Why Your Selling And Training Methods Don’t Work…And The Simple Fix

Bob Phibbs By

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It has been said that no one likes to wait. Yet stores that have a long line tend to attract even more people to wait because they feel it must be worth it.

Few of us like it when someone has power over us. Think The doctor will see you now or You’ll have to wait for the results.

We hate waiting.

Need an answer for how to change your water filter? Ask Siri. Forget the title of a movie? Ask Google.

But that always-on, always-needing-immediate-answers is dangerous when it comes to selling in a retail store.
Have you ever had that experience where you are trying to explain what you are looking for to a store associate and they jump in and cut you off, telling you the wrong solution?

That comes from the get it done now mindset that most of us live our lives by.

When you as a salesperson are impatient and trying to fill a need, not only can it result in the wrong solution but it can also make the customer feel ignored and they either buy less or walk.

You make more money with people lingering and discovering in your store than being an order fulfillment warehouse manager.

To make customers feel heard and to build trust, wait before you speak.

Why should we wait after someone stops talking?

Allowing about 3 seconds gives your mind time to formulate a response. It also gives the listener time to think about what they said and be ready for what you will say.

Signs you need to slow down when selling

If customers are asking you to slow down, that’s obvious but there are other signs you can read:

• Their posture changes and they physically pull back from you.
• They stop asking questions.
• They ask questions that begin with but.

How to train Waiting?

It starts when you are training.

When you treat training as something to get done with, you often cram too much information into too short a time period with no time to wait and absorb it.

You might as well have given employees the day off as treat their minds like a jelly donut.

I think that the once-and-done idea of training is at the very core of the Great Resignation, not money.

According to a recent report from Axonify, when frontline employees were asked why they’re planning to resign, over half of the respondents cited a lack of appreciation from management and/or peers (53%), and a lack of interest in daily work (52%), with poor compensation (52%) coming in fourth.

The Forgetting Curve

Retailers must understand the forgetting curve which says humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

Information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. You know this yourself, that’s why after you studied hard for a test in school, a few days later the information was gone. The brain never had to go back and connect the dots between what you learned and what it had to use.

I was on a podcast and a guy was telling me employee management after the pandemic was all about coaching more than training. He gave an example of an employee who didn’t add on. He said the right way was to ask the associate after the sale, “Did you remember what we talked about at our Sunday meeting? Why didn’t you use what I covered?” He felt that was the best way to train.

I countered that you just shamed an employee. There wasn’t a strong enough component to the memory. Talking about something or “covering it in a meeting” doesn’t create a dynamic memory. That takes focused learning away from distractions, in short bites, with a waiting period so the mind will have to retrieve what it learned and build the synapse.

Here’s an example. Say I ask you what you had for dinner last night. You can tell me. Say I ask you again in five days. You might be able to repeat it but probably not. How about in three weeks. Nope.

Now if I ask you what you had for dinner in five days and you can’t remember, I might show you the menu or simply tell you, “You said meatloaf.” You then laugh and remember – yes, that’s what I had. Five days later we could repeat this exercise. If I had you use meatloaf in a sentence at that moment it would build an even stronger memory. Then every time we confirmed the meatloaf, we told the brain this is an important thing to memorize which builds strong connections, or synapses, in the brain.

Waiting and reinforcement is important in training

The strength of memory leads to how long that memory can be traced inside the brain. The stronger the memory, the longer period of time that a person can recall it.

I took a couple of online seminars last year. This presenter's events are based on the immersion theory of training so from roughly 10 am until past midnight with only a couple of breaks, we were bombarded with information. After three days I just wanted to be done.

And even with pages and pages of notes, all I’m left with is a sense of what I learned. My brain had no time to correlate, connect dots, and use what was presented.

You don’t want associates to leave a training program with a sense or a feeling of what to do, they need to know it, have practiced it, and been led in mock sessions. Then coaching works.

The mind needs black and white examples, not grey feelings when you are looking to change behaviors.

In short, until a trainee knows how the game is played, how to hold the racket, and has shown the trainer they know what they are doing, coaching is a waste.

When training is viewed as something to get through rather than something that adds value to the employee their value is a waste too. And that’s a mistake.

How to get retail employees to stay

Training is just what employees are looking for according to a recent Axonify survey of employees across the world, “When frontline employees were asked what would motivate them to stay at a company, one third said more career advancement opportunities (34%) and access to more training and skill development (32%).

Yet HRDrive reveals that employees have only about 1% of their work time to devote to professional development and only 12% of learners say they apply the skills received from training to their jobs.

But when is the right time for training?

Training shouldn’t be something you do once, it should be ongoing and something you do just like you receive stock, ring up customers, and answer the phone.

But when you try to get through your training without waiting, you’ll lead your team to believe having been exposed to the training - watching you, watching a video, reading a chapter- that they have been trained and, since they’ve never seen anything different, they can become belligerent around the idea they don’t need training.

That’s deadly because they don’t approach training with an open mind. Your training should have precise outcome goals, opportunities to practice, and mechanisms for feedback and reflection.

And impatience can get the best of a trainer. Once you ask a question, you may not want to wait 3-5 seconds for the learner to answer. You have too much to teach. There is too much to do. You don’t have TIME to train.

But one reason you are uncomfortable waiting after a question is it may feel unnatural. But that just means you need to practice yourself. I know there are times I literally touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth, so I don’t overstep that wait I know I need to have to allow the learner to speak.

Signs you are going too fast in your training program

• Your trainees cannot teach you what they learned.
• They can’t perform what was trained.
• They give excuses why they didn’t use what was taught.
• In online training number of lessons taken per day.
• Passing percentages on quizzes or mock sessions.

In Sum

For those of us who are leading teams, waiting can be quite a problem. On the one hand, most of us don’t like waiting. Like customers, we want what we want and we want it yesterday. We want it on our own terms. Most of us have not had much training ourselves in waiting and where would we learn something unless someone brought it to our attention?

On the other hand, waiting is a necessity with supply chain problems right now and having to wait helps us understand the frustrations of our customers. Having to wait for an order, an employee, the doctor, or for a takeout order puts us in a position where we are not in control.

But when you wait before you answer a customer or between taking lessons you allow space for real understanding.

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