Saturday, July 29, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Invest in Your People

Running a retail operation is extremely challenging. Increase competition. Margins that get smaller and smaller every year. And dealing with employee turnover.

One of the best investments you can make is to make the time and effort to properly train your staff. I am constantly surprised how many well-known retailers DO NOT invest time or resources in the development of their staff. Yet, this is often one of the most commonly-cited reasons people leave their job in favour of another.

Some retailers state that the primary reason they DON'T provide adequate training is because they'll just lose thay employee to a competitor. While that may be true, you stand a greater chance of keeping that employee longer, when you invest in their development.

Most retailer want to improve their average sale per transaction but are not willing to invest anything to achieve this goal. I guess they think it will just happen on its own. I won't dispute that training takes time AND money. But so does recruiting new employees every several weeks or couple of months.

Whe you invest time and resources into the training and development of your staff, you show them that you value them. And when people know that you care about them, they'll start to care about you.

Got an opinion about this? I'd love to hear it (even if you disagree with me!!).


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Retail Sales Training- What Happened to Respect?

Most grocery stores have an express lane; in fact, some stores now have two different express lanes (1-8 items and 1-16 items). However, when was the last time they actually enforced this guideline?

I get tired of standing in line behind someone who decided to use one of these checkout lanes even though they were well over the number of items. But what really frustrates me, is that no one in the grocery store EVER says anything to these individual's which means the stores actually condition people to ignore the restriction. I usually make it a point to mention the item restriction to people who abuse the system, and more often than not, I'm told to mind my own business.

The same holds true for handicapped or invalid parking spots. I think it's intolerable that healthy and fit people use these spots because they're too lazy to walk the extra steps. Yet, I have NEVER seen anyone get a ticket for parking in one of these spots. I wish retailers AND mall landlords would monitor the use of these spots and IMMEDIATELY ticket and tag, or better yet, tow unauthorized vehicles. But, they're too concerned about possible repercussions. they feel that by making these spaces available--which is required by law anyway--that they have done their duty.

It's time for everyone to speak up. When you see someone disregarding laws and rules like this, you need to stand up and say something to that person. Teach them that their disrespect for other people isn't going un-noticed.

Just once, I'd like to see a cashier or a supervisor tell a customer to pack up their shopping cart and move to the proper line. As a retail employee, manager, or owner, you can improve your business by refusing to allow people to take advantage of these restrictions. Will you take some heat for it? Perhaps. And it will also take courage. But you will also gain a tremendous amount of respect from your other customers.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Retail Sales Training- Be Proactive

Most retailers tend to be reactive versus proactive., especially when it comes to selling. Even though their existence depends on increasing their revenue, very few take a proactive approach to selling. The exceptions tend to be stores that pay strictly on commission where you end up with aggressive sales people who care only about closing the sale. There is a better way...

A proactive approach does not mean you need to be aggressive. It doesn't mean you try and sell people products and services that you don't need or want. And it doesn't mean you have to pay only on commission.

The key is to help your team realize that when they take the initiative and approach customers in the store they are actually being helpful. They don't have to pounce on customers; in fact, allowing people time to become comfortable in the store is important. Being proactive means taking the initiative to find out what customers are looking for. In certain stores--department, general merchandise, drug stores, etc. this approach isn't necessary. However, in the majority of other retail environments, it can speed up the sales process and improve the level of service your customer's receive.

When you or your team approaches someone, your primary objective is to find out what they are looking for, what they need, and why they want/need that particular item/product. This means asking them a couple of questions, preferably open-ended and listening to their response. The challenge with this approach is that most retail sales associates don't want to appear rude or pushy. Providing they approach the customer with a freindly smile and a genuine interest in helping them, this won't be an issue.

This simple step can make a signifigant difference in your sales because it will give you the opportunity to make recommendations and suggestions. This is another topic which I will address in a future post.