8 Mistakes That Kill Your Retail Sales Training And How To Fix Them

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales training mistakes

You’ve only got one shot at training new hires in your retail store. One. You can't go back...

Whatever skills and attitude you instill in your retail sales training affects how employees will approach their job with you forever.

That’s why top-notch retail sales training focuses not on the investment but on the long-term ROI on your staff’s abilities to move your merchandise.

Over the years, I’ve seen some common breakdowns in retail sales training programs that ruined their effectiveness. Fortunately, they’re easily avoided with a little insight and refocus.

8 Mistakes That Kill Your Retail Sales Training

Mistake #1: Dumbing the sales training down. Treating sales training like a kindergarten class is the #1 way to kill employee motivation.

Your Fix: Assume your sales team is capable of the sales skills you expect from them. First, focus on fundamentals: instilling right attitudes, teaching a process to sell and then practicing those skills so they can truly be your brand ambassadors.

Mistake #2: Complicating sales training. 

Your Fix: The best sales training programs are simple and elegant. Developing practical skills application is far more important than loading employees down with information they’ll never remember. Focus on training them to take 100% ownership for each customer who walks through your door.

Mistake #3: Flooding trainees with content. This is another over-complication of sales training. It’s good to have visual materials. Many people learn best by reading. But when your new reps hit the floor, they won’t have a textbook to crack open.

Your Fix: It’s far more important that your team develops confidence and composure while communicating. Interactive, practical sales training is the only way to build those real-time skills.

Mistake #4: Obsessing over scripts. You already know this: people buy out of emotion. If customers are in your brick and mortar store, it’s because they want to be there. The more your sales team builds their trust, the more likely they are to buy. Not only that - they’ll feel great and rave about you to all their friends. However, encountering a salesperson incapable of interacting without a script is a total turn-off.

Your Fix: All sales people need to have general scripts to rely on. Think of a training script as the backbone that holds customer interaction through the five parts to a sale, but the salesperson must personalize it and make the process seem effortless in order for scripts to be effective. It’s more important that your team has a good grasp on the process of leading someone through to making happy purchases. Creating interactive exercises where they develop scenario-based personalities and confidence are in order.

Mistake #5: Creating meaningless acronyms. Acronyms are a great trick to aid memory. But having irrelevant (or flat-out lame) acronyms aren’t. B-R-A-V-O is good if it is a meme employees easily remember, but memorizing the meme to be able to recite it is just a waste of their talents.

Your Fix: Focus on coming up with superb memory-assisting tools, like practical-application drills, step-by-step orderly processes and engaging visual aids.

Mistake #6: Treating trainees like prisoners. History recap: The Industrial Revolution gave rise to training disciplines based on inputting information and regurgitating it for a test, essentially treating people like machines. Yet in 2016, many companies still work under this paradigm. They mistakenly use techniques like locking new hires up in a training room, isolated from the world. Or sitting them in front of a monitor, “learning” information online with no real interaction with humans. 

Your Fix: Understand that retail is about building trust and rapport between staff and customers. That’s a relational process. Everything else is secondary. Don’t teach your team to have the forced, obedient-drone attitude of Industrial Era factory workers. Get them interacting, practicing and having fun selling your products instead. We’re becoming a species at home in front of a screen typing or viewing all kinds of virtual life. If your employees are to work with the public, you just might have to teach them how to be human.

Mistake #7: Throwing trainees to the wolves. It’s tempting to just toss new hires out on the floor, to flub their way through interactions while a trainer hovers over their shoulder. That approach is great in theory. In reality, it alienates customers. It ties up floor staff, and leaves best new hires unmotivated; they’re embarrassed to learn in front of strangers.

Your Fix: Set up designated sales training areas. Be willing to invest time, energy and resources into creating a stellar learning environment.

Mistake #8: Not having a superb trainer. You might have the most brilliant sales-training program in the world. But if your sales trainer, the one making that training real, actionable, fast-paced and fun is a lump of coal, you’re going to make little lumps of coal of your trainees. If your trainees are treated as “nothing special,” that feeling will rub off on your customers too, leaving them feeling like “they’re nothing special” also.

Your Fix: Humans are hard-wired to imitate each other. As a sales trainer, your job isn't just to disseminate information. It is your responsibility to breathe confidence into your team and to deliver energy and attitude aligned with your brand personality. A superb retail trainer accepts100% ownership and responsibility.

See also, Considering Retail Sales Training Courses? Here Are The Essentials

In Sum

Don't let the mistakes get you down - we've all done them.

What I want you to take from this article is that training is a process for both the business looking to educate their employees as well as the salesperson.

To have me personally train your crew, your franchise, your regional chain or your brand my successful retail sales program, download my services guide.

Engage Your Customers: Download The Retail Doctor's Services Guide

The 5 Shifts Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Making to Generate Up to 20% Higher Profits Every Month

Are you a hungry brick-and-mortar store owner who’s ready for a fresh, people-obsessed strategy? This training is for you if you want to grow your business using a powerful customer experience formula proven to make your cash register chirp.

I'm ready to win