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Investing in a retail sales training program will build a competitive advantage for your retail operation over online vendors. Many believe that e-commerce is changing how the customer thinks. In truth, many customer traits are unchanged.
While many prefer the speed and convenience of online shopping, they also value the in-store experience of working with knowledgeable retail sales associates.
Findings from M.I.T. support this idea. Retail companies investing more in sales training programs achieve greater profits than competitors. Unfortunately, many are cutting costs in retail selling skills training. Some retail stores have gone even further. They have chosen to fire experienced sales professionals who command higher pay.
This strategy is a losing proposition. Replacing sales staff with a less knowledgeable group leaves customers unserved. It also ignores the fact that “It’s the same customer that’s buying online that’s buying in store,” as the Director of Deloitte Consulting remarked.
Retail sales training programs show professionals how to deliver a better customer service experience. Often, customers are in a store because they seek solutions from a professional. Therefore, the professional must be prepared to serve customers by first understanding their needs. Doing so requires a consultative approach.
How to Improve Retail Selling Skills
Customers have more options than ever before. They enter every purchase armed with at least some basic information. They’re familiar with competitor prices and the availability of other options.
The customer’s hold on information doesn’t diminish the sales professional’s role. In fact, it gives retail sales team members and their sales managers an opportunity to set themselves apart by following a few fundamental concepts.
Avoid Seller-Centric Behaviors
Customers don’t want to feel pressured. They want a better customer experience. Delivering on this expectation means avoiding seller-centric behaviors that leave customers feeling that they’ve been pushed through the process. Train your retail sales team to consider the customer's perspective. They must ask questions that help them understand the customer’s full need to be able to provide the solution that will lead to a closed sale.
In an increasingly digital world, this connection offers real value. A customer-focused approach must flow through your team’s thinking, actions, and words.
Shift to a Mindset of Authenticity
Research from McKinsey underscores the value of authenticity in selling. After changing from transactional selling to consultative selling, one company credited the move with “$500 million in new bookings and a 40 percent improvement in productivity.”
The difference comes from a deeper customer relationship. However, this depth cannot develop without authenticity. See the customer as someone seeking a knowledgeable professional.
Have a Plan to Create Momentum
The sales professional needs a plan even if the customer doesn’t have one. In fact, this is precisely why a plan and process are essential to instill in employees during retail sales training programs.
Retail customers are often casual shoppers. They seek direction. Without momentum, the easiest thing for them to do is walk out the door and avoid the burden of choice.
Retail sales teams must be trained to appeal to the buyer’s sense of practicality by offering suggestions that connect to their stated needs. Keep the focus on what the customer wants rather than store promotions or pitches that distract from the customer’s original intention.
Goals of a Retail Sales Training Program
A program designed for retail selling skills training should build the following capabilities:
- Train the sales professional to understand what got the customer into the store, and ask questions that reveal the customer’s motivations and needs. A retail sales program should help train your employees to keep the conversation focused on these areas.
- Build confidence in the employees’ and management’s ability to seek customer feedback. Train them to ask the right questions to ensure their suggestions are hitting the mark and use that feedback to change course to better serve the customer’s needs.
- Demonstrate credibility by avoiding promotional positioning. Your retail sales team should not jump to conversations of loyalty reward programs or memberships until they’ve proven their ability to get the customer what they want.
- Use concise phrasing. Retail sales professionals must learn to avoid exhausting the customer with too much detail. Your sales team should be trained to listen to the customer rather than wait for their turn to speak.
- Get the customer talking. You cannot move the sale forward without both sides contributing to the conversation. Customers will resist opening if they believe you are pushy and add no value.