Here’s what you need to do if you want to grow your retail sales:
1. Train your employees to be available and interruptible. Retail is becoming a job of tasks instead of a job of interacting with shoppers. Sales associates are often so busy trying to complete a task that they ignore shoppers obviously looking for help. You must train your sales staff that no task is that important, that customer purchases pay their salary, and unless they’re with a customer already, they should drop the task to help shoppers every time.
2. Train your managers to be the best salespeople on the floor. If managers themselves aren’t trained to begin with, how will they be able to recognize, analyze, and give guidance when an associate loses a sale? Only if managers understand how to make a sale, can they unpack a missed sale and say something like, “You got scared. Listen more and look for the windows of contact to customer engagement.” Then they will be able to help their team grow your sales.
3. Train your managers on how to coach their associates. Employees are being elevated to managerial positions not based on merit but more likely on how long they’ve lasted at your store. Too often it becomes the blind leading the blind. Without proper retail sales training, they often think they can coach people with atta-boys and an occasional pizza. They also can’t lead by rolling their eyes and saying, Don’t over and over. Both approaches can create a lot of wreckage to your employees who are left adrift. Your managers must be trained on how and when to tell employees to change their behavior. That’s because employees, like most people, can’t see when they make a mistake. Or if they do see it, they won’t acknowledge it.
4. Enforce that training must be based on human connection. You have to bring employee skills up slowly. As you do that, you have to change the words you use in your retail space, the way you look at your customers, as well as the way you look at your employees. When your managers can train and model listening over talking with shoppers, employees will see how that training makes them more human. Until that happens, they’ll think growing sales is all about product when it is really about being more human and making connections that lead to larger sales.
5. Ask one question, not 20. We used to say the most important customer service skill for sales associates was the ability to ask questions, but that has changed. Nobody likes being blasted with 20 questions; shoppers know they are being set up and hunted for ways to get the sale. You can get the same or better information from them without playing 20 yes/no questions. Don’t ask multiple questions that begin with Can I? or Are you? Instead, craft just one open-ended question like, What’s your project today? you can ask everyone.
6. Think like a customer. A lot of bad sales advice essentially says, “Don’t start selling until they say no.” But that’s thinking like a salesperson, not a potential customer. Salespeople know how to sell in a general sense – unearth the problem, have a product as solution to that problem, preempt objections, and understand the buying process. What we don’t get when we think like a salesperson is what shoppers are really scared about, what motivates them, and what is going to assure them that you’re the right partner to get them what they want. That takes thinking like a customer and being curious about why today did this person leave their life to come to our store?
7. Love the merchandise you hate. There are many products you yourself may not care for. But you need to come up with ways to look at how other people, not you, might take those products and use them to make their lives better. It is a much better use of your time to keep asking yourself How can I find other ways to sell these products?, than to just stare out the front doors looking bored.
8. Use their name. There’s a reason the Ritz Carlton requires employees to use a guest’s name three times in a conversation, not two and not four. It’s because it works. It works to make their guests feel important and to force the employees to commit their names to memory. Wherever you can get their name, use it. Even if you get it wrong occasionally, most people will appreciate the gesture.
9. Speak at an angle. Facing a shopper by standing directly in front of them can feel intimidating to them. Sales psychology training shows the best way to sell to someone is to stand side by side like buddies. This says, “Let’s figure this out together.”
10. Get rid of counters. Your cash wrap counters often allow employees to hide. That’s bad. It gives employees a false sense of privacy to do whatever they want – check social media, eat a sandwich, you name it. It also gives customers a visual barrier and a them vs me feeling. That’s why so many newer retailers are doing away with counters altogether and going to self-checkout or arming their staff with tablets to conclude a sale quickly from anywhere.
You have to be positive, hard working, and able to find ways to stay motivated.
You have to be well trained in how to build rapport, become a trusted advisor as well as a product knowledge specialist. Only then can you can be taking the easy road to growing sales based on what you want to do with the customer, not panicked about what will get them to buy.
And then your customers will trust you even more. To make all of this easier, check out how my online retail sales training works.