5 Pitfalls of DIY Retail Sales Training in Your Store

Bob Phibbs
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DIY retail sales training

While I love speaking to retailers and providing retail sales training for how to sell better in their stores, I have another passion: fixing up old houses.

The first bathroom I remodeled, I decided to tile the tub walls myself and add a tin ceiling. The tin panels were 4’ x 8’ and as a do it yourself (DIY) project, tin panels are next to impossible to get flush, straight, and looking like the ceiling I expected.

Tiling a wall is not something for a first home improvement project as the tiles easily slip and slide. While I finished the project, I was always keenly aware I didn’t have the skill, time, or inclination to do it right – rather, I just wanted to be done.

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:

1. Outdated Training Manuals with Ineffective Sales Methods.

Take a look in your shop's back room. There's likely a rack full of 'training material: three-ring binders, VHS tapes, pamphlets, and tri-folds, all of which are likely too complex to be actionable or too simplified to be effective.

What's worse, I can guarantee you at least 90% of what's in those materials is outdated. Why are these materials still in your back room? If you're not using them - and they're also not up to date - get rid of them.

2. Blind Leading the Blind

Without a train-the-trainer program to follow for your small business, how are your employees being trained?

They’re learning from the employees who came before them who learned from their predecessors - or what they didn't learn - and on and on.

This creates a massive problem because outdated sales techniques, even ones from the 60s and 70s, keep making their way through the years. A prime example is when a 'trainer' tells a new employee that they have to be a Product Expert.

No, they don't!

This isn't the 1960s anymore! All of the info your shopper likely needs about the product is a quick screen scroll away.

What you need to do is encourage a human connection instead of trying to make your employees into glorified info kiosks.

And yet, so many retailers are stuck in this "That's the way I was taught" cycle of the blind leading the blind.

Without an outside sales training perspective, how will your team stay sharp and up to date with the most relevant, effective sales techniques? You have a chance to get a real outside opinion from a trusted expert in retail sales.

3. "We Just Don't Have Enough Time for Training..."

During the busy season, floor staff are often crunched for time.

What happens when your store is closed for walk-ins and your team has to be fully dedicated to virtual shopper interactions?

The setting may be different, but the need for sales training is greater than ever.

It's easy to fall into the trap of "We're already so busy with shoppers. Is training really worth our time right now?"

Your busiest times is when your sales training is worth the most. More interactions = more opportunities to optimize your connection with shoppers.

This is your chance to play to your full potential. Your employees' most important skills - creating a meaningful shopper connection and generating more sales - are always worth investing the time to do the training right.

Whether you are closed to in-person, you're open and it is busy, or you're open and it is slow, training never stops for those wanting more sales.

4. Overpaid Training

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, trying to teach 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.

And they rarely show up looking forward to training, they dread it because of all the tasks you've given them.

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 customer rapport quickly and efficiently without pulling your managers away from greater responsibilities.

5. Luck of the Draw Training

This happens far too often in retail. 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?

Even worse, what if you've paired them with a disgruntled employee who spends the work day on a mobile device waiting for the day they can leave?

You could unknowingly be creating two poorly trained salespeople with attitude problems. 

Sales training is too important to be left to chance. You need intentional, accountable sales training to equip your employees with the best sales skills.

The one pitfall no retailer can ignore: Sending the same trainer from store to store during COVID-19.

Online retail sales training is so much easier as Millennial employees are used to online training and videos have come a long way since the pixelated talking heads from just a few years ago.

The most effective learning experience combines the ease and on-demand access of online training with in-person training. That's a challenge since we're still navigating with COVID-19.

What's the solution? My SalesRX.com online retail sales training program certifies your crew and creates opportunities for you to role-play different shopper interactions and tasks with your employees. This ensures that they know all the material and will use it – making your training and HR issues much easier.

Conversions go up, your UPT increases, and most importantly, your shoppers feel a true connection with your employees. In this time of Covid-19, you'll need to get more out of your crew than ever before. That doesn't happen by accident. The answer is SalesRX.

To go deeper on retail sales training, check out these posts:

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