of the buzz that comes around a Disney World or Apple product release expo!
Utilizing a little mystery is a great way to drive sales, if it’s done tactfully. A great example is California based clothing retailer Show Me Your MuMu. Every season as they clear out inventory they put a surprise mystery box option along with their sale items. For $100 you select your size and in return you’ll receive three mystery items from their sample sale. Customers rush in droves for the thrill of the surprise!
7. Notice Verbal Cues and Body Language
There are some language and body cues that are important for all retail salespeople to be familiar with. Learning the signs can make or break a sales opportunity. For example, if a customer is looking at a particular product for a long time, that’s their mark. Don’t try to upsell or change their direction, it will likely come off as pushy. Instead, dive in and encourage them if they waver. More likely than not they want someone to give them “permission” to go for it.
Secondly, a shopper with wandering eyes. Are they trying to get your attention to ask for something, or desperately trying to be left alone? Body language experts say that, when you finally make contact, customers who hold your glance or raise their eyebrows are the ones you should pay attention to.
Finally, look for signs of body language shift after responding to a customer’s question. If a customer visibly relaxes, that tends to mean they’re satisfied with what you said and ready to buy. If they fidget and turn away, they may not be interested, and pushing them too hard might result in the opposite desired outcome.
8. Inspire Reciprocity
Another popular psychological principle in sales is reciprocity. Have you ever sat and worked in a coffee shop, used their wifi and air conditioning, and felt obligated to at least buy a drink or muffin? That is reciprocity at work.
This theory states that if you give something they value, they will feel obligated or inspired to return the gesture. This can be applied in the world of retail by offering small freebies, like water bottles, snacks, maybe even champaign! As a customer wanders your store, enjoying your gift, they’ll feel a bit guilty leaving empty-handed. Just a little bit of guilt can be a good thing, and if reciprocity is done right, the customer will leave with their purchase feeling satisfied now that they’re squared away.
9. Start With a Hook
Sales techniques don’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. Sometimes, simple changes can make a big difference. If your retail store has salespeople who welcome customers, studies have shown that asking “Hi, have you been here before?” can increase sales by 16%!
10. Change Your Displays to Counteract Habituation
Our final retail sales technique counteracts the principle of habituation. Habituation is what happens to consumers who are inundated with too many sales pitches, ads, emails, and content. The brain creates shortcuts for what they consider worth your attention, and what it deems unworthy is shut out. Habituation in a retail environment can result when a customer sees too much of one thing consistently.
A great way to shake this is by switching up your retail displays regularly.
If you liked these tips and want more of them, tell us! We’d love to hear from you. If you liked this piece enough to share it, let us know! Tag us @SimpleTexting on Twitter, we’re always looking to promote our fellow retail sales warriors work on our platform!
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