In ‘The True Differentiator’ last month, I spoke of the three ingredients for success in retail – a) sales people with the right attitude to serve and an aptitude to learn; b)a time-tested training curriculum that is enabling and empowering in its philosophy and c)choosing trainers that can empathise with the trainees and make training impactful and fun.
A willing workforce
“Hire the attitude and train the skill” is a popular statement. You can never train your salespeople to have an attitude to serve your customers. However, you can train them how to take care of your customers when they are in your stores. Attitude comes from ‘willingness’ – willingness to a) consistently respect and adhere to company or store policies and procedures and b) do whatever it takes to help customers make the right choices of products and services they believe will address their needs and wants. Store operations become complicated and chaotic – as they are in some retail environments – primarily because retailers unwittingly hire unwilling salespeople.
I admit that attitude is intangible and is therefore difficult to assess. There are assessment tools to understand behavioural patterns of potential salespeople. But, if all that sounds very sophisticated and/or expensive and cumbersome to follow; store managers and retail HR personnel – through training - can be equipped with some tips and techniques to make such assessments during the interviewing and hiring process.
Determining salespeople’s attitude upfront – during the hiring process or at the earliest thereafter - also helps retailers in a) fitting people in roles that act as motivators and b) defining career paths for salespeople to aspire for and reach through consistent acceptable performance.
Not everyone is made for retail. While the glamour and glitz attracts many salespeople; for some it is another job that gets them their salaries at the end of the month. Retailers have the onus of choosing the right people – those with a passion to ‘sell’ and an aptitude to ‘serve’. One without the other is unhealthy. Those with only a passion to ‘sell’ tend to be pushy and can alienate customers faster than you spend to acquire them! While those with only an aptitude to ‘serve’ will only help you make an excuse of service what you fail to do through selling.
A robust curriculum
Have you ever liked a movie without a script - without a story to tell? It is not enough just populating your stores with people with a heartbeat and cladding them in uniforms who may or may not come to work everyday. It is important to have a screenplay (scientific training) with a script (selling skills) to enact. You need a script that sells – quite literally! Retail training programs have to be authentic and train salespeople in handling the different moments of truth on the sales-floor.
Training programs have to accomplish two crucial imperatives – a) train salespeople to become compliant with store policies and procedures and b) say and do the right things when they come in contact with customers. The most effective retail training programs are those that first help articulate store standards; develop the right scripts for various roles on the sales floor and train salespeople using a pedagogy that is known to deliver the desired results – sales increases and satisfied customers.
When you invest in a training program, you deserve only the best in the business – a training curriculum and pedagogy that is proven to be effective - a training program that embodies learning from being applied successfully across different formats and in different markets.
You need expert screenplay and script writers (trainers) who know the retail business -retail trainers that understand the dynamics of retail – store operations; sales and customer service.