5 Critical Skills How To Coach Retail Salespeople

team unity

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Like a coach, your worth to your team and organization will be in how you help your players become better at the task at hand… in this case, selling more products.

The opportunities for coaching retail employees are huge and exemplified in this brief story...

Missing the mark on customer service

A friend of mine loves the way Lucky Jeans fit. She’s worn them for a while and knows what works for her and what doesn't.

Well ... she used to…she had a baby about six months ago and went to their store for some new jeans.

She had typically been a size 10, but the weight from pregnancy was not all gone, so she thought she might be a 12. 

She took two sizes of four types of jeans toward the dressing room because she didn’t want to undress and then get dressed again to get another size…that’s when she encountered a young employee.

Amazingly, the employee said, “Hold on, there are too many choices here. I have to take control of the situation.”

“What?” my friend replied as she stepped back from the girl.

“Well, you’re a size 10; those 12s will never fit you.”

“I know what fits and just had a baby, so I’m taking another size to try on. Can you just hang these in the fitting room for me?”

“Well, I will, but you’ll have to come out for me to see what fits your body better.”

My friend again stepped back. “I know what fits, but thanks.”

She tried on several pairs and heard the young woman say to someone on the other side of the door, “She won’t come out to show me, so I’m not going to help her anymore.”

In the end, my friend purchased two of the four styles of jeans; a size 12 in one and a 10 in another.

How would you grade the saleswoman's performance if you were her manager?

  • It was good she helped someone in the fitting room; she engaged the customer.
  • She attempted to take control, but the customer wouldn’t let her.
  • We missed the mark.

If you answered anything other than we missed the mark, you’re wrong.

Five critical skills for coaching salespeople

You need to be able to get lightbulbs to go off in your associates' heads. You don’t want to solve problems with a lecture, but you need them to see what you see.

That comes from retail sales training that asks the right questions, which causes the salesperson to consider how they could do better the next time.

If you don’t think you’re quite there yet, check out this blog The Secret To Better Selling in Retail Stores: Knowing To Notice Yourself.

To craft a winning sales team, you need the ability to…

1. Know what really happens on your sales floor

This seems easy to do – simply walk around your floor. But if you’re too busy filling orders, making lists, and doing other non-sales-oriented tasks, you’ll miss the obvious. A great coach sees what a customer experiences, not what an employee justifies.

2. Observe behavior

You aim to see how a conversation turns based on the customers’ physical reactions to your employees.

  • Is their body language saying leave me alone?
  • Does it show impatience?
  • Was the customer ready to buy, but something turned them off?

Once you observe customer patterns, you can help your employees see them too.

3. Listen to the back-and-forth of conversations

Is the employee interaction more about themselves or the customer? While the definition of pushy may seem to vary, it is fairly easy to view. There is a difference between leading a customer to options and bullying them. Acting as an impartial observer will help you craft your coaching questions.

4. Have conversations

You don’t want to lecture. You want your employees to notice what you do and use the questions you use when selling. That means they have to trust you.

You want to start by helping them to discover how to do better the next time and not by shutting them down because of what just happened.

5. Model the correct way to sell

You can’t coach what you don’t know or can’t do. You need to know the sales process. You need to know where the common problems lie: showing the product, price objections, fit of items…the works.

Consider having your employees deconstruct your sales to help them see how and why you asked the customer the questions you did.

You need to ask better questions so employees can see the opportunities they let go by.

How to coach your salespeople better?

After a sale, ask them to walk you through the process.

  • What did they know about the customer?
  • When did they feel was the moment the customer decided to buy or pass? 
  • How could they have done better?
  • How would they handle a similar situation going forward?

You get the idea…

I point out that we often coach employees only by scoring their performance with reviews, contests, and KPIs – all valid.

Where we miss most often is being proactive in the process of selling. Using these five critical skills will help you coach your sales crew.

Sales is a lot like a game

The more you can keep the conversation going …between employees and customers and employees and their coaches…the more sales you will make.

So many managers let employees get away with saying how SLOW a day is; their sales abilities always have to be restarted.

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