by Mark Doornbosch

Three Secrets to a Better Retail Sales Team: Train. Reinforce. Repeat.

“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.”  – Tony Robbins 

A distinguishing aspect of performing retail organizations is the ability to keep and retain their top retail talent. These organizations focus training on those skills that give them the strongest chance of winning the customer. Contrast this with less effective retailers, who often invest far too much time on the bottom line, leaving the associates and customers on their own. 

Consistent training will increase the sales and associate awareness of a customer’s lifetime value. Retailers that ascertain consistent training criteria based on a stable, winning sales process will achieve higher sales, greater customer satisfaction and lower associate turnover.  

What really makes the difference is not which methodology you choose, but your commitment to a better retail sales team. Below are three secrets to making that commitment stick. 

1. Conduct Consistent Training. Then Train Again.

Start training with the defined ideal customer profile in mind and develop a checklist based on the common characteristics of the ideal customer. Leaders should expect associates to understand the ideal customer, what’s important to them, and how they contribute to tangible lifetime value. Openly share the financial implications of the customer experience.  

Take Action 

Carefully review your sales over the past 12 months. Document customer buying patterns, distinguishing customer characteristics and motivational indicators, and what influences created a positive customer experience. 

Capture the results in an ideal customer matrix. Circulate it and make it clear that you expect all departments, including retail operations, marketing and store operations to understand it and use it as a training tool. 

Review or develop your LMS and training curriculum to become customer centric. 

2. Implement a Structured and Repeatable Sales Process

According to research conducted by CSO Insights, top-performing retail organizations are likely to have an established sales process that is clearly defined, well-structured and repeatable. Some call this the customer experience. A defined process is an aid to training because new hires will better understand the value of each transaction and understand how to maintain customer satisfaction scores.  

That’s not to say that these processes are so rigid as to stifle innovation or creativity. The opposite tends to be true; successful sales processes evolve in a dynamic fashion. Processes should continuously absorb and reflect the latest emerging best practices from both the organization’s top associates and managers and from the retail industry at large. 

Another advantage in establishing a systematic sales process is that marketing can respond to the ideal customer at key buying stages with appropriate tools and collateral rather than creating one-size-fits-all generic pieces that have no obvious useful role to play. 

Take Action 

Start by monitoring your most effective associates and managers. What do they do when executing the sales process? What do they identify as the key “moments of truth” in a customer interaction? What proven sales tools or marketing collateral do they use? Which ones do they ignore? What additional resources have they personally created to support driving their sales? 

Then test your model through structured “voice of the customer” interviews. Collate all the learning to specify a defined sales process that incorporates all the observed key best practices.  

Continue to adapt to changing circumstances and adopt new learning. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your training so that associates can maintain customer-centric selling skills. 

3. Continuously Reinforce Training

Retail operations cannot be mastered simply by sending people to a training course. Adopting a training solution involves a cultural change that must infuse every aspect of your retail operations and marketing activities. And no amount of training will matter if these two activities are not aligned.  

The training companies admit as much. Their own studies show that without regular reinforcement, 80% to 90% of everything that has been taught will have been forgotten or abandoned within two to four weeks. E-learning-based systems can help to maintain the message, but even that is an incomplete answer. 

For your investment in training to pay off, your associates must become experts at winning the ideal customerThe first step is creating a positive customer experience. From these positive experiences, the ideal customer profile emerges, which you can then help your associates respond to more effectively. This requires you to train and equip your associates to have continual, meaningful conversations that emotionally connect to your customers. 

Many effective training methodologies exist— some specifically designed for certain retail environments. Whichever methodology you choose, ensure it becomes deeply ingrained into your day-to-day retail operations and marketing activities. 

 Take Action 

If you’ve invested in training, make sure to reinforce your chosen methodology in your LSM and reporting systems. Whatever approach you’ve chosen, have the groundwork completed before signing up for any new training. 

If you have a training department, be sure their instruction is aligned with your strategic goals; if not, it may be time to reevaluate your training investment. 

Then make sure that you reinforce everything that your associates have been taught using carefully tailored training tools that reflect and strengthen your chosen methodology. 

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they keep moving.” – Conrad Hilton 

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for our forthcoming new eBookAgility in Retail is Everything: 12 Action Steps to Accelerate Retail Growth.   

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a Retail Practice Leader at MarketSource, Mark works with national brands focused on retail distribution to execute their field marketing plans. The MarketSource message is simple; we help you sell more, faster. As the self-proclaimed Retail Sales Sensei and Master of Marketing Zen, Mark can be reached via LinkedIn or through the MarketSource sales concierge.

At MarketSource, an Allegis Group company, we believe better sales begin with better relationships. Our proven alternative to traditional outsourced sales is led by a proprietary process that helps businesses thrive by fostering deeper connections between people and brands.