5 Critical Skills How To Coach Retail Salespeople

By Bob Phibbs

how to coach salespeopleThe opportunities for coaching retail employees are huge and exemplified in this brief story...

A friend of mine loves the way Lucky Jeans fit.

She’s worn them for awhile 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, the baby weight was not all gone so she thought she might be a 12. 

She took two sizes of four types of jeans towards the dressing room because she didn’t want to get naked and then 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 12’s will never fit you.”

“I know what fits and just had a baby so I’m taking another size in 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 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 any more.”

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

If you were the saleswoman’s manager, what would you have thought about her performance?

  • It was good she helped someone at 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.

Just like the coach of a team, your worth to the team will be in how you help your players become better at the task at hand… in this case, selling more product.

5 critical skills when coaching salespeople

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

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

1. Know what is really happening on your salesfloor. This seems easy to do – simply walk around your floor. But if you’re too busy with your own tasks of filling orders, making lists, and 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. Your goal is to see how a conversation turns based on the customers’ physical reactions to your employees. Is their body saying leave me alone? Does it show impatience? Was the customer ready to buy but something turned them off? Once you observe patterns in customers, you can help your employee see them too.

3. Listen to the back and forth of conversation. 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 the things you do and use the questions you use when they are 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 as well to help them see how and why you asked the customer the questions you did.

 See also, 5 Foolproof Ways To Boost Your Retail Sales Training 

You need to be able 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 sale.

  • What did they know about the customer?

  • What 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…

My point is we often coach employees only by scoring their performance with reviews, contests and KPIs – which are 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

In Sum

Sales is just 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 are always having to be restarted.

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