Global recession, change in customer profile and unified tenant mix have forced retailers to think of something different. The traditional differentiation factors in retail industry don’t work anymore. The new mantra for success is to connect with the target audience through ‘silent communication’. Non-verbal communication not only influences the customer’s psyche but also leaves an indelible impression on the purchasing behaviour of the target audience.
Non-verbal communication is defined as communicating without words. On the other hand, non-verbal behaviour is a major dimension of human communication. It includes all aspects of communication other than words. It is said that a human being communicates 35 percent through verbal communication and 65 percent through non-verbal communication.
Some sources suggest that non-verbal communication is of considerable importance in the personal selling domain. Hence, developing non-verbal communication is very essential. This would help people to interact effectively in social and business settings. Especially people in service sectors need to develop this skill to serve their customers and to satisfy them. Retail industries face tough competition worldwide and it is becoming hard to retain the customer base. Hence, good non-verbal communication would help salespersons to improve their service quality and to create a good rapport among them. The implicit assumption in the quest for customer satisfaction and service quality is that there is a link between positive evaluation and re-purchase behaviour.
Since young people between the age group of 15 and 35 shop more, the salespersons need to understand the expectations of this group more and concentrate to attract customers from the other age group as well. Because the buying decision varies according to the approach and attitude of the salesperson, they have to be more friendly, persuasive and convincing towards their customers. Proper training should be imparted to the salespersons to serve their customers with patience and care. Since customers prefer friendly, pleasing attitude, smile, greeting and eye contact to be the most important NVC, the training programmes should concentrate on these areas. Moreover, women, men, married people, unmarried people, students, professionals, business people and others all have their own expectations from the salespersons in a retail-clothing sector.
It encompasses a number of aspects of body language including facial expressions, eye contact, posture, gesture and inter-personal distance. Non-verbal communication is in effect a series of cues that are encoded by the sender, either consciously or unconsciously, and subsequently decoded by the receiver. It gives immense scope to the retailer to have positive interaction and experience, which may have positive implications from the business perspective. The ‘five’ important factors to keep in mind as far as the NVC is concerned from a buyer-seller point of view are:
Building trust and winning customers
Walking into a retail environment can be an overwhelming experience for customers. By creating the perfect buying environment and paying attention to the customer’s non-verbal cues, you can improve the shopping experience for your customers and close more sales.
Creating a comfort zone for customers
When a customer steps into a retail store, their senses are assaulted by new stimulants. They’ll hear music, intercoms, and conversations, see product displays, signs, and storefronts, smell the scent of the store, and feel the sensations of the products and of the people moving around them. Creating a decompression zone near the entrance of the store can help to alleviate this overload. Your store’s entrance should be a quiet place that allows customers to adjust to their new surroundings without being assaulted by too many sights, sounds, or people. This goes for sales associates, too. Do not bombard the customer with questions the moment they step foot in the door.
Delighting the customers
After the customer has moved from the decompression zone onto the sales floor, do not smother the client with questions or force your help upon them. Begin by welcoming the client into the store and showing your appreciation for their patronage. Do NOT ask if you can help them with anything. This question will almost certainly lead to the response, “No thanks, I’m just looking,” effectively closing the conversation. Instead, invite the customer to tell you a little bit about what they are looking for. A great way to do this is to ask, “Are you considering getting a (fill in your product here).”
Opening a dialogue with the customers
Once you’ve opened a dialogue with the customer, get their permission to ask a few questions. Most people are polite by nature and they will oblige your request. Once you’ve gotten permission to ask questions, you can discover the customer’s needs and begin the sales conversation.
Looking for non-verbal cues
As you speak with the customer and guide them through the sales process, evaluate their non-verbal cues to assess whether your assistance is appreciated. If the customer is fidgeting, shifting their eyes, or touching their face excessively, you should offer to give them a few moments to browse the store’s selection. Similarly, if the customer insists that they are just looking, give them their space, but watch for non-verbal cues that indicate the customer is in need of assistance. If the customer drops their shoulders in resignation or sighs, that’s a clear signal that they will now welcome your help.
Non-verbal communication is very important in sales. It can tip salespeople off if the prospect is impatient and sceptical or enthusiastic and interested in the sales presentation. The beauty of non-verbal communication in selling is that the prospect may be revealing information without being aware of it. Service employees’ non-verbal behaviour remains virtually unexplored despite its importance with respect to the outcome of service encounters. This scarcity of research attention is probably due to researchers’ earlier focus on macro issues, such as the antecedents of services quality, the relationship between service quality and business profitability, and service recovery efforts.Recognition and analysis of non-verbal communication in sales transactions is relatively new. Pleasing non-verbal cues producing positive effect may encourage customers to associate positive characteristics with service providers, while unpleasant non-verbal cues producing a negative effect are likely to cause customers to view service providers in a negative manner.
About the author: Ashish Mohanty is Asst. Professor, Business Communication & Soft Skill at Asian School of Business Management, Bhubaneswar.