Managing Sales Behaviors to Improve Sales Performance

Managing sales behavior

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Updated April 19, 2024

What are sales behaviors? They are a series of actions in a sales process: how salespeople act and talk with shoppers.

As some have said, it is not 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 bad sales behavior.

Importance of behavioral sales training in retail

What are bad sales behaviors? They are things a salesperson 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 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 into the mall.  He said no word as I walked past him, staring into the mall. That was bad sales behavior.

What are good sales behaviors? Engaging a stranger, discovering the shopper, and making a sale.

For example, I passed a Rituals skincare boutique several hours later at the same mall. 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 of hours away, and added I didn’t need any skincare. 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 entered. I left with $125 of product fifteen minutes later, glad for the experience. That was 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.

Behavioral sales training is 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 those are not sales behaviors; they are task fulfillers.

The 9 of the most essential 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 it 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 when you ensure no rain, snow, or other weather events. You check to make sure you have gas, get in, 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 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 dealing with the public bearable. You have to compare times they felt valued in a retail store and didn’t. 

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

Second, ask the associate if they have exhibited negative behaviors on your 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 enhance 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 associates that their first thought has to be to want to be hospitable, they take specific actions/behaviors to get shoppers to trust them, which leads to more sales.

Behavioral sales training can create a better customer experience 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 look 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 shoppers, 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 taught and role-played to ensure 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 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 made Starbucks and Apple so powerful that they can give you an 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 shares 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 the 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 many sales organizations 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 and more skills on how to train and manage the 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 to learn more.