5 Pitfalls of DIY Retail Sales Training in Your Store
By Bob Phibbs
While I love to speak to retailers and train them how to sell better in their stores, I have another passion for fixing up old houses.
The first bathroom I remodeled, I decided to tile the tube walls myself and add a tin ceiling. The tin panels were 4’ x 8’ and when doing it yourself (DIY,) it is next to impossible to get flush, straight and looking like the ceiling I expected.
Tiling a wall is not something for a first project as they slip and slide easily. While I finished it, I was always keenly aware I didn’t have the skill, time or inclination to do it right – rather I just wanted to get through it.
I learned without the proper experience, it's almost impossible to foresee, and avoid, all of the pitfalls of a DIY project.
Retailers have been treating retail sales training as a DIY project for decades, often with the same lackluster results.
DIY training doesn’t fail due to ignorance or laziness, but due to a lack of experience and organization.
5 pitfalls of DIY training in your retail store:
Dusty Training Manuals
If you look around long enough in the back room of a retail store, you’ll eventually run across a bookshelf full of “training material.” These 3-ring binders are chock full of outdated materials that are either too complex to be intelligible and actionable, or too simplified to be of any use.
Worse yet, if you dig some more, you may find some old VHS tapes that trainees are expected to find the time to watch. Of course, these outdated video training tools feature actors performing under ideal conditions, so their training value is limited.
One thing that all of these training materials usually have in common is a healthy layer of dust. That’s because your employees either don’t know they exist, or do and have avoided using them.
Either way, the standardized training materials are left on the shelf and your employees end up being trained on an ad hoc basis.
Blind Leading the Blind
Without a train-the-trainer program to follow for your retail store, how are your employees being trained? They’re learning from the employees that came before them. And those employees learned from previous employees.
Each new season of employees is getting a more-diluted version of the original training. Even the best sales training probably has little or no resemblance to the original program you set up.
It’s like making a copy of a copy of a copy. With each iteration, the lines get a little more blurred, the process gets a little more faded, and the end result is unrecognizable.
When things are busy, your floor staff won’t have time to properly train a new salesperson. When things are slow, there’s usually a cutback in staff and no one to teach the new salesperson.
Your staff is left with a difficult decision—they can try to administer training during busy periods, jeopardizing their own performance or they can leave the newbie employee to sink or swim on their own, jeopardizing your business.
Either way, the trainee is unlikely to properly learn much-needed skills, and the trainer is likely to end up frustrated.
For a brick and mortar retail business that lives or dies on the performance of its salespeople, neither is a good outcome.
If your floor staff doesn’t have the time to administer training, that leaves it up to your managers. This puts the highest-paid members of your staff out on the floor, teaching someone how to greet a customer or ring up purchases.
You promoted your managers because they could handle the most important responsibilities in your retail store—now you have them performing basic training. That’s not a good use of their time, or your money.
Online retail sales training means all the manager has to do is schedule the employee off the floor for 10-15 minutes a week. It also lets trainees learn the basics of establishing rapport quickly and efficiently, without pulling your managers away from greater responsibilities.
Luck of the Draw Training
This happens far too often in a retail sales environment. Your new employee gets paired with whoever happens to be working when they start their first shift. This is often random, and done without considering the overall abilities or attitude of the person doing the training.
What if you’ve just paired the trainee with someone who never got to complete their own training? Or, worse yet, what if you've paired them with a disgruntled employee who’s just counting minutes until they find another job?
You could unknowingly be creating two poorly trained salespeople with attitude problems.
And, as luck would have it, they may go on to train other people themselves!
How to avoid these pitfalls?
Retailers are making these mistakes, and suffering the consequences, every day. To avoid these pitfalls, and the problems they can cause, you need online retail sales training for your sales staff.
Because your sales crew gets the same training every time.
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