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Many retail brands were built upon the idea that they are the superhero for their customers - that customers want to come in and buy their brand to show them off - whether they sell apparel, home furnishings, or electronics.
But the pandemic changed things.
Today the customer who comes in is the superhero, and it is your job to engage them in a personal and unique dialogue with a focus on helping them be the hero in their own story. Face-to-face communication and all its value are in danger for those brands that have abandoned all that can happen on the sales floor to boost conversion and add-ons.
Target recently reported that just 18% of their sales started online versus 82% in-store.
How will you get your share from customers who have saved over 5 trillion dollars and are now ready to spend?
You have to get senior leadership buy-in. Unfortunately, the go-to metrics for measuring learning – completion rates, learner ratings, test scores – don’t prove how training programs translate to long-term business outcomes.
All the C-level suite cares about is making sales projections.
And what many senior executives consider training is just a check-the-box to teach employees safety or compliance - that isn’t training - it is exposure.
Most of the training on the sales floor is stuck in the online product knowledge arena.
So, how can you start connecting training to business impact?
Align what people learn with what you expect them to do.
True training is like learning to play an instrument or sport - you don’t just receive instruction. You have to work out to use what you learned in sequential order.
Suppose you are serious about teaching a new way to engage customers. In that case, there should be an expectation that employees will not only be exposed to those new behaviors but also encouraged to use them, the learning will be reinforced, and it will be coached.
Since retail sales training is behavior training, this is the only way to look at it to achieve real success.
Many senior-level executives and even their training or L&D managers are still stuck on traditional tactics like classroom sessions, which usually cram a lot of information in a long day while learners sit.
This doesn’t stick for a variety of reasons, from the capacity to absorb new information with limited stimulation, no face-to-face role-playing, to the basics of people who work on their feet all day being made to sit and try to focus for long hours.
Because of these realities, some C-level executives will use every excuse in the book to avoid spending money on the very training their associates so desperately need.
Here are some of the most common objections retail executives might have about training and some hard questions to drill deeper into and reach a consensus.
Use these as you build the case for SalesRX, the online retail sales training program, and connect to double-digit conversion increases within 60 days.
Objection #1: Training Doesn’t Work
Why should I use training when the training we tried last time didn’t work?
There are a lot of reasons why training doesn’t work. Were you really invested in the training? That means a few things:
Did you pay for the training? Because if you didn’t pay for it, you probably didn’t think it was worth it and just shrugged and said, “Well, what did you expect?”
Did you really look at the potential outcome and say, “This is what I want in six months?” Or did you kind of wing it like, “Well, let’s try this,” and then not really have a commitment? Or did you say, “This is fundamentally going to change how I do business, and I’m going to put everything I can into it?” If that’s the case, well, then great. Let’s move on.
Did you expect people to train on their own? That doesn’t work. There is no set-and-forget training. Ninety percent of people who start learning to play guitar drop it shortly thereafter. And, in January, many people buy diet books or plans. And they don't work, but why not? Because these things - on their own - don't change behavior.
Here’s the thing. So many people think that training is about just knowing more information. But that’s just not the problem.
Many people know you should welcome a shopper and make them feel valued. Knowing doesn't ingrain that information in their bodies, minds, and habits because it’s always easier to fall back on what you’ve always done.
If you’re a big retailer and you’re reading this, it’s no different for you with multiple layers and multiple stores. And if you’re a regional chain, no different. Even if you’re a smaller one-person store, ultimately, that inertia is what we always return to, because it’s comfortable.
Trying something new might feel like, “Well, I’ve got to put on a tuxedo and run.” And that doesn’t feel comfortable. And many people think, “Well, I don’t think I want to do it.” Or they kind of half do it or want to cram it all in at once.
And that doesn’t work because if you’re really serious about training, I want you to understand that proper implementation works.
What does the proper implementation of training look like?
We’ve taken the time to develop a whole training calendar so you know exactly how it’s supposed to work.
For the first three weeks, your managers, area managers, and sales reps go into the virtual classroom with me Monday through Friday. And then after that, you’re going to have a kickoff meeting, get everybody’s questions answered, and make sure that they all feel like, “Oh, this is a WE moment; we’re all doing this.”
Then the associates go through the program more slowly, a couple of lessons twice a week, and you do mock sessions the following week. Mock sessions are basically the difference between training and just hoping. You’ll take what you've learned and say, “Now let’s see what that looks like in the store.”
We have it all figured out for you. We’ve written out exactly what you’re supposed to do to make it easy to implement. And if you just follow the plan, it works.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, training doesn’t work for us, so we don’t do it.” Do you think they say that at the Yankees? Do you think the Stones say, “We don’t have to rehearse? We know all of this stuff.” No, because they’re always looking for how to up their game.
What isn’t going to be around is people’s interest to go out and spend more money with your store if something doesn’t change. Maybe you came off a great year, like a bike or sewing machine store. But that’s eventually going to normalize.
At some point, you’re going to be looking around for customers. And if you don’t have a sales process underneath you, which will take about four to six months of training, then you’re probably going to rely on discounts and doing all the things that got you in trouble before. You might have taken a loser’s limp and said, “Well, let’s all read this blog,” or “Let’s just have a meeting.,” instead of saying, “Wow, what is it going to take for me to get there” and “I’m all in. I’m going to do it.”
Why that doesn’t work is that you haven’t altered your behavior. Training always works if you are invested in it. If you know why you’re doing it, if you’re fully 100 percent committed to it, then more than likely - if you have a process like Sales RX, which we are using to train thousands of people around the world on how to develop rapport, how to discover the shopper, how to engage them, to build trust, and get the sale - if you have that system, and you religiously go through and train and hold people accountable, and more importantly, you reward them for doing it, well, then you’re going to be thanking me that you followed this.
Retail has been beaten up; we get it. Frontline workers have been beaten up, and you probably have been beaten up and been through an awful lot of things, but the one constant is that retail exists because people come in to discover something more than they could have bought online.
And if you believe in that, then you aren’t going to say, “We tried training, but it didn’t work.” You’re going to say, “We used Bob Phibbs’ online retail training SalesRX, and it did work. And I’d love to tell you about it.”
Objection #2: Training Costs Too Much
It costs too much, the number one thing you hate hearing (right?) when you’re trying to sell something. And yet, it’s one of the things people will say about a training program, “Well, it costs too much.”
If you were looking at buying one of your premium items, and a customer was saying, “Oh, it costs too much,” wouldn’t you try to go through all of the features and benefits? Of course, you would. For those of you who might think, “Oh, it’s too much. I’m too small. I don’t know.” I will walk you through why it does not cost too much.
Let’s say you have a team of 10 people. That’s $495 a month in training costs. And let’s say your average gross profit margin is 40%, which I would think most of you in retail have. If your entire team collectively only sold an extra $1,200 for the entire month, your gross profit of $495 pays for that entire month of SalesRX. Do you think you could do that? Do you think that they could sell an extra $1,200 a month? Some of you sell $15,000 kitchens and $30,000 sewing machines, so you have to believe that we could make one extra sale from all of us a month; it would be more than worth it.
And all the entrepreneurs I talk to understand their margins, they understand their conversion rate, they understand what they’re paying versus what they’re getting back. And they are always looking at how to do more, how to be open to new ideas, and how to see the potential. They know 2022 is not the year to be holding on to. We have come through the fire. You’re still in business, and you’re still around. And the fact that you’re still reading these blogs means you know deep down inside that something has to change.
And so, does it cost too much? If anything, I think it costs too much to wait because your competition is not going away. In fact, online will be after your business even more than ever. And when 80 percent of your merchandise is probably carried by every one of your competitors, both in your local store, as well as your local community, and online, then you realize the only thing you can compete on is your crew.
What if every one of your ten employees made that extra sale that month? You’d make an extra five grand. I’ve used that success principle with some of the largest retailers in the world, all the way down to the smallest mom-and-pop. We systematize it into three to five-minute lessons that they can take - with me in the classroom - virtually on an iPad, a laptop, or a desktop. And then, the next week, they’re doing mock sessions with you to ensure they understand. I could teach you how to play a D major scale on the piano, but unless you actually practice it, you’ll never learn. Why is it that when it comes to retail, we think that people will just wing it, people will just understand, and people who did it before will be able to do it again?
But what if I could create a relationship and this customer would return more often and want to see me, and I will be rewarded for doing that? That’s where we need to go. You just have to get over the idea that there is more risk with paying for it than staying the same.
Look at the J.C. Penneys of the world, the Sears, the Radio Shacks, the retailers that went out in your local market. The path to failure starts by saying, “We really can’t.” I want you to really do it. So, why don’t you get yourself together, think about all the fun you could have with a well-trained crew in four to six months, and then say, “Wow, how high is up?
Objection #3: Our Products are Different
When people are looking at buying my online retail sales training program, they often tell me, “Oh, but our business is different; we sell different products.” And yet, many hide from the customer because they are still dealing with the fear of them developed during the pandemic. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing or want the customer to direct the interface, not them.
I walked into a luxury retailer in Soho to look at a technically advanced product, and the employee approached me and said, “Any questions?” I was like, “Wow. This is terrible. There’s no feeling here; there’s no welcome or anything else. I just want to leave.”
Why? Because this presupposes the idea that the customer already comes in with questions, If they just answer, I’ll make the sale. That’s not it. Making the sale will be yes, to inspire us to say, “Oh, we have this and this to build confidence in the customer.” “Oh, I’ve made the right choice to get the add-on.”
So, if it’s a shoe store, they’re getting two or three pairs, not the one they came in for. They’re coming into a boutique for the dress, and they’re also getting the accessory. They’re coming for the handbag...well, you get the idea. It’s about getting the full picture, not just getting questions answered.
But if you’ve already tuned out and said, “Oh, well, that won’t work for us. We sell, whatever it is,” then know it’s not about products.
Product training is very specific. It’s analytical. It’s like doing a test. That’s not soft skills. The soft skills are, “How do I open my heart to another human being to be curious about them in a way that allows them to ask me questions? And then I can enjoy experiencing the purchase with them.” And with that attitude, it’s how high is up? Instead of, “I need to sell for my own wallet,” or, “I just want to go over there and hang out with people.”
And that’s why the soft skills, everybody can use. The product knowledge that’s specific to you and you’ll be able to train that on your own. The key with SalesRX is to go through and mirror what we heard to what we are doing. And then, if there’s anything that’s not quite there or someone’s not quite comfortable with it, you can address it before they get out on the sales floor. Do you know what that does to confidence? Do you know what that does that their ability actually to excel? 84% of our users report a double-digit increase within about six months.
Lose that limiting belief that your products are what makes you different. Your people are what makes you different. And if you aren’t doing a better job and engaging them, customers will probably end up going to an online retailer and not you.
Objection #4: It’s not the Right Time to Start
“It’s not the right time for me to start a training program.”
I always hear this from people, and I’ll say, “Well, what about January?” “Oh, not January. January, we’re doing inventory, and we have markets.” “What about February?” “Well, you know, we have vacations because we didn’t take vacations in the fourth quarter. We were so busy.” “What about March?” “Oh, well, we can’t do March because March is going to be getting those orders in from the market, and April’s no good because of Easter and...”
You get the point. Every month there’s something. So, when is a good time for you to train?
Well, it’s the day that you decide that it matters.
And, you know, one of our SalesRX users told me that when she decided to train, it took her a few months to get the right manager. Even some of the good managers didn’t really didn’t fully buy into the idea. They thought, “Well, we’ll get around to it when we really need it, but I don’t need this now.” And everything stalled until she got a manager who said, “My future depends on us doing a better job at training and understanding that training is something we do, not something we did.”
But once they began, life got easier because as you onboard new people, they see how it works in place. And you know what? Well-trained people attract other similar people who can see, “Hey, there’s something different about this retail store.”
Just picture you have a group of nine to 12 people, and you throw them in Yankee Stadium, and you say, “Okay, you have to hit the ball, and you have to end up being successful, or you’re fired.”
And some people who have played the game before figure out, “Okay, well, you go here, and you go here,” but most people don’t really know what they’re supposed to do or what it looks like. And now we’re also saying with omnichannel, “Okay, and by the way, you have to go out to the refreshment area and take orders from people for the refreshments, then ship it to them, and you have to win the game or you’re gone.”
And that’s how it has been for many retailers because of what we have gone through, and we have just let people figure it out, which has kind of been the Wild Wild West and hoping it just all sort of worked out. The problem is that most retail stores are now down 20 or 30 percent of their staff. Wouldn’t figuring out how the game goes with fewer people on the field be more important?
Because the other thing, when you say that, “It’s not the right time to train,” we’re in the middle of the Great Resignation. And how many people who actually should do the job, want to do the job, aren’t getting trained, aren’t feeling rewarded, and aren’t feeling accomplished because they’re the ones leaving for greener pastures? And then you’re left with people who either aren’t motivated or untrainable, which is not good.
You ultimately need your best salespeople to do even better, and that’s why any time you can start a training program is great.
So, if you are telling yourself, “It’s not the right time to start a training program,” I will tell you now is the perfect time to start a training program.
I encourage you to check out our testimonial videos.
Even seasoned veterans in the retail business have increased their sales and learned new skills with our SalesRX retail sales training program.
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