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Smile! You Can't Afford NOT To

Smile! You Can't Afford NOT To

July 08, 2008


Go ahead. It's okay. Smile.

That may be one of the best things you can do to increase sales right now and it doesn't cost a cent. We already know how a smile can create a sense of relaxation (try it right now and see, I'll wait.) And we know how just a smiling face can reduce anxiety among others. When was the last time a smiling baby didn't light up a room?

Well, studies have shown that a smile can also increase sales.

On the first day of a job, employees who work with customers and clients are told right away, "Smile when you greet a customer." It's not just good manners, but it's also good business.

Could just a smile really double sales?

In fact, consumers are willing to pay twice as much even if the person offering the product only smiled for a fraction of a second. Now that's something to smile about!

This was demonstrated in a very interesting study I came across that shows how powerful a smile can impact our subconscious. The study, "Unconscious Emotion," by psychology professors Piotr Winkielman of University of California in San Diego and Kent Berridge of University of Michigan, proves that even the slightest smile can have an enormous impact on consumer behavior.

The researchers asked students to quickly identify whether a "neutral" face (one that wasn't smiling nor frowning) was male or female. Then the researchers inserted the image of a smiling or scowling face for only 16 milliseconds. Lastly, the researchers evaluated how much of a drink the participants poured after seeing the images to determine the impact on their subconscious behavior. (They didn't say what they were drinking but that's beside the point.)

Afterwards, the students said the smiling or scowling faces didn't make them feel any different. They said they didn't feel happier after seeing a smiling face, nor did they feel sad or angry after seeing a scowling face.

Here's what I found fascinating, the participants poured "significantly more" and drank more from their cup after seeing the happy faces, according to the study. Moreover, the study says participants "were also willing to pay about twice as much for the drink" after seeing the smiling faces.

So for all those frowners, even a brief smile - one lasting just 16 milliseconds or about the time it takes a honey bee to flaps it wings 3 times - can make a big difference in sales. And even if your customers tell you it doesn't make a difference well, apparently actions speak louder than words!

Need more evidence? A separate study also found that customers are more likely to recommend a business whose employees smile compared to those who don't.

The Chinese knew this years ago. An old ancient Chinese proverb says: "A man without a smiling face must not open a shop."

But before you start ordering all your employees to start smiling, here's a word of caution. Workers who are forced to "put on a happy face" often suffer from stress and burnout. A professor at Penn State even coined a term for it, "emotional labor." I don't make this stuff up.

4 things you can do while smiling all the way to the bank

Here's my point: just a brief smile is all that's needed. Here's what I recommend:

1. Hire employees who naturally like to smile and are friendly, especially if they're working directly with your customers or clients. It's better to have someone whose smile comes naturally than to have someone who has to "put on a face" that can sometimes come across as phony and do more harm. And no need to inflict any "emotional labor" on your staff!

2. Post pictures and images at work of people smiling and having fun. Again, these images don't have to be prominently displayed. They could be images that a customer or client would glance at and it would still have a positive impact on your business.

3. Find ways to give people a reason to smile whether it's in your store or at your office. Have fun. One of my colleagues treated his employees to ice cream on summer hot days and it didn't matter whether the employees were 22 or 72 - ice cream makes everyone smile.

4. Try smiling yourself with your employees. If it makes a difference with your customers, imagine what it will do for your employees!

Few workers are under more stress to smile amid the chaos than store employees at the height of the holiday season. That's why I love this ad that one New York City department store ran years ago to its customers and reprinted in Dale Carnegie's masterful book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:

The Value of a Smile at Christmas
It costs nothing, but creates much.
It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.
It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature's best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.
And if the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!


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