Retailers, especially those with many employees, often wonder what makes a good retail sales training program and what they should be paying for one.
This is especially true if those employees are in far-flung locations, which naturally raises concerns about its cost and effectiveness.
To address these concerns, we’ll discuss the elements of a good retail sales training program, the costs of those programs, and what it’s costing you NOT to use the right program.
Elements of a Good Retail Sales Training Program
There’s a vast variety of retail salespeople worldwide, from commission-only professionals handling the best luxury goods to part-timers floating among different areas in large department stores.
As such, it’s safe to say there’s probably a huge variety of retail sales training programs out there. No matter a retailer’s size, training must provide the foundational elements that all top-quality training programs share.
Nine must-have elements for every retail sales training program
A retail sales training program that doesn’t have the following elements as its basis is destined to disappoint:
1. Objective Assessment
You can’t know where you need to improve unless you know where you are. A good retail sales training program begins with an assessment of the current abilities of your sales staff.
Markers should include per-ticket transactions, average transaction amounts, mystery shopper interactions, gross margins, and more.
2. Can Do Instructions
Salespeople don’t need a list of things not to do but often are given them anyway. Without a foundation of how to create an exceptional experience for a customer, do-not-do lists leave lots of room for error. Sales training should provide retail employees with clear expectations and actionable behaviors. When they step on the sales floor, they should think about everything they’ve been taught to do instead of what they’ve been warned against.
3. Brief Sessions
Everyone learns better in small, clear chunks. A four-year degree could be earned in a single semester if they could learn everything in a single sitting. It takes time to absorb and process new information.
The longer a training takes, the more things get lost in processing. Shorter sessions allow your salespeople to maximize retention, making the entire program more effective.
4. Mastery With a Trainer
Working with an experienced trainer is crucial to mastering key concepts. Employees have little time for interaction if the trainer isn’t around or only spends a few hours a month at each store.
The best programs put experienced trainers within reach whenever the trainee needs them. They allow employees to try the training in a safe space before trying it on customers.
5. Mastery With Customers
Due to shortened training, many retailers essentially throw the trainee into the deep end of the pool as they say, “Remember what you learned.” Sink or swim is the worst way to train because the sales floor is the proving ground.
A good retail sales training program will put trainees in front of customers only after they know the employee has mastered the concepts.
6. Fast Feedback
Monthly reviews are useless for training. When the employee hears what they could be doing better, they’ve been doing it wrong for weeks. Until they master the learned techniques, trainers should be there to provide continual guidance.
7. Progress After Success
Trainees should have mastery of one section before moving on to another. Letting them skip ahead with the hopes that they’ll return later will leave large gaps in their training.
Training must teach techniques that are practical and work in a retail store. If the methods are impractical, your salespeople and customers will all become frustrated by the experience.
9. Permanent Practice
The learned techniques must be ingrained to the point of becoming reflexes so the individual salesperson’s personality can shine through the sales process. The only way this can happen is through constant practice and reinforcement.
If people could learn something once and do it perfectly forever, athletes wouldn’t need coaches or trainers.
Before discussing what a good retail sales training program costs, let’s look at what poor training is costing you. In terms of what you’re paying for it, it may be costing you very little.
You may pair trainees up with experienced salespeople, paying them their regular rate, ignoring the cost of slowing down a professional salesperson and having trainees stand around with their hands in their pockets.
Or you may have a trainer on staff who visits different stores as needed and speaks to however many employees they can get to show up.
Overall, what you’re paying may not be that high, but you may be surprised at just how much poor training is costing your business in missed revenue and sales opportunities
Numerous studies have shown that the dynamic training described here can increase wins by more than 15 percent across the board.
That’s 15 percent more shoppers becoming customers.
That’s 15 percent more sales per ticket.
If you’re not capitalizing on that 15 percent, then your inexpensive training program costs you quite a bit.
Good Retail Training ROI
Starting with a more modest 5 percent increase in conversions, you can quickly see just how much you have to gain from a good retail sales training program and how much your current training is costing you.
Suppose you sell about $100K weekly on average checks of $120. That means you’re converting about 833 shoppers into customers each week.
If the training increased nothing but conversions, your salespeople would convert an extra 42 customers a week for total sales of $105K. That’s an extra $20K a month just on conversions.
However, a good retail sales training program also increases per-ticket averages. If we use the low end of 5 percent again, your per-ticket sales climb to $126. Over the course of a week, that adds up to an additional $5,250.
Combined with your increased conversions, that adds up to $41,000 in additional monthly revenue.