Retail Sales Training: How to Get Started and What to Expect

By Bob Phibbs

how to get started with retail sales training

Imagine being in an airplane and overhearing a voice from the cockpit saying, “Just keep the nose in the air and if the warning lights don’t go off, call me.”

You, as a flight attendant, might begin preparing yourself for a crash.

Many small business owners open their own retail stores with a similar message to their employees,  “Just help the customers and if you get overwhelmed, call me.” 

That’s probably why so many crash…

No pilot can fly the plane until they are fully trained, and no employee should be left alone on your salesfloor until they are fully trained.

Read My Comprehensive Retail Sales Training Online page that answers all your questions here

I recommend anyone looking to get started, particularly with online retail sales training, consider these five steps:

Here are five steps to get started:

1. Observe. Before you begin to develop and train your own employees, visit your competitors and carefully look at their employees. Are they bored behind the counter? Are they surrounded by a silent store? Are their customers walking in and buying or just walking in and walking out? If you’re a vendor, look at competitors during trade shows. Are they bored behind a display? Are they quiet? What don’t you like and be specific.

2. Define. Next you need to clearly articulate what great customer service should look like in your store or with your representatives. Will customers be greeted immediately upon entering or only after they ask for help? Will you have an approach-in-15-seconds rule? Will you have employees who develop rapport with strangers? Will they know how to add-on to a sale?

3. Plan. Once you have those questions clearly answered, you can create your sales training program that teaches your employees what it will take to create a great customer service experience with your brand.

4. Chunk. Then break your training into bite-sized learnings that build on each other. Start with the greeting, progress to building rapport, then to showing your merchandise, and finally to adding on and following up. To see what I train, go here.

5. Gage. To make sure your employees are learning, test them along the way.  Have them teach you how to greet a customer. Have them list two ways to build rapport. Make them give you three features and benefits of your most popular items. You get the drift.

You need to make sure they not only go through your training, but that the training alters their behavior.

If you find they are unable to learn, do not let them stay – let them go!

Now I’ll be honest with you. The easiest thing to do is start with a new crew.  They’ll be new to the job and afraid they might be let go, so they’ll sideline any skepticism and try anything you ask.

Unfortunately, I doubt that’s where many of you who are reading this are…

So here’s what to expect:

Training takes time.  Your goal for your learners is to be invincible like Rocky Balboa. That means you have to commit to a continual goal of improvement.  And that takes time.

Avoid too many changes at once.  Just getting your employees to switch out of Can I help you? can take weeks. Take a moment for that shock to wear off.  

You’re going from a reactive, not-thinking autopilot response to a considered, deliberate and welcoming invitation to build rapport.  Therefore, give your learners plenty of time for the changes to gradually take hold. Try one or two changes a week – tops.

Your crew may doubt their abilities. As your employees give up the safety of saying the same thing to everyone, they will become less confident. They might say they can’t do it or that the learning is stupid. They might tell you customers are leaving because of it.  When you see them using your new training, reward them so you build a positive experience for all.

Make sure you role-play before trying new skills on customers. Pilots use flight simulators to experience the consequences of their actions in a safe manner. Role-playing with your learners allows you to correct and praise while the skills are still new.  Allow plenty of time during the week to try various scenarios with your learners before they experience the inevitable rejection of some of your customers.

There will still be mistakes.  Yes, there’ll be slipups. Be careful not to overreact to mistakes early on, or you will shut them down. Likewise, don’t turn a blind eye when they consistently do not use their new skills.

See also, How To Sell Your Boss On Why You Need Sales Training

In Sum

Just like dieting, weight training or learning to fly a plane, always celebrate as you progress.

No matter how big or small, every change you deliberately make in how your employees interact with your customers gets you that much closer to creating an exceptional experience.

Luckily, that experience also helps you pay the bills.

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