The world is moving quickly around us and product offerings are introduced to consumers at an ever increasing pace. The nature and dynamics of the retail industry are similarly being transformed. But as things are moving faster and becoming more dynamic, there is a component of the retail business that remains constant: the store employees. These are the people that are in constant communication with retail consumers, who are helping undecided shoppers to make the best decision while in the store, and who are crystallizing the customer experience.
Therefore, as valuable resources, store employees need to be equipped with the best tools available, as well as the right knowledge to accomplish their tasks of delighting shoppers. This implies continuous training on many dimensions of retail business and the sales excellence process. I am proposing five critical training modules to develop the skills, the self esteem and the confidence that store employees need to excel.
1) Product Training: this is the basic knowledge foundation of any sales employee. You have to know what you are selling inside and out. Product functionalities and specifications are important to know, especially in specialized retail outlets where consumers are highly educated. Ongoing product training gives store employee the confidence to know the products and to make excellent recommendations to less educated shoppers. Of particular importance is to understand the utility of each attribute of the product and its relationship with price. For example, if you have three different levels of picture quality in a flat HDTV, what is the relationship between picture quality levels and the selling price? Suppliers can provide help here with product data sheets and with customer benefits sell sheets. Do not be shy about obtaining this information. Ask and you shall receive!
2) Pricing: store employees need to understand the fundamentals of retail pricing( i.e. discounts, promotions, coupons, price matching, etc.). Knowledge on how to use price intelligence software on the sales floor is a must now and will become even more relevant in the future as solutions are moving to mobile tools and virtual platforms. But not only do they need to understand how to use it, sales staff also need to have access to real-time, reliable pricing information right on the sales floor, in order to address pricing concerns, price match requests etc. Sometimes a few minutes of waiting for customers might make a difference in getting that sale.
3) Selling: In-store staff also need to be trained on other critical aspects of the selling process. The first one is the ability to quickly recognize and communicate with pure price buyers versus value buyers. The selling interaction will be different for both. Store staff need to be able to handle price objections and also deliver value messages depending on what type of customer they are facing. Knowing how to sell is also understanding product systems and bundles that might provide up-selling opportunities.
4) Psychology: Shoppers come in store with predispositions, intentions, preferences, and their set of values that might influence how they shop and how they select brands for example. Store employees need to be able to recognize these by observing shopping and searching behaviors, by interpreting body language, by asking a couple of questions and by engaging consumers on personal preferences. That means developing observation skills, listening skills and a capacity to interpret emotions whether verbal or non verbal.
5) Value: Being able to tell a value story is probably the most important aspect of the selling interaction. Store staff need to create an emotional connection with the products and the brands they are selling so that they can sell their value. Whether selling electronics, clothing or building materials, they have to be able to “justify” the premium of higher priced products and the relationship to perceived quality. So we are back to the first point of this list which is price. The relationship between price and quality must be understood so that the customer can be given proper selection options based on their product quality/price performance levels.
The employees in the store are the greatest assets of any retail business. Is your business investing enough in them and conducting the right type of training? Is your business leveraging technology to design progressive store sales training for employees and to boost their beliefs systems? To sell value, you need to believe in what you are selling and you need to feel confident that you are equipped with the right information at the right time, at the right place…and at the right price. This is where price intelligence software plays a critical role.