December 18, 2016
Many retail brand managers, store owners, and managers are shaking their heads in frustration trying to figure out what they are missing to be able to increase sales.
They’ve tried running friends and family sales that fail to juice the numbers.
They’ve tried daily deals to create urgency, but the merchandise sits.
They’ve hired new employees, but for many the hiring process is a never-ending loop producing stagnant results.
The challenge is figuring out what to improve when shoppers are more and more going online instead of visiting in-store.
You have to dig deep but you'll eventually see the answer is retail sales training.
But let’s get something clear by dispelling the first common fallacy of how stores define sales training. For some stores, their training program consists of showing employees where the bathrooms are, how to clock in and out, and how to fulfill online orders. That process should really be called onboarding - not training - as this process provides no value in creating a successful sales team.
The second fallacy is that spending a lot of time training their employees on product knowledge works. Sure it's important they know how to play the game, or which lens to use, or how to use the product...
But while this may sound like a decent strategy, it is an ineffective training method for the needs of a modern retail store employee.
Product training used to be a necessity because the only ones who had the information were the manufacturers who brought dealers to an event and in turn would then teach them about their products.
Those dealers would take their product knowledge back to their stores and teach their employees everything they needed to know about the merchandise.
If customers became interested in a particular product, they would have to go to the store to find out more about it. This sales training model was common, but it is woefully inept to the needs of today’s tech-savvy customer.
That’s because, as Adweek noted now 81% of all shoppers conduct online research before ever visiting a store.
That means your customer already has that product knowledge when he walks into your store. Learning more about the product is not why he’s there; otherwise, he would have just bought it online.
He’s there to find something different, or find someone to convince him he’s right, or to find something he hadn’t even considered that would serve him even better.
So, the fix for your retail store has to go beyond product training.
Now most of your focus must be on teaching your staff how to go beyond the basic interaction of Can I help you? and transform it by building enough rapport with that stranger to become their trusted advisor.
That’s the part that is missing from most stores’ training programs, that how to make a connection. In our omnichannel world, a mountain of product knowledge is meaningless without the ability to relate to the customer.
That’s because your product-knowledge expert will never get a chance to use it if they can’t engage a stranger in a new and compelling way.
You have to change the employee mindset
For many employees, retail is just one step up from working in fast food. They have an attitude that they’re settling for less than what they should be.
That’s not news really…
But if you look at almost any CEO of a major company, they trace their beginnings back to working at a store. They had to learn about customer service and how to put somebody else before themselves.
People bring in their own baggage when they come to work at a store, especially Millennial employees. Millennials have grown up with everything, but they are also frugal and price savvy. They know the customer can get the same or similar products cheaper online... and now with free shipping.
They might be laughing at a woman who’s thinking of buying a $1,000 dress because they themselves would order from Rent the Runway and save the money.
When you combine the personality of the Millennial sales associate with that of a Baby Boomer customer who typically prefers service over savings, you end up with a really bad retail operation.
It’s like you brought a Trojan Horse into your store.
To avoid that, your retail sales training must stress to be curious about why that customer drove through traffic in the rain and the fog today, fought for a parking spot, and walked into your store.
Once they’re curious, making the sale gets a lot easier because the customer tells them their hopes and their wishes. If they’re not curious and instead apathetic, their sales are more miss than hit and your profits decline.
You need a sales team that proactively looks for how to build a big sale, not settle for making do.
I scratch my head when I’m at a hardware store and hear a shopper say, “I need a new bolt for my old toilet,” and the salesperson never asks, “Why don’t you upgrade to a new toilet?” That question’s not even in their minds.
That’s just because they’ve never really received true retail sales training.
If that salesperson had asked, “Well how long have you had it?”” and continued with, “You know, you’re probably wasting a lot of water, and you can install a new toilet that’s a little higher or a little lower, and it might be more comfortable for you. Would you be interested in looking at that while I try to find the bolt?”
The customer could have left happy and with a new toilet that would save him money in the long-run.
Ultimately, shoppers are going into a store for an employee’s connection, their wisdom, and a complete solution.
See also, How to Increase Retail Sales Three Tips
Shoppers can find product knowledge everywhere.
They can find a lower price anywhere.
When you don’t train employees to be curious and thoughtful, they default to, “What can I help you find?”
And that doesn’t make it for today’s shopper.
Shoppers shop to feel hopeful, and if they are in a brick and mortar store, they shop to meet other people.
Retailers who plan to outlive their competition understand this philosophy, and they see sales training as a necessity, so they spend the money and allocate the employee time for days, and in some cases weeks, on how to make that employee-to-stranger bond that leads to higher conversion rates and profits.
But that means understanding what true retail sales training is and what it needs to accomplish in order to meet the challenge of omnichannel retailers.