Category Archives: Bob Phibbs

Motivation Beyond Commission

3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Sell

By Bob Phibbs

Bob PhibbsMotivating employees. It’s always tough in any business.

Your goal is to be the go-to name in your field or industry, but you know you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing that level of success unless you can truly engage your customers and clients and keep them interested in your products and services.

And the only way to do that is to get your employees to engage those customers, to get them to commit to creating an exceptional experience for visitors so they do business with you, instead of buying from a competitor.

The big question is: How to get your employees to focus on the customer?

Employee motivation is an elusive creature. Motivating employees is perhaps the hardest thing any manager ever has to work toward. You worry that you’re not connecting, that your words don’t resonate deeply with your employees, and you struggle to figure out a magic formula. And that’s good…

That’s because employees don’t come hard-wired to perform well in a vacuum. Unless you can find a way to connect powerfully with your crew, your sales are doomed to failure.

It may appear easier to just pay them more. But many times, no matter how much you pay them, after a period of time, their self-motivation wanes. That’s because when you employ people, you are also taking on all of their innate hardships and challenges; the things they deal with at home, along with the things that keep them up at night.

You are taking on the whole person, for all of the good and the bad that brings. Their natural tendency is to do less and less unless someone encourages them to do more.

When it’s time to open the business and welcome your customers each day, it becomes your daily challenge to help your employees put their best face forward, focus on serving the customer, and keep their eyes on the goal of closing as many sales as possible.

For some companies, this challenge is settled by simple performance metrics: Dollars. You close X number of sales, you get more money in your paycheck. And in many high-end sales environments, a commission or performance bonus-incentive sales metric makes sense.

But if you find yourself in a position where commission-based sales don’t work for your company, you still have to find new ways to motivate your employees. Here are three ideas to help motivate your sales associates that don’t involve paying them based on the number of units they move.

1) Give Them Luxury: For your best performing associates, it is great to give them a little bit of something special. Maybe it’s a box of especially good chocolates at the end of a hard week. Maybe it’s a bottle of Scandinavian water they weren’t expecting. Maybe it’s a 30-minute massage.

Maybe it’s just a handwritten thank you note from you, the boss, who they look up to, mailed to their house. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what the luxury is. It only matters that you took the time to think of them and thank them for their amazing work in an impromptu fashion.

People want to feel important. If you have good people on your team, make them feel important, and they are more likely to stay on your team. To put a finer point on it, the more important or special that you make them feel, the more likely they will make your customers feel important. A caveat: don’t publish your criteria or you will have to do it each and every time much like a contest which defeats the purpose.

2) Give Them Time: Time is our most precious resource, and there is no sweeter way to reward one of your sales team than to give them a few hours of their time back. So for your top performer this month, give them a half or full extra day off—with pay. Do it without any fanfare. Just let this person stay home, sleep late, take care of their kids, or go to a movie while you cover their shift. Don’t make a big deal about it. It’s not a contest; it’s a gift that you are giving them. And when they come back, they will be refreshed.

3) Give Them Space: If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, then you understand the importance of a red stapler. It represents something that is yours. Even if it’s only a stapler, you have earned it.

Office space—literally—can feel very much the same. It is home. When you designate physical space to an employee, you are telling that person that they have a place here. A permanent place. They matter.This is not a small thing.

For your best associates, carve out a place in the back to set their photos of their kids and their dogs, a place for them to pin ridiculous things they might print out from Facebook—whatever. The ultimate goal is to let employees feel at home when they are at work.

This only works if you hire people who themselves have some internal motivation. You can’t motivate a rock to move—no matter what you try. If you feel stuck with certain unmotivated employees, don’t give up on motivation but do get rid of the rock-like employees.

When you have done the hard job of whittling down your applicants, onboarding them to your culture and giving them sales training, your number one job is to see what helps them stay motivated and change it up often. That way it keeps everyone wondering what they will get for hitting a goal, doing a good job or extending themselves for your customers’ benefit.

And that’s great motivation for everyone, not just your sales team.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format.


7 Ways To Improve Your Non-Verbal Selling Skills

Your body language sends wordless cues long before you try to close a sale.

By Bob Phibbs

Bob PhibbsThe more you understand about what your body is saying – oftentimes without our knowledge – the more you can see how often it gets in your way. And that is especially true when you are in a sales situation. That is because oftentimes our bodies communicate fear—and fear makes people look away.

Fear can cause you to lose your temper, or silence your own voice when it needs to be heard. Most of all, fear keeps strangers at arm’s length. That’s because 55 percent of our language to communicate with another person is non-verbal.

Our bodies can sense bad vibrations long before someone’s words arrive. So now think about a time you felt devalued by someone. Picture what their body position was. Now picture your own body’s reaction.

I’ll bet you averted your eyes and you slumped your shoulders. You might even have curled your toes inside your shoes. Now think what it would feel like to be served by someone whose shoulders were slumped, who didn’t meet your eyes, whose arms were crossed.

Would you feel engaged by them? Of course not! Their body was telling you they weren’t being authentic. Their non-verbal cues made it hard for you to trust them. Most people don’t even realize when their bodies are communicating, so the first thing to do is to simply notice your body position.

  • Do you cross your arms unconsciously?
  • Do you leave your arms down like a corpse when you talk to someone?
  • Do your shoulders slouch most of the time?

Those unconscious habits won’t bring customers to you. In fact, they are communicating your unease to them. When you have a whole crew of people doing that, the energy in your entire business turns toxic. It makes customers walk out saying to themselves, Something just didn’t feel right about that place.

Here are seven ways to improve your non-verbal selling skills:

1) Lift the sternum (that’s the flat bone at the front center of your chest). This allows more oxygen into the lungs. A good image to maintain is that of a string pulling your posture up from your sternum. This allows your shoulders to become more relaxed when engaging strangers.

2) Lean forward (but just a bit). Yes it’s subtle, but it keeps you from leaning backward, which shows a negative attitude.

3) Smile. A smile is your best tool to get someone to like you, and when you don’t smile, it’s the quickest way to turn someone off.

4) Meet their eyes. We like people who look at us. Too much eye contact and it can feel threatening, but too little and you come off insincere. Yes, this is a balancing act to practice.

5) Gesture. Point directly at a feature and look at it with the customer. They will follow your gesture, and so will their eyes as you describe the benefit. Use an open hand or two fingers together, it’s perceived as more open and friendly.

6) Arms open. Hold your arms open and loose to show a welcoming attitude. Arms folded over your chest indicate you are unsympathetic, authoritative, and at some level, you are closing yourself off from the other person.

7) Stand side-by-side not face-to-face. When you present merchandise standing by your shopper’s side, it is non-threatening. This allows you to do a sideways lean, which is friendly and non-threatening.

An old-school tip says to mirror your customer’s body posture. For example, if they use their hands a lot, you mirror that. If their arms are open, so are yours. However, if the customer suddenly crosses their legs and arms, you don’t want to mirror that. Their body is telling you they are closed off. You don’t want yours to say the same thing!

You need to maintain an open stance and see what you said or did to close them off. Addressing it with something like, “Did I just say something to put you off?” is a good way to bring them back.

Yes it takes practice, but once you’re aware of your own body communication, you want to be a student of your customer’s body communication too. Body posture is something rarely talked about in selling because it is assumed that if an employee is standing upright, that’s all they need to do. But there’s much more to it.

Begin by noticing your own behavior. In what situations do you lose your voice? At that moment, what does your body look like? When you’re about to close the sale, how does your body look? When do you notice your breath becoming shallow? When do you take a step back from a customer? The more you can choose your body posture, the more you’ll find you can also choose your attitude.

Your body is just like the car you have to drive. If you aren’t choosing the direction and checking the instruments, you’ll often be taken to a place you didn’t want to be. And while you might still be afraid at some level when engaging a stranger, when you use these tips, you act as if you aren’t afraid which allows you to place the fog of fear in the background.

The more you master your body communication, the easier it will be to master your verbal communication.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format.


Customer Service That Sells to Boomers Comes From Training Millennials: 6 Practical Tips That Drive Sales

Bob PhibbsBy Bob Phibbs

When you are focused on creating to team culture of customer service, it is important to realize how generational differences can impact the selling process.

That Generation Gap was on display recently when Graham, a friend of mine walked into a local electronics store to buy a microphone. The young sales associate took him to the microphones and then stood there silently, hovering over him.

The associate wasn’t helping with anything; in fact Graham didn’t think he knew anything about microphones. Finally he said, “I’m fine.” The clerk replied, “I only get a commission if I stay here.”

Most Baby Boomers would not consider that good customer service—in fact, they would consider it just the opposite. The Millennial employee on the other hand thought he was doing his job.

That’s the Generation Gap. The Baby Boomers grew up when retail still had people who chose working retail as a career and modeled exceptional customer service. They grew up minding their “p’s and q’s” meaning they had to mind their manners. Most had entry-level jobs where they were taught how to help a customer in a friendly manner. As such, they expect when they go out to a store to still receive that kind of treatment.

The Millennial generation—those under about 32—grew up with the Internet. Efficient, fast and cheap were things that became increasingly important to their generation as they conducted their lives online. Most did not have entry-level jobs so the social skills necessary to engage a stranger in many cases just weren’t developed.

Millennials grew up digital natives communicating with their friends on their computers. Both Boomers and Millennials wanted to have friendships, but Boomers had to do it in person while Millennials could to do it virtually.

Here’s the rub: 75% of purchases will still come from Baby Boomers expecting personal service for the foreseeable future. Unless your business is able to give Baby Boomers the customer service they expect, you’ll see less and less of them.

To ensure that your Millennial staff is properly equipped to sell to the Boomer generation, utilize these six training tips:

Initiative: Don’t make Boomers come to you—find them. Boomers do not want to ask, “Can you help me?” or “Where do I pay?” Keep your head up and engage them regularly. And once a Boomer is ready to leave, they’re ready to leave.

Hustle: Your speed of service has to be given in proportion to the amount of customers in your store. Your head must be up and looking at who just came in, who needs help and who needs to be rung up. If you ignore Boomers they’ll walk.

Being included: Boomers want to fit in, they want to be popular. They were the ones who wanted a trophy but someone else got it. Unlike the Millennials, they are still looking for validation. And for Boomers, it comes from owning things.

High touch over high tech: A Millennial salesperson could show a virtual product but a Baby Boomer wants to touch it. Boomers want to see it for themselves— that’s why they are in your store and not shopping online for the item. They still want to feel, touch, smell and experience it.

The choice of right words: Avoid phrases like “no problem” and the word “like” as in “this printer is like the fastest we have.” Boomers in general are old school and appreciate proper grammar.

Connecting the dots: It is great to connect with customers and build rapport, but you have to go further with Boomers. You need to connect the dots between what they want and what you have to sell. If you sell electronics for example, you want to be able to keep connecting them to the item you have in stock, selling it in a way that says, “It’s not just a device, it’s all the things it can do for you.” Again, this is the generation that doesn’t like to return things – they want to get it right the first time.

In Sum: Selling to Baby Boomers is not that hard. You have to make it personal. Respect the fact that they took the afternoon off from the kids and work, and they are in your shop to buy from you.

Despite job-hopping that’s occurring across the country, Millennials’ commitment to their job is typically very high. They’re looking to acquire new skillsets and experiences. Make sure you are training them so they can deliver world-class customers experience.

If not, you risk not only losing their interest in working there, but Boomers interest in shopping with you.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format. For more information on Bob, please visit

Using Personality Styles to Get More from Your Employees

By Bob Phibbs

Bob Phibbs

Retailers have tried everything it seems to get employees to sell more. Sometimes training helps, sometimes it doesn’t and so many try to hire the natural born salesperson.

That doesn’t really work either because generally they are few and far between, but if you leverage their personality styles, you can leverage their innate abilities and help them sell more.

Everyone can sell. In fact, each of us is selling every day – even if we never call it that.

Once you understand the four personality styles, you can train your employees to cut out the fluff and connect with customers quickly by understanding everyone has a dominant personality style.

There’s the Driver, like a Gordon Ramsay, where it is all about them being the best, smartest and known as a decision maker. The downside is they can be seen as inflexible and always trying to close. Any villain you see in a movie is usually a Driver.

There’s the Analytical, like Spock on Star Trek, who is logical and has a detailed system to process information. Their Achilles’ heel is that they can come off cold and uncaring. Surgeons, CPAs and most craftspeople are usually an Analytical personality.

The Expressive is like the character Jack in the movie Titanic who tries a lot of things, is easily bored and has unbridled enthusiasm. They are also the least likely to be found in retail these days. Why? Because on a beautiful day, they’ll probably call in sick.

The Amiable is by far the most common personality you’ll find in stores. Amiables possess a strong desire to be liked and learn about others without sharing many details of their own lives. The downside is that they don’t stand out or make demands, and it takes a lot to make them visibly upset so you never know when they are considering quitting.

Those salespeople who master personality styles are able to have meaningful conversations that value both the customer and the salesperson. And that leads to higher sales. But first you need to leverage their innate abilities to get them all to sell.

If your employee is predominantly a Driver, their number one goal is to get something finished. You need to help them round off those gruff edges and reduce the chance they can come off as arrogant.

If your employee is predominantly an Analytical, you need to train with a clear system of A to B to C so engaging a customer isn’t scary and makes sense. Be prepared to answer each of their many questions.

If your employee is predominantly an Expressive, you want to harness their fun. You would not want to try to train them like an Analytical and rain on their parade. Use their easily distracted interests and enthusiasm for new items as a sparkplug for the rest of your crew.

If your employee is predominantly an Amiable, they’ll want to get along with no conflict. Teaching them how the other three personalities operate can show them how to avoid frustration and conflict. Understand that they are the least likely to be natural born salespeople and most afraid of engaging strangers—so be patient.

Here are the dos and don’ts of training your employees by personality style:


  • Do use their innate ability to meet and greet customers in your store.
  • Do use their natural fearlessness to juggle more than one customer.
  • Do encourage them to lead customers to new choices they may not think they can afford.
  • Don’t talk over them.
  • Don’t teach them 1960’s closing techniques to try to make a customer buy. They hate phoniness. Encourage them to be real.


  • Do encourage their natural problem-solving ability.
  • Do encourage their technical knowledge of your products to highlight the little things most salespeople ignore.
  • Do encourage their patient nature to stick with customers who may not know what they are looking for.
  • Don’t let them overwhelm customers with their knowledge. The old saying, “Don’t tell a customer how to build a watch when they just want to know the time” applies to Analyticals.
  • Don’t allow them to deride a customer’s choice just because they don’t know as much as your employee does.
  • Don’t allow them to show customers a cheaper place to buy something you carry – because they will. It’s logical.


  • Do use their energy and creativity to help customers see things in a new light.
  • Do use their enthusiasm to sell new products.
  • Do use their ability to mix and match to show customers how they can personalize a purchase.
  • Don’t let them overstate facts just to make a sale.
  • Don’t allow them to present too many options to a customer or they may overwhelm them with choice.
  • Don’t let them be so eager to meet people that they smother them with enthusiasm. Teach them how to modify their energy based on the customer’s personality style.


  • Do use their caring nature to understand what their customer is trying to solve.
  • Do use their patient nature to help customers feel appreciated and valued.
  • Do use their ability to listen to really hear how the salesperson can help.
  • Don’t let their fear of risk keep them from approaching a customer or pitching the most expensive product.
  • Don’t allow them to wait for customers to come get them; get them out from behind the counter.
  • Don’t allow them to be content to just show customers what they ask for. Encourage the Amiables to offer your products, today, at full price.

In Sum: There are no good or bad personality types—we all have elements of each. And while the Driver and Expressive have the highest risk tolerance, it does not mean that they are the only ones who can sell. That’s because personality types feel comfortable with people who can talk to them the way they like to be talked to.

So an Amiable selling to an Amiable, with proper training can sell just as much as a Driver – sometimes more.

The varying personality types that comprise your staff need to be handled in a very specific, tailored manner. By understanding the unique motivators of Drivers, Analyticals, Expressives and Amiables, you can begin to better manage your retail sales and customer service employees.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format.


The Hell Zone: Getting Ahead of a Customer’s “No, I’m Just Looking”

Bob PhibbsBy Bob Phibbs

Were you ever picked by a teacher to come up in front of class when you weren’t prepared to speak?

It felt like hell, I bet.

There’s an area of your retail store potential customers will avoid; it is the first eight feet after your doors. Some call it the decompression zone, some call it the threshold area—it should be called The Hell Zone.

The Hell Zone because customers don’t want to go there. They might remember a past experience where an aggressive employee pounced on them wanting to shake their hand. Or they might remember another employee asking them a question, when all they wanted to do was get their bearings. They had to blurt out a No just to get rid of the pesky employee.

It’s hell because employees don’t want to go there either. They’ve asked strangers in their most helpful way, “Can I help you?” and those darn customers always answer “No!” or “No, I’m just looking!” After weeks of this rejection, your employee gives up trying, says nothing, and retreats to the counter to text a friend.

Because customers answer these greetings over and over with a negative, employees feel dehumanized. That negativity and lack of connection also opens the door to rudeness. Customers turn their back and walk away; they talk on the phone at the register; they haggle over prices or make unrealistic demands.

It’s hell too because owners and managers see this happening time and time again but don’t know what to do to change it. Until now…

Use these steps to avoid, “No, I’m just looking.”

First, wait at least ten seconds and no more than fifteen to greet a shopper. This gives them time to settle. 15 seconds may sound like a really short amount of time, but it isn’t. Use a timer and walk through your store. In most cases you can reach the back of your store within 15 seconds. You will find that your sweet spot will be around ten seconds.

By greeting your customers within 10-15 seconds, you achieve several goals: It trains employees to always have their eyes up to see who’s coming in; it makes them wait and not pounce, and it helps provide a welcoming atmosphere. And as a bonus, it also helps prevent shoplifting.

During those 15 seconds, grab a prop. This has to be something large enough to be noticed by a customer like a book, a box, or a sample. This creates the appearance that the employee is interrupting something else to notice the customer, rather than swooping down on them like a hawk on a mouse.

Then with prop in hand and with at least ten seconds gone, start walking toward the customer at a 45-degree angle. This will allow you to give you greeting and then move past them without blocking them.

Greet them as you go by with “Good morning. Feel free to look around, and I’ll be right back” or simply say “Good morning.”

By not asking a question such as “How are you?” or “Can I help you find anything?” the customer is not obliged to have to respond at all, though many will with a simple “thank you.”

Most customers will appreciate having the time and space to look around. If they really need something, they’ll feel comfortable enough to stop the employee and ask them.

This technique of greeting-with-a prop-puts the customer at ease, gives the employee a reason not to linger, and dissolves The Hell Zone.

Let’s say you are an employee at an electronics store. As a customer walks in, you pick up a Bose headphones box and head towards them within 15 seconds. Approaching the customer at a 45° angle, you move past them with your prop, pausing to meet their eyes and say, “Good morning, feel free to look around, and I’ll be right back.” If you do this correctly and with the right intent, the customer always says “Thank you.”

Skeptical? Try it right now and you’ll be surprised. If they don’t thank you, consider that you may have approached at about a 90° angle which blocks their path, or you might have lingered too long when you said the comment, or you didn’t look them in the eyes.

Now you don’t need to do this when you are slammed on a busy Saturday afternoon or during the holidays, but for those times when no one else is in the store, it is perfect.

It lets the customer off the hook and lets them relax, gain their bearings, and look at all you have to offer.

Remove The Hell Zone by making your greeting more human, more timely, more engaging, and ultimately…more profitable.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format. For more information on Bob, please visit