How To Avoid The Pitfalls of Change Management So Your Retail Sales Employees Don't Turn On You

By Bob Phibbs

how to change company culture in retailA friend of mine had been working with a retailer to create more of an experience in their stores.

Over a series of months, she and her team came up with an entire re-do of the fixtures, paint colors, branding messages, custom gobo lighting which moved across the hottest merchandise in sync with a custom music channel, and a whole floor plan to ensure customers were dazzled.

Her client was happy and was bragging about the new experience customers would find in their stores.

But three months later, when my friend went back to the pilot store, she was disheartened to discover the custom music channel was off.  The gobos were gliding across the floor rather than the merchandise, and the best sellers were no longer highlighted. In fact the whole store was a disaster from her perspective.

When she asked the manager why it looked so different, she was told, “The crew didn’t like the music, so we turned it off. That merchandise didn’t look good, so we moved it.” He hadn’t even noticed that the gobos were moving on the carpeting.

How did such a thing happen?

No one had thought to include the crew in any aspect of the new design.  

And the fact is, those real keepers of the flame, when left out or kept out of the discussion, can override the suits at the top.

We see it with grocery store reps going in to discover their well-tagged, well-designed and sales-booster display units still in their cardboard shipping containers weeks after the promotion ended.

We see it with various brands and their POP littered about their dealer networks.

We see it in prominent retail establishments with IPads that can’t connect with server messages, turned off or broken.

Here’s the thing…

If you don’t believe your crew is your most important asset, you’re stuck. They know you feel that way.

Their way of getting back at you is to ignore your planogram, turn down, turn up or turn off your music, move your racks, disregard your sales training, you name it.

And here’s the rub…

If you had a broken culture before you implemented your new strategic initiative, marketing piece, or training… the culture will still be broken after it.

I’ve seen this with a few of my SalesRX users over the years.  Someone may have purchased the retail sales training program and expected it to be a magic bullet; they thought it would require nothing new.

It all goes off the rails when you don’t bring the crew onboard in the right way.

If you didn’t explain how and why you were bringing in your new initiative and what you hoped for, and you didn’t seek their feedback or listen to their ideas on how to run with it, you’re probably doomed.

Look, there is no magic bullet - not to increasing sales, not to managing employees, not to anything.

New ideas take work and training.

Let me be very clear, if your employees are not using the training, the props, the displays, you name it - they are testing you.

At some level, they fear they are losing control of their environment and will try to regain it any way they can.  If they didn’t like their manager before, they sure won’t want to follow their lead because they feel management can’t be trusted to support them.

Whatever the reason, resistance to change management it is easy to spot…

It could come from hearing them tell customers, this is how corporate wants us to do it.

It could come from them shutting down on the sales floor and saying they aren’t allowed to change anything.

Or it could come in their silence.

Whatever the cause,  the real victim is your brand as it morphs into this person’s world view of being disempowered.

What To Do To Help Employees Accept Change

Your retail managers need to put on their big boy or big girl pants and become who they are supposed to be – passionate retail managers.

A great retailer empowers employees to observe behavior and draw conclusions about people's needs and wants. It creates a sense of pride in their employees and in turn, their jobs.

If you are about to launch a new initiative, bring your best and brightest together to see where the potholes or stumbling blocks are, and where you are we bound to get resistance. Then fill in the gaps beforehand to thwart their effectiveness.

And let’s be honest here, people hate change.

That’s why so many dismiss new ideas out-of-hand because they fear change, and that is not only threatening but can make them feel vulnerable.

If you have already launched a new training initiative, a new marketing campaign, a new store design and you aren’t getting buy-in, the process is similar.

Bring your best and brightest into a room and ask what is going on, why aren’t they using the collateral material, the sales training, the order pass-off script – whatever.

The difference is now you have to go one-on-one to get everybody’s buy-in on not only understanding the new initiative, but you also have to check that they have the skills and abilities to succeed at it.

It takes more time, but it also allows you to show them how important you think these changes are to the organization and more importantly, your customer service experience.

Oh and in case you're wondering, I'm not saying to ask them whether to change or not, that's your role. 

See also, How The Actions In Your Retail Store Can Change The World

In Sum

First, you have to make sure your crew is excited by the coming changes.  They have to buy into the new plan prior to launching.

Without their buy-in, all the money you spent will be for naught.

Your managers need to know what the completed training, display, event should look like and be ready to step in if a crewmember doesn’t want to use any of it.

Finally, you will only know if any of it is working when you take time to observe the sales floor, the only place where it really matters.  Even mystery shops can only do so much.  

It takes someone who knows what the sales process should look like to know if a salesperson is delivering the correct service standard.

It takes someone who created the marketing materials with the exact placement in mind to know when it is wrong and when it is right.

Then those people need to be sure to reward and encourage those who are successful or send those who are not back through the training, back to the planogram, or back to the stockroom until they show it on your sales floor.

And yes, you have to part company with those who can’t or won’t get it.

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