Why Retail Salespeople Fail to Effectively Handle Customer Objections

A number of years ago a major consumer electronics retailer did an extensive review of the sales practices in their stores.  While they found that over 80% of their customers came to their retail locations with an intent to buy, just over half of them – or 42% of total foot traffic – actually did so.

While the study uncovered many reasons for this failure, one of the key findings was that the retailer’s sales representatives were unable to effectively handle the situation when a customer presented an objection to the sale. Obviously, the retailer launched a significant retail sales training program to rectify the problem, but only after identifying the root causes for the issue.  Let’s look at two key reasons why retail employees may be struggling with handling sales objections.

First, many sales associates simply do not know what to say or do when they hear an objection.  The result is that they either ignore it or try so bypass it by continuing to talk about features or benefits.

While this is initially a sales training issue, it also becomes a sales management and coaching issue. Retail employees need to be reminded and instructed on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or even hourly) on how to effectively handle objections so that a simple customer objection doesn't kill a sales interaction prematurely.

A second reason salespeople struggle at dealing with objections is nervousness or anxiety.  When presented with a customer who says “No”, the retail employee loses their composure, resulting in a haphazard response or an end to the sales dialog.

Again, this problem should be handled with a combination of sales training and ongoing coaching.  Train your retail team member on how to handle the most common sales objections (money, need, rapport, peer pressure, value) and then work with them through role playing, coaching, and feedback activities to help them practice and refine their selling techniques.

Remember our national retailer?  They relaunched their sales training program across their enterprise.  Results improved for a short period of time, but then began to backslide again.  So they hired another consulting firm to help them with the issue.  The second firm recognized that sales training alone is not enough to guarantee success…it has to be coupled with a management training program for the sales management team on how to coach the retail sales representatives along the way.

The moral of the story????  Bundle sales training with training for coaches and supervisors!



David Goodwin is the principal at Retail Advocacy Group and Retail Training Services.  With over 30 years experience operating hundreds of retail stores and training thousands of retail sales representatives he and his team are focused on helping retailed improve their sales and operational efficiency so they can grow their profits.  To learn more about their training and retail operations consulting programs please visit www.retailertrainingservices.com.