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Increase Retail Sales with Laughter

retail sales trainingTrying to increase retail sales in a quiet retail store is impossible…

I can tell a great retail store just by listening. Can’t you?

One of the outcomes we find when conditions are right in a retail store is that people are:

  • Relaxed.
  • Open.
  • Confident.

And laughter ensues.


The sound of joy, acceptance and yes…

Making the sale.

Laughter as in an easy joke, an aside, or gentle kidding. I’ve seen the best salespeople deliver it in spades in a variety of sales situations.  Is it something that can be forced or trained?


Which is why I’ve avoided writing this post for awhile. I can hear the Analytical personality styles now, “So are we supposed to learn a bunch of jokes and use them on everyone?”


But I am saying, if you make a great hire, train them well, encourage them to not be a robot by saying the same thing to everyone, you’ll find laughter on your sales floor.

And laughter is one of the most powerful ways to surprise and delight custoemrs.

Nope, surprise and delight isn’t achieved with a Groupon, another Friends and family day or “no tax” promotion. No.

Laughter shows a customer has found a real person. Open, engaging, engaged.

One of the most common ways they do this is by telling stories. Brief bits about their own experience with a product or situation, their background or finding moments when they can laugh at themselves. (*Note it is not about laughing at other customers or team members.)

At a recent conference, I heard alot about companies who are “coaching” all their employees on the floor. At the expense in one case, of reducing their core training from 3 hours to 90 minutes. Or from other retailers who have used tablets to dump all their call center information into the hands of their associates to “help” them quickly help a customer. Then constantly “mentor” these employees to be the same to everyone they encounter.

I don’t hear a lot of laughter in those stores.

Why? Becuase it assumes there is a “right” sales person. A “right” way people want to be dealt with.

After nearly thirty years as a luxury sales trainer, I can tell you this much about sales training; it still has a lot of mystery around it.

That’s because what people say they want, and what they really want are often two different things. As customers what we want we rarely truly ask for.

As customers, we start the conversation with what we need. That’s where the sloppy clerks thrive – filling the needs like a point-and-click on the web.

To get past that and the countless articles your customers just read on the internet, something like ”12 ways to Be a Cheap Bastard When Shopping for Your:

  • Kids
  • Food
  • Gas
  • Self
  • Family”

… will require retail employees who can be allowed to be themselves.

That means those employees must be comfortable on your sales floor. Not worrying someone is looking over their shoulder looking to “mentor” away their personal style into a lifeless, joyless clone.

They should be creating laughter with the people in front of them, the ones they are serving. Not between themselves or on the phone but with the customers.

When people ask me to evaluate a business I can tell just by listening for the laughter. Can you?

Please comment below:

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on August 31, 2011.

This entry was posted in Retail Sales and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “Increase Retail Sales with Laughter”

  1. Jose Rodriguez says:

    This an awesome article. I was recently “coached” and told that by laighing and joking around with the client, establishing windows of contact, was the wrong approach and was not the way to get to management. I beg to differ.

    • bobphibbs says:

      Thanks for commenting Jose. I’m hearing it over and over at the top levels how “coaching” and “mentoring” are replacing traditional training. The problem is, how are they training these “mentors/coaches?” If they are lackluster people who don’t want to lose their jobs, they’ll be very strict and wear people down to their own nub of excitement. I teach the Five Parts to a Successful Sale and it is a hanger for the salesperson to shape their encounter with the ultimate goal of them appearing in the sale. Instead of disappearing behind the same stuff everyone else in their town does.

  2. Bob, I think this is my favorite post of all time on your blog.

    I just had this experience and it made ALL the difference. It was actually at a restaurant, and the waiter was so funny (without putting anyone down or being rude) – he was sweet and helpful and fun. I gave him a 50% tip because I LIKED him. This happens in retail too – I go to buy from someone but they are a total robot – I can’t pull the trigger. I’m teetering on the edge of whether or not to buy and the salesperson is awesome – like my salesperson at Best Buy – I buy.

    Not because they were the cheapest or had a sale, but because I made a connection with the employee, felt cared for, and honestly – had a great time there and wanted my money to go somewhere I felt good about. This one component – of laughter and fun – could transform retail and business. Frankly, it could transform our personal lives too. We need to remember that we are HUMAN BEINGS and we are meant to BE fun!

    Thanks for the reminder Bob!
    Heather :)

  3. Lizzie P says:

    Feeling like there is a raport between you and the salesperson is really important for the shopping experience for me – I hate going into stores where you are made to feel like they only deign to listen to your queries – after all, if we didn’t shop there, where would their wages come from? And what happened to the customer is always right? Waiters and salespeople who make the effort to make you feel more comfortable, put you at ease, crack jokes, always get a better reaction because they don’t remove the fun from the shopping experience: they reinforce it.

  4. Doc's Maytag says:

    Great post Bob! Saw this in our own store today – made me feel so happy to see our customers happy!