10 Ways To Get Your Retail Employees To Listen (and Sell More)
Honing your listening skills can significantly affect the success of your store.
As a trained conductor, I’ve learned the importance of attentive listening, focusing on each individual part and questioning whether what I hear aligns with what’s written on the page before me. If there was any discrepancy, we were taught to work on perfecting it before moving on to the next section. This approach emphasizes the value of active listening in achieving desired outcomes.
My mom understood that listening was a skill her 8th-grade science students needed to develop. She created an innovative program where she recorded herself giving instructions on making an origami paper crane. She would hand out a piece of paper three times a week and have her students listen and fold the paper. She played the 5-minute tape just once in each session. At the end of the tape, she would collect the unfinished cranes and throw them away. Two days later, she would hand out a new paper, start the tape again and repeat the exercise.
What she found was amazing...
When students could complete the assignment and end up with the paper crane, their grades went up in all subjects. All subjects, not just hers.
We must rethink how we train because none of it works if the learner can’t focus enough to listen. And that’s because they don’t let in enough information to process and achieve the desired result.
I often hear Millennials say, “Wait, what?” It’s like they are half-listening and then realize they missed something. An effective employee listening strategy is more critical now than ever.
How to get your employees to listen
Here are some practical steps to ensure your retail team listens and retains the information you provide.
1. Be clear and concise in your instructions. Make sure your instructions are easy to understand and leave no room for ambiguity. Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms that might confuse your employees. What does success look like—exactly?
2. Ask employees to reiterate their tasks. Once you have given an instruction, ask the employee to outline the steps they’ll need to take and the goal of what they need to complete. This will help confirm that they have understood your directions and allow them to ask questions if needed.
3. Encourage active listening. If an employee asks you to repeat yourself, wait. Your silence will encourage them to think back and recall what you said instead of you repeating the instruction. This helps them develop active listening skills and retain information better. It also pays off when they work with customers on your sales floor.
4. Maintain a helpful attitude. While implementing these listening strategies, it’s crucial to maintain a supportive and patient demeanor. People take time to process new information. Avoid showing frustration or impatience, which may lead to resentment and further communication breakdowns.
5. Provide additional information when needed. If an associate genuinely does not understand something, be open to providing more context or clarification. Check yourself and ask them, “Can you tell me what success looks like on this project?” When they can tell you the goal, again have them walk you through the steps they have to take. Perhaps there is training you expect them to know or a program they need to use that they have never been instructed on. This check-in shows that you are committed to helping them succeed in their role.
6. Listen to your employees. Sometimes, employees may not listen because they feel unheard. One of the biggest goals of my online retail sales training program is to make the associates and managers more comfortable talking with strangers and being confident as they do. Make a conscious effort to listen actively and attentively to their concerns and ideas. This creates a work environment where employees are likelier to listen to you.
7. Ask for clarification instead of repetition. If you don’t fully understand something an employee has said to you, ask them to clarify a specific point rather than repeat the entire statement. Be specific. This demonstrates your commitment to understanding their perspective and encourages them to communicate more effectively.
8. Create a culture of accountability. Establish an environment where employees are accountable for their actions and communication. This can include setting expectations for entering information into systems or remembering to ask customers for loyalty cards.
9. Engage employees in active listening exercises. Regularly practicing listening techniques, like summarizing or paraphrasing what a customer has said before responding, can help associates become better listeners.
10. Remove barriers between customers and employees. You can create a more seamless and efficient customer experience by improving communication among your team members. From using an app like Yoobic or Axonify to a Red Book, communication should be easy and monitored regularly. This benefits your employees and leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It’s up to you not to make your retail shoppers repeat themselves because you have lazy listeners.
Only when we listen clearly to what our customers are saying and do not ask them to repeat themselves will the frustration level of your customers go down. And when their frustration levels decrease, they can be open to experiencing and enjoying great retail customer service.
As managers and owners, only when you pause before repeating what you just said will you raise the listening standards of your associates.
And when you get them to focus and listen, you’re ready to train them how to sell.
Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” is a 30-plus-year retail expert with a proven track record to help brands lift sales, turn their retail staff into real salespeople, and get more out of their store traffic with innovative retail marketing tactics. Contact him at 562-260-2266, or visit his website.
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