"I'll have a poppy seed salad, half-size, with a baguette and drink for here, please."
"Okay. What salad would you like?"
"Poppy seed. Half-sized."
"Okay, what side? You can have chips, baguette or an apple."
"Would you like a drink?"
"Will this be to go?"
You can imagine this exchange. Maybe you have had this exchange. This is word for word the exchange one of my employees shared with me from a recent lunch break.
Listening is a far underrated skill that needs to be on your list of traits.
Fortunately, there are ways to train listening skills. Here are two exercises you can do with your staff to help them work on their listening skills.
REPEATING THE QUESTION
Pair up your staff and have one ask the other person random questions. Before the other person can answer, he or she must first repeat the question back to the one asking. Have them each ask four questions of each other.
Your staff will get two benefits from this. First, you get them trained in the process of repeating and paraphrasing the question back to the customer. This technique forces them to listen and also clarifies what the customer really wants or needs. They will be better able to solve the customer's problems.
Second, they will get to know more about each other, so it becomes a team building exercise as well.
WHY I LIKE WORKING HERE
Have the staff pair up again. Have each person tell the other their favorite reasons for working here. Let them know that they will have to tell the group what the other person told them.
This also has two benefits. First, they have to listen to be able to repeat. Second, when you are all done, everyone will have heard everyone else telling them why they like working at your store. Talk about a major morale boost!
After doing both of these exercises, talk about the importance of listening, repeating back, and clarifying. Challenge them to practice the repeating back all day every day with every customer until it becomes habit.
Not only will their listening skills improve, so will their morale and your sales.
PS I had an advertising sale rep who used this repeating back technique almost to the point of annoyance. Here is the deal, though. He never made a mistake. He never got it wrong. He always did exactly what I wanted. I appreciated it so much and was crushed when he retired (early because he had done so well as a salesman with that technique).