Managing Sales Behaviors to Improve Sales Performance

By Bob Phibbs

iStock-988585958-managing-behaviorWhat are sales behaviors? They are a series of actions comprised in a sales process, the way sales people act and talk with shoppers.

It is not as some have said your thought process; it is something specific other sales associates can see or hear you do. For example, an associate standing behind the counter talking trash about another customer so everyone can hear is a bad sales behavior.

Importance of behavioral sales training in retail

What are bad sales behaviors? Things a sales person does that result in the shopper not making a purchase and leaving the store.  For example, I went into a Hugo Boss boutique. I didn’t see any salesperson in the store. I found a shirt I wanted to try on and finally spotted a sales associate in a cubby. I assumed he was finishing a sale with a shopper. I tried to get his attention but couldn’t, so I just tried the shirt on right there on the sales floor. The woman left and I assumed the salesperson would come over. Nope. He just stood in the middle of the store looking out into the mall.  As I walked past him, he said not a word, just stared out into the mall. That was a bad sales behavior.

What are good sales behaviors? Engaging a stranger, discovering the shopper, and making a sale. For example, at the same mall several hours later, I passed a Rituals skin care boutique. It featured a large hydrangea tree in the center and as I stopped to look, a young woman encouraged me to come in. “No,” I said, “I’m tired and just want to get home.” She replied, “Where is that?” I told her up by Albany, a couple hours away and added I didn’t really need any skin care. She motioned me to come in and said, “Well come in and have a cup of tea before the long drive.” I gave in and came in. I left fifteen minutes later with $125 of product, glad for the experience. That was a great sales behavior.

Her good sales behaviors built that store’s sales that day and I’m sure every day. Her sales behaviors, the way she asked, her determination to get me to come in the door in a relaxed way, and ultimately her persistence to make the sale can all be trained.

Why is behavioral sales training important in retail? Because there are specific ways to work on a retail sales floor. I should stop here.

But there is a trend to make the retail worker nothing more than a warehouse worker on steroids as this NYT article Her Job Requires 7 Apps. She Works Retail detailed, they are little more than “retail transaction enablers.”

We must elevate the human experience. A customer needs to feel seen, heard, and valued. That focus on a customer is how you create growth.  And that only comes from excellent training programs for your associates. 

If you’re reading this to get more out of workers by having them fill shelves, sort online orders, and prepare BOPIS tags, know that those are not sales behaviors, those are task fulfillers.

The 9 of the most important retail sales behaviors are:

  1.     Greeting more shoppers with hustle
  2.     Meeting a shopper where they are
  3.     Developing rapport
  4.     Reading and responding positively to shopper body postures
  5.     Demonstrating product knowledge and benefits
  6.     Comparing and contrasting similar products
  7.     Adding-on to the first item selected.
  8.     Thanking the customer
  9.     Following-up

What is behavioral sales training? It is a sales process that builds a specific sequence of events. One behavior builds on another and they cannot be taken out of order. That’s what training programs for sports, instruments, and yes selling provide. Make sense?

It is like learning to drive a car where you make sure there is no rain or snow or other weather event, you check to make sure you have gas, you get in, you adjust the mirrors, fasten your seatbelt, and turn the ignition.

See also, 9 Secrets To Effectively Managing Retail Employees

The key to managing sales behaviors is you have to extinguish bad behaviors before there is room for the new soft skills of engaging a stranger and building rapport to take hold.

Retail associates need to stop thinking and acting poorly towards potential customers.

What to expect? The first thing is to get your associates to stop thinking of shoppers as an inconvenience to getting tasks done and instead see those interactions as what makes the job of dealing with the public bearable. You have to draw comparisons to times they have felt valued in a retail store and times they didn’t. 

Then unpack the selling behaviors of those they’ve seen in other stores in their past that either showed them they mattered or made them feel badly.

Second, ask the associate if they have exhibited any of those negative behaviors on your own sales floor. If they don’t think so, it is helpful to have some examples you’ve witnessed, not to shame them but to show them how easy it is to treat someone poorly without even knowing it.

Then you show your associate the correct selling behaviors that deliver a great customer experience. But be forewarned, there may be people in your crew who do not share the same attitudes or beliefs about customers, even when you educate them. You must deal with these people early or they will add pressure to your staff not to change.

How behavioral sales training improves customer engagement

How can behavioral sales training improve customer loyalty in your store? Quite simply, people who feel they matter buy.

How can behavioral sales training help employees become better salespeople? Because when you educate the associate that their first thought has to be to want to be hospitable, then they take specific actions/behaviors to get shoppers to trust them, and that leads to more sales.

Behavioral sales training can create a better experience for the customer because the interaction follows a path that leads from the shopper showing interest, to being convinced they can use the product, and ultimately to purchase.

Without retail sales training employees do whatever they want which is what I call Asked and Answered interactions which looks like this...

A shopper comes in; after a while they come to the counter and ask for help locating something; the associate obliges, and tells them or takes them to the item.

This does nothing to capitalize on the strength of a brick and mortar store – it’s just retail sales enablement. A robot could do as much.

But a robot can’t bond with your shopper or make them smile or recommend something they didn’t mention. 

Asked and answered robotic customer service - that is the death of a brick and mortar retailer.

How can you reinforce behavioral sales training within your business? The key is to give every employee from the seasoned full-timer to the newest part-timer a strong foundation of selling behaviors. Once those are not just taught but also role-played to make sure they are understood, you reinforce the correct behaviors by commenting when you see them.

This is important because many retail managers harp on what an associate isn’t doing which just builds resentment so they do what you want when you are looking but when you leave, it is the wild west for a shopper.

How can behavioral sales training improve your customer service? Because you can deliver a branded experience. That consistency is what made Starbucks and Apple so powerful and what can give you the edge over your online retail competitors.

Quite simply, no one raves about average. The better you consistently deliver a better shopping experience, the more word-of-mouth marketing you receive, and the more share you receive on your social media posts.

How behavioral sales training improves retail strategies

Behavioral sales training also improves your retail strategies because ultimately to be successful, you have to do something no one else can do. That means your crew has to get better at selling your merchandise. Without a clear focus on this competitive advantage, your competitors won’t fall away, but your shoppers will increasingly turn to their smartphones instead of driving to your mediocre store.

What are the most effective retail strategies? Those that provide a thoroughly satisfying shopping experience for both your sales associates and your customers.

That starts with having a logical selling process your sales professionals can follow delivered in bite-sized learning that adds to their product knowledge skills they already have.

To follow-up and hold associates accountable, it's good to make sure they are using your training with regular mystery shops

Where to find behavioral retail sales training

Where can you find video tutorials for behavioral retail sales training? While there are a lot of sales organizations that provide training programs, I have a complete program that includes foundational train-the-trainer courses in my online retail sales training program SalesRX. They’ll learn the foundational behavioral sales training your sales force needs to learn, but also more skills on how to train and manage sales behaviors of their associates.

In Sum

Train the right sales behaviors and you’ll have repeat loyal customers. Avoid it and you won’t.

Where can you learn more about behavioral retail sales training? Go to SalesRX.com to learn more. 

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