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Sales Training is a MUST not a maybe...

Posted by on in Selling
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“What’s the point of training my staff? I no sooner train them and they leave.”
So many times, this is the lament I hear from retailers. My answer is always the same:
“Your choice is to train them and run the risk of them leaving, or NOT training them and run the risk of them staying…..”
As a store, you’re either getting better or getting worse and in order to succeed, you need a store that is clean, well organised, properly merchandised and with salespeople who are trained well and WANT to sell.
I hasten to add, though, training for the sake of training – with no means of measurement – is a waste of time and money. What is the point of spending time training people if you don’t measure the improvement in your business?
The only reason to ever do sales training is to improve a sales statistic.
Let’s assume you have a store that is ready to sell. The product is displayed beautifully, the store is organised and as clean as can be. All the elements are in place for you to really sell and expand the business. The key element missing is: SALESPEOPLE.

Salespeople are there to get the shoppers to become buyers with products that stay sold! (No, looking up and seeing yesterday’s customer returning with the product in their arms).
In the simplest of terms, there are three general areas in which a salesperson must be trained in order to succeed:

  1. Operations
  2. Product Knowledge
  3. Selling Skills

Each area supports the others in enabling the salesperson to maximise their success on the salesfloor.  

  • If a salesperson has mastered the operational side of the business, but is not comfortable or competent on the sales floor, then they won’t succeed as a salesperson.
  • If a salesperson has highly developed selling skills, but lacks product knowledge, they won’t be able to answer customer’s questions and their success will be limited.
  • If a salesperson has thorough product knowledge, but lacks selling skills, they will more likely fail during crucial phases of the selling process (asking questions, attempting to add-on, up-sell or “bundle”, closing the sale) and will be unable to maximise their sales potential.

Without skill in each area, the salesperson is not likely to survive on the sales floor.
If, on the other hand, a salesperson is the top salesperson in the store, they can’t be better than the best. Sure, even top salespeople can get better, but why are you even worried about that? Get off the backs of your top performers and put your emphasis on your weakest links.
No salesperson with substandard performance can say it isn’t fair for you to hold them accountable for certain selling behaviours on the sales floor that you don’t require from top performers. As soon as they become top producers, they don’t have to take your advice either!
Reaching sales goals is the benchmark for determining the success or failure of your team. No longer should opinions affect your judgement about the ability of your salespeople to perform. They either reach their goals or they don’t.
The primary responsibility of the sales manager is to help each salesperson reach and then exceed the minimum sales performance standard. The bottom line is gross sales. (It should be noted that organisations with a high number of discounted sales may compensate salespeople based on margin. Therefore, margin is the bottom line as well.)
But in most typical retail stores, it doesn’t matter if a salesperson made one sale of $5,000 and another made 10 sales that totalled $5,000, the end result is the same. And if that $5,000 qualifies for success, it doesn’t really matter how it was achieved. Both salespeople deserve the success and the praise that comes with it. Raising the performance level of your team is the key. Salespeople need better advice to improve performance than just “sell more”. By tracking your figures, you get an insight into how the individual salesperson can sell more.

You never coach the results (in sales), you coach what caused the result.

A team with new team members with little experience in sales require a great deal of assistance from their manager in order to eventually succeed in the world of retail selling.
Here is a logical order in which to develop sales skills:
Conversion Rate
Your first step in developing a salesperson’s skills is to teach them how to sell something, anything to as many customers as possible. This is critical in building the self-confidence necessary to develop further. When salespeople feel no pressure to make great sales, but instead to just make sales, they experience “wins” immediately and begin to believe that they can do the job. If they are worrying about selling add-ons or up-selling or handling objections to a more expensive item whenever there is a cheaper alternative, they are less likely to succeed.
So you may lose a few sales during this process. If you’re too worried about that product that didn’t get added on and you apply too much pressure too soon or step in and add on yourself, you’re being very short sighted. By working diligently with the salesperson to overcome this first hurdle, the additional sale in the future made by the salesperson on their own will more than compensate for the loss of the sales now.
Average Sale
The second step in developing a salesperson’s skills is to work on increasing the salesperson’s average sale by selling more expensive items and / or adding on. The salesperson should already have the confidence necessary to do so now. All it takes now is a little time and practice for them to master this area.
Personal Trade and Referrals
Building a following of customers is the mark of a great salesperson. There are so few salespeople in retail that truly have developed a following and those salespeople are among the top producers within their industries.
We all know that it is much easier to make a sale with a repeat customer and much easier to sell them more. So it makes sense that building your own personal trade within the store would allow you to produce much more.

Now, let’s look at some of the causes of low sales:
Low Average Sale
Failure to create value in the demonstration of more expensive items is usually, but not always, due to a lack of product knowledge. A lack of effective questioning could also be the cause, as the salesperson is not matching the needs of the customers in the demonstration because they don’t know that the needs are.
Failure to even show more expensive items could be the result of either a lack of product knowledge or the belief by the salesperson that they’re not worth the extra money.
Unsuccessful attempts at adding on are usually due to a lack of questioning earlier, since the salesperson may not choose to add on a very logical add-on with the limited information they have, and consequently fails to sell it.
The salesperson may not spend enough time with customers to maximise the sales. This will usually be characterised by low items per sale and or/high transactions per hour as well.
The salesperson may not sell additional services which would normally increase the average sale.
Low Items Per Sale
The salesperson my have a lack of confidence in selling add-ons. This is usually characterised by low average sales. Product knowledge is a possible cause, but a lack of skill in selling can also cause a salesperson to feel incapable of selling anything, much less more than one item.
Let’s look at a real case study:
his is a store with approximately 10 staff, open 7 days per week with a combination of full-time, part-time and casuals. The staff offer a high standard of customer service, are pleasant and willing. The problem is that none of them have ever been trained on how to sell. They’ve never had the opportunity to think through the sales process and develop specific skills for specific steps in the selling.  I was hired to teach them how to sell.  Here are the results:

Over a 9 week period the store went from weekly gross sales of $12,300.00 to $28,107.00 in week 9 and their average sale increased from $62.76 to $76.59.
In addition to this, the average Items Per Sale is 1.3 - week, after week.
Sales per hour have risen from $69.89 to $151.93.The store has moved from being a store that sells XY product to a sales driven store that utilises XY as its product to generate sells. The major change? Skilled, trained staff who now bring this competence into their already excellent service centred culture. This store is kicking goals!

And the morale of the store? High. Why? They now understand what they’re doing and know that they are very good at what they do. Will this breed complacency? I don’t think so as all staff are committed to improving their statistics on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Failure to even show add-ons is an obvious cause of low items per sale. If you don’t show it, you can’t sell it. So the salesperson must at least attempt to add on.
Unsuccessful attempts to add on are usually a lack of questioning, since the salesperson may not choose to add on a very logical add-on. If the salesperson finds out more about the customer’s intended use of the item during questioning, the chance of discovering a logical add-on is enhanced.
The salesperson may not create enough value on the add-ons. Even if someone suggests additional merchandise, it may not sell itself.
Since the customer’s mind is most open to buying prior to making a buying decision on the primary item, a salesperson who always waits for that commitment prior to adding on may be minimising their chances of successfully adding on.
The salesperson may be far too concerned about saving customers money instead of selling them everything they could possibly want to go along with their main purchase. This could be because the customers has indicated that money is a problem early in the presentation, or because the salesperson just doesn’t believe the additional items are really necessary.
Low Sales Per Hour
Low sales per hour are usually due to one or more of the above statistics being low. Your best strategy is to increase the sales per hour by increasing other deficient statistics.

So, does sales training work? You bet it does!

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Shopping should be a pleasure for everyone involved - customers, staff and business owners - never a chore.  I spend my time working with retail business owners - helping them love their businesses back to life!  This blog is my thoughts, ideas, tips and  musings on what I find...

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