Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It

Discussion
Jun 14, 2018
Bob Phibbs

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

While a lot of new boutiques boast “community rooms” and several of those owners are proclaiming they don’t care if people buy their goods, that it isn’t about selling. It’s about people coming together. Let’s not forget, the definition of retail is the sale of goods to the public.

Nothing works if shoppers don’t translate your experience into their own motivation to part with their money.

Have you passed on retail sales training because you either didn’t think it would work or you had a bad experience in the past? You’re not alone.

Many stores have tried all kinds of in-person training and computer programs, retreats and more, but couldn’t get their associates to use what they’ve learned. They felt like they wasted their time.

Here are five reasons why training often doesn’t work and what you can do about it:

1. People hate change

As humans, we get comfortable doing what we’ve always done. Having regular sales training meetings makes new training methods the norm and not the unknown and uncomfortable.

2. The my way is better mentality

Some of your successful associates may think if they change their ways, sales will be lost. This is a hard mindset to overcome. Trying team collaboration prior to purchasing the training, giving proof the training works and implementing regular training sessions will ultimately help those associates overcome that fear.

3. Selling is perceived as manipulative

Without dealing with the negative perceptions of selling prior to implementation, the simplest sales tactic might be seen as slick or disingenuous. If you consult with your team about the pros and cons of any potential retail training program before you purchase it, you can uncover any potential negative aspects from different points of view.

4. Associates are not being held accountable

Without performance metrics — say two lessons per week — employees will feel they can do whatever they want.

5. One rotten apple can spoil the barrel

If they were a bad employee before you offered retail sales training, they’ll still be a bad employee who frustrates your efforts to elevate your customer service.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the biggest obstacles preventing store associates from embracing sales training programs? Which suggestions for overcoming those hurdles stated in the article make the most sense? Would you add any others?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"In my experience, ongoing coaching to build habit and change behavior is most effective."
"The talent drain in retail has negatively impacted the quality of internal promotions based on merit and development."
"Most people do automatically resist change. Supporting them to embrace and create change is a massive underlying skill set for any future training."

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19 Comments on "Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Store managers and front-line associates have never been more relevant or critical to delivering a great store experience – despite the obsession some retailers have with technology. Delivering quality training to the field has always been a challenge, and the article identifies many of the most important obstacles, but I would add lack of persistent commitment to training on the part of management to the list. Once-and-done training with no followup or ongoing engagement is destined to fail. In my experience, ongoing coaching to build habit and change behavior is most effective.

Max Goldberg
Guest

The biggest obstacle preventing employees from embracing training is that they fail to see retail as a career — it’s just a placeholder until they move on to something meaningful. If that’s the case, why should they spend time learning something new or buying into a new system?

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Wait, are we blaming the store associates for not embracing sales training? Do we even know if retailers offer it? Our data tells us that most existing store associates get an average of 10 hours training PER YEAR.

Maybe if it was offered and didn’t seem quite like unicorn had entered the building it would be embraced.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Great analogy about the unicorn entering the building, Paula!

Jeff Sward
Guest

I have a personal aversion to being “sold.” Think used cars. Or robo-calls for a “free trip to Florida” so I can be sold a condo. I welcome being informed or educated or just plain helped. Maybe if sales training had a different name? Language and delivery are both part of selling.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Call it what you will, selling is nothing more than a transference of feeling. Zig Ziglar, one of the classic sales trainers, said it a long time ago — people hate to be sold but they love to buy. No one is talking about used cars or robo-calls. The goal has to be to sell the merchandise. By any name that has to be the point or there is no ROI.

Jeff Sward
Guest

Yep, we agree. Hate to be sold, but love to buy. My examples were merely meant to speak to the extremes of selling — why selling sometimes gets a bad name. And yes, Zig Zigler was a very smart guy. But information and education are on a different plane than feelings. I develop feelings in at least two different ways. By first impressions based on zero information. And then by second impressions, after processing some information. Thanks for the pause for thought.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust
I believe the issues tend to lie within the structure of the retail organizations themselves. Depending on the background of the HR leader, they may be more compliance and risk focused, whereas learning and development in the sales training context is not a priority. Therefore a L&D manager role is absent and, if present, they will follow the bouncing ball set by the HR leader. If the head of stores or head of retail has a merchandising or marketing background, they will tend to undervalue the importance of implementing a process for sales and service. Or they will shy away from it, because it isn’t instinctually in their DNA. True retail sales leaders in the executive ranks with relevant front-line experience are a rare breed. It certainly has absolutely nothing to do with those on the front-line. There are no bad students; just bad teachers. The talent drain in retail has negatively impacted the quality of internal promotions based on merit and development. For example, there are regional managers in global retail businesses running $25… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Excellent observations Ray and spot-on.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

First, the best sales programs teach how to sell without being too “salesy.” One of the biggest hurdles is cost. Small retailers are worried about investing in people who may leave shortly after they have been trained. Second, training people shows you care. Those people will be more engaged and work harder. Third, training people often leads to less employee churn. What is the cost of rehiring versus properly training good people who will stay longer? Fourth, what is the cost of lost sales due to lack of training, versus the training? There’s a pretty good chance the cost of training is less.

Hire the right people (a very important part of success), train them well and watch the bottom line grow.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Most people who want to work in stores want to work there because of the brand. If they don’t believe in the brand and they “just want a job,” that’s not going to fly anymore. Remember, people don’t have to go to stores anymore, they have to want to go to stores. And besides, the notion that you’re going to have to “sell” something is not high on most Millennials’ career lists to begin with.

Tesla has one of the most forward concepts at retail right now, and if you’ve ever been in one of their “stores,” they don’t “sell” you at all. They actually sell by not selling. The associates are tremendous brand advocates and are super knowledgeable and proud of their product. THAT is the new sales model IMO: brand advocate people-people talking about product they really believe in. Consumers have too many choices today; they don’t need to be sold, they need to feel passion.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Teslas cost 85K and I’m sure the employees make a whole lot more than a retail sales person does. “Passion” sounds great but is disconnected from reality of someone working on the floor in a Dick’s or Macy’s. The job is to move the merchandise, happy customers are the best brand advocates – the rest are employees.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

It is one thing to offer or force sales training. It is something else to really value the use of the training. One of the reasons given is not having metrics. That is partially correct. The example given is, “two sales per week.” How does that support the use of anything specific addressed in a sales training program? Any training or no training could result in two sales per week. Now why would I value my sales training?

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Respectfully I think you misread that. It is just two lessons a week so they practice and use what was taught in bite-size increments instead of one “training day” that is quickly forgotten.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Even if it is bite sized training, the metrics have to match what was in the training or there is no reason for associates to change their behavior.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Most people do automatically resist change. Supporting them to embrace and create change is a massive underlying skill set for any training that’s to come. I’m with Bob that it takes getting acquainted with the uncomfortable in a never ending mission to create something better. To do that, managers and leadership have to set the example to make it safe for the whole organization to do the same.

Trevor Sumner
Guest

The majority of sales training fails because of lack of follow through. One and done training programs do not change behavior. It has to be a consistent effort over the course of months to change and reinforce behavior. New media and technology delivery only works if it is reinforced by management in-store and includes proper checkins and knowledge certification over time.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think one big obstacle is enhancing the staff’s ability to connect with shoppers personally. Think about what the typical “script” should be when approaching a shopper. “Can I help you find anything” is so ancient and doesn’t offer any connection. How about, “Has anyone said how much they like your [shoes, dress, etc.) today?” I dunno. Anything that begs the shopper to connect with the staff is a good thing. Your staff is the human differentiator versus your competition.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust
I’m with Bob all the way. There are some additional and alternate strategies we have found that work wonders. First, local managers must be trained on how to find and identify the good potential hires. Just knowing the right questions to ask, such as: “Why do you want to work here?” listen carefully; “Where in the store you would like to work,” “What was you best experience in a store?” “Tell me about a problem you had with a customer and what you did.” It helps to determine if and what position they may be right for. Secondly, remember that we cannot demand attitude change with staff members — won’t happen. The only way to change attitude is to change behavior, by assigning tasks they can excel at (that’s behavior),congratulate them and then watch pride grow and attitudes change. We always suggest that every new staff member have a victory their first couple of days — assign easy tasks to assure this. Remember, poor performance is not an indicator of lack of ability. We also… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"In my experience, ongoing coaching to build habit and change behavior is most effective."
"The talent drain in retail has negatively impacted the quality of internal promotions based on merit and development."
"Most people do automatically resist change. Supporting them to embrace and create change is a massive underlying skill set for any future training."

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