Recent studies paint a worrisome picture about the current state of retail: only 32% of consumers find retail sales associates helpful. Many brands and retailers maintain brick-and-mortar locations because consumers still enjoy the tactile experience of shopping in-store. In fact, 81% of consumers plan to shop in-store next year at least as often as they do now, but with fewer locations, sales growth needs to be accelerated in each location.
To determine how a brand or retailer can sell more products with few locations, we went straight to the source: the ExpertVoice members (we call them experts) who train other retail sales associates on how to be successful on the sales floor. According to Charles, Matt, Taylor, and Alex, the solution to both the lack of trust consumers place in retail sales associates and the need for increased sales is found in educating your salesforce. Here are the ways they’ve found success.
There are many ways to listen
We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve gone into a store looking for a specific item only to discover that for one reason or another, it’s actually the wrong item for our needs. A good salesperson knows how to help a consumer find what they need, even when it’s not what they thought they were looking for. As Charles from Hibbett Sporting Goods states, “The most important point I stress is listening, and that doesn’t just include using your ears.” He emphasizes body language and even mood are critical indicators in reading the consumer, providing direction an associate can use in recommending the right product.
Be the reason customers want to come into the store
Taylor, a trainer at a bike service shop says, “the customer came into your store for a reason; make sure you’re the reason they come back again.” The old adage rings true: it can take a long time to build a customer’s trust, and it can be lost in even the shortest interaction. Because consumers have multiple channels with which to shop, well-trained employees not only contribute to brand loyalty, but to location loyalty, too.
Reinforce multiple learning methods with hands-on training
People learn in different ways, such as through a platform with education modules or category specific magazines. For many employees, just getting to know new products as they arrive in store is a training exercise. Alex, a camping sales lead at REI says that multiple types of training are beneficial, like reading about a product, but then also meeting with a vendor to go over their product line. Matt, from Academy believes learning doesn’t need to be a structured exercise, and that as a hands-on learner himself, taking the things you read about and working through problems face-to-face is helpful. “Role playing with employees has always been my best teaching technique,” he says. “I find it really prepares them for some of the hard or obscure questions and answers customers are known to give.”
Make confidence the cornerstone of good selling
“Nothing makes a sale go easier than being able to answer the customer’s questions confidently and without hesitation,” Matt says. He believes confidence not only helps the sales associate, it also helps the customer be more confident in the associate, the brand, and the purchase they’ll ultimately make. How does one become so confident, even the most complex customer doesn’t phase them? Read on.
Set them up for success
In order to be a confident seller, retail sales associates need two things: a goal and a way to meet it. Charles holds competitions for his team to help them feel motivated to achieve their goals. And each expert we interviewed emphasized the importance of education and hands-on experience. “I am weekly finding myself saying ‘wow – I never knew that existed,’ or ‘I have been doing that wrong’,” says Taylor. Consistent access to new educational features and newly released products are paramount in being able to relate to a consumer looking for a recommendation. “When you’re speaking to a live person that has been through the same or similar experience you’re preparing for, it makes all the difference in the world,” Taylor finishes. When retail sales associates have access to product education and product discounts, they’re 4 times more likely to recommend those products.
Serve the customer and the sales will follow
How does service rank for each of our experts?
Matt: “Pushing for the sale and getting it, but at the expense of making a customer frustrated or uncomfortable only results in one sale. Good service earns you customers for life.”
Taylor: “Product can be purchased anywhere, but people come to our store for the experience.”
Alex: “I like to think that providing better service leads to more sales. If you focus on selling more products, often times the customer will notice and feel like the sales associate is being too pushy.”
Charles: “We don’t sell anything in our store that someone can’t find somewhere else. The only thing that remains is the service we provide. We have to give our customers a reason to want to come back.”
Strong retail sales associates not only sell more product, they build relationships that lead to loyal consumers. Readying your sales associates with the training they need to hit the sales floor confidently is an important investment for your brand, one that drives sales, trust, and loyalty.