Making the Case for Retail Sales Training: A Tale of Two Sales Experiences

We recently purchased a new home and as a result my wife and I were in the market for a new sofa.  Now having the two of us going furniture shopping is usually a real test of wills.  I like a couch with a firm back so I can work while watching the tube and my wife likes something soft and comfy for taking naps.  In fact, the last time we purchased a piece of furniture it took three weeks and trips to something like 10 stores.  This time – thanks to a professional retail sales representative – we were able to complete our purchase after going to just two locations.  Here is a summary of our furniture shopping experiences and how retail sales training made the difference:

Poor Selling Skills Leads to Bad Moods and No Sale: Store Number One

Our first stop was at a large regional furniture retailer.  They had advertised that they were having a large sale, so we decided to pop in to see if we could make a quick score on a sofa.  Upon entering, we were greeted (or should I say run over) by an overly enthusiastic sales representative.  She told us her name and welcomed us to the store where “they had unbeatable prices and quality”.  We told her that we were in the market for a new couch.  She then proceeded to tell us that her company had the best selection and that none of the competitors in the region offered the quality or pricing that they had.  She then waved her arm and told us to sit in as many couches as we wanted to. 

We proceeded to work our way through the showroom sitting on couch after couch with her asking us if we liked them after each try.  We told her that we needed a compromise between firm and soft.  She then told us again about how her store would never be beat in price or quality.  After 45 minutes of couch sitting and the sales rep continually telling us about how her firm was better than the competitors, I was at the end of my rope so we decided to leave.  Realizing that she was not making a sale that night the sales rep gave us a card and a pile of brochures and told us that if we purchased within 24 hours she would get us a discount.

Professional Retail Selling Skills Creates a Bigger Basket: Store Number Two:

I was ready to call it quits for the night, but my wife convinced me to stop by one more store before heading home.  Upon entering the store I noticed that there were not any big promotions, but we took a quick look around and headed for one of the couches. 

Within 30 seconds our retail sales representative, Kate, walked over and said “Hi!  My name is Kate.  Are you are in the market for a new couch?”  We said yes and told her about the whole firm/soft thing.  She reassured us that she dealt with this type of thing all the time.  Then she sat down in a chair next to us and asked us a few other questions.  These included asking about the size of the room, what other type of furniture we had, the color of our décor, why we were replacing our old sofa, and what types of activities we did in the room.

After answering her questions she told us that she thought she had a perfect solution and subtly walked us over to a setting of furniture that included a sofa and two chairs.  She asked my wife to lie down on the couch like she was taking a nap and invited me to sit in the chair.  My wife loved the couch and said so.  That is when I said something about needing to test it for firmness.  Kate then said “Well, let me ask you, don’t you like that chair?  It has the firm cushions you like, it plenty roomy, and even matches the couch.  Plus, it sounds like you have enough room for both!” 

Needless to say, we are expecting a delivery of both a new couch and a new chair – both purchased for full price and including a special fabric treatment to reduce fading from the sun.  We went over our planned budget, but now my wife and I will both be happy.  As we were wrapping up the sale, I asked Kate how long she had been selling furniture.  To my surprise she said she had just started with this company 2 months ago.  I told her she did a great job and that is when she told me about her company’s retail sales training program AND then told me she had worked for the other furniture retailer for a few months prior to that but had left because she felt like she was thrown to the wolves.

Making the Investment in Training

For companies, like the first retailer we visited, every day that passes means more missed opportunities for increasing sales. They have to ask themselves “What is the cost of not committing to retail sales competence?”  Retailers like these invest in promotions, marketing, and advertising.  They tweek their commission plans and create contests. They and terminate under performers and hire new employees who also fail.    

They should be asking themselves is what would a closing rate of 75% instead of 50% do for the company’s top-line?  What would a 15% increase in your average ticket do for their gross margin?  And how much money and effort could they save on their marketing, promotional, and management efforts if they made an investment in an ongoing retail sales training program?

A Blended Approach to Retail Sales Training

Kate said that her training consisted of several retail eLearning courses that she was required to complete within the first two weeks of employment.  That was accompanied by working side-by-side with her manager and other sales representatives.  After that there were weekly in-store meetings and that there would be regular refresher training on the computer as well.  Additionally, her retail chain holds quarterly classroom training for their team members on product and retail sales training.

The bottom line is that unlike the sales rep in the first furniture store, Kate was able to do all of the things that a professional retail sales representative is supposed to do.  She greeted us and put us at ease.  She learned about our needs and our lifestyle.  She recommended a specific product and encouraged us to use it.  She encouraged us to think about purchasing additional products, and she closed the sale.  She has even taken the next step by sending us a thank you card with her contact information!

Take Action Now

Investing in a retail sales training program not only helps your sales team to close more sales, but to close better sales while improving the customer experience and loyalty.  If you are interested in improving your retail sales training program or in creating one, contact us for a free one-hour consultation.