Conquering store associates’ selling fears is key to driving sales

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/DragonImages
Jan 25, 2021
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Retail Doctor’s Blog.

The death of creativity and imagination are at the heart of low sales in retail shops around the world. Some think technology is the answer — not me. We have to find a way to creatively open our heart to another person to combat our fear of not being liked, or not being taken seriously, or not making the sale.

Here are three ways to help employees overcome fear during a sale:

  • Provide retail sales training. Give associates a process to hang their sales presentation on rather than “winging it.” Nothing knocks down fear better than knowing where objections might surface and how to handle them. And sales training is a skill set you constantly develop over time, not like training how to make a rose out of a radish.
  • Hold a daily contest. Create a daily sales contest for your employees. Choose an affordable item and show them all you can about it. Ask them to find other creative uses for the same item and to highlight those uses with their customers. This process develops creative pathways in the heads of your employees as they show the item and how it is used. It puts learning and creativity top of mind.
  • Play. Rejection is expected in selling. Learn to welcome it. Role-play a sale with an individual on your crew. Have them role-play a stellar selling job, but when they try to close the sale say, “No.” Let them figure out what their next moves are without telling them. The goal when coaching them is for those salespeople to keep the conversation going and then unpack what went right and what could have been done better. This way you will train their brains to look for alternatives and not shut down for fear their customer will walk.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What suggestions would you have to help retail associates overcome selling fears? Are today’s younger generations any more or less vulnerable versus older ones to fear of rejection or other doubts that hold back effective selling?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Role playing is an effective way of getting through to associates-in-training. It provides a real-life experience from which they learn, shed apprehensions and apply."
"It is not about teaching sales associates to sell. It is about teaching sales associates to service and educate."
"I’d add something that happens before all of this, and that’s hiring the right person to begin with."

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13 Comments on "Conquering store associates’ selling fears is key to driving sales"


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Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Role playing is an effective way of getting through to associates-in-training. It provides a real-life experience from which they learn, shed apprehensions and apply to live situations. Second in line is training. Training can be programmed so it is consistent across the workforce, but may lack the actual doing.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Yes, Bob, and very importantly it is about how you made/make the customer feel from their act of choosing the store. When our focus is coupled on that, and delivering professional FAB selling, great things happen automatically.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Ahhh, yes, the customers! How much easier retail would be if it wasn’t for those pesky visitors we call customers.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

When stores (stores other than supermarkets) began to open again, the staff in stores were hesitant to approach customers for obvious reasons (yes, both customer and associates were masked and followed social distancing standards) but as the months progressed, they became more willing to approach customers. One thing that stuck out to me that remains is that more associates tended to be younger — I have not seen any older associates come back to their jobs. Even with pending vaccinations, I do not know if they will ever come back.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

It seems rare today [prior to COVID] to encounter a retail associate doing a hardcore sales pitch.
Personally, I do not see associates overcoming selling fears. I see younger generations who live and work under different mindsets and viewpoints than previous generations. Selling something symbolizes concerted efforts to convince someone to buy something, a one-sided conversation. Younger generations working retail seek to either become invisible or engage in customer conversations rather than selling. A difference in tone and mindset — surely retailers have noticed?

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Training, training, training. Before they start, and then on a regular cadence to nurture and develop the skills. Some people are born to sell, but most come to it grudgingly. Teach, model, train, repeat.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

You can’t argue with the three suggestions Bob shares with us. I’d add something that happens before all of this, and that’s hiring the right person to begin with. Even without prior sales experience, there are some great behavioral style assessments that can give a manager insight on the applicant’s ability and willingness to communicate with people.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

So true Shep, if they don’t want to be trained — they win. 🙂

David Adelman
BrainTrust

Associates shouldn’t be hired in the first place if they have a fear of selling. It’s not about just pure selling today. Retail associates must be “brand ambassadors.”

Establishing trust with the customer is key. Once this relationship is formed, the purchases will flow like a river.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

It is not about teaching sales associates to sell. It is about teaching sales associates to service and educate. Smart selling is about helping the customer make the decision that is best for them.

storewanderer
Guest
2 months 21 days ago

I have actually heard from customers who go into stores and are then upset about the employees simply coming up to them and trying to greet and assist them, let alone getting into a full on “sales process.”

Some training for employees to detect a customer who does not want this interaction right now is necessary as there are still a lot of customers who do not want any face to face interaction as they are concerned about contracting COVID from a store employee. On the other side, there are many customers who DO want the interaction and aren’t getting it.

Bill Hanifin
BrainTrust

I’m betting that almost none of the frontline store personnel in retail had a sales job in mind when they filled out the application. Brands need to set expectations differently when hiring and be prepared to deliver all the tools necessary to help people believe that they can sell in a natural way, within their own style.

Anticipating objections and role playing are essential tools to create a foundation for success. Above all, create an environment of encouragement and support, rather than fear of punishment or penalty.

Mark
Guest
2 months 15 days ago
Many customers do not want direct contact with associates, even before COVID. They want to see their faces, not with masks on. But since the masks are required, I suspect that the sales pitches will not be as effective, perhaps ineffective, futile, also because softer voices are muffled by the mask. Customers, including myself, look at a person’s face (especially mouth and eyes) to see expressions and detect sincerity. The eyes do not lie. The deaf know this. Secondly, the overhead music is often so loud and annoying that customers cannot hear the associates anyway. Seriously. One young lady once told me that she can’t even hear herself think. I agree. Thirdly, customers in big box stores do not expect associates to know a lot of what they sell. If they do, it is a big plus, especially in electronics and high-end things. When I worked in retail, management told me nothing at all and they lost sales. I doubt that contests will work because associates will invite their friends to buy from them. Role… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Role playing is an effective way of getting through to associates-in-training. It provides a real-life experience from which they learn, shed apprehensions and apply."
"It is not about teaching sales associates to sell. It is about teaching sales associates to service and educate."
"I’d add something that happens before all of this, and that’s hiring the right person to begin with."

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