museums&MORE Fall 2017
Creating customer relationships

Superior sales training is key in competing against online, big-box retailers

A woman came up to me after my keynote at a conference the other day asking how she could compete against online retailers.

She relayed a story about how she spent time getting a shopper what they asked for and at the end, the shopper pulled out their smartphone, snapped a picture of it, and said, “I’m going to order it online.”

No explanation. No sorry. No sale.

I think this comes from the mentality that a retail employee is there to give the customer what they want. Not really.

The retail employee is there to create a relationship; one that connects the store to the individual. When you do that, you become friends.

Friends wouldn’t scan and skip

That’s why you must do this one thing if you intend to stay in business — train your crew on the soft skills of engaging a stranger. Do that and you can stay open.

Ignore retail sales training and suffer the consequences.

But what is retail sales training? Retail sales training is the process used to train your store associates in how to engage a stranger, how to build rapport and trust, how to show a product and demonstrate its benefits, how to contrast and compare products, how to overcome objections to sell value over price, and how to close each and every sale.

There are a lot of sales training programs out there for all types of products; from cars to insurance, from luxury aircraft to timeshares, from real estate to software.

But retail sales training is different

Where the above products have sales cycles that take months or even years, shopping in a store takes only minutes. It is a short transaction that usually involves only one visit and one decision maker.

Retail sales training contains three different elements.

Onboarding or new hire training is first. It is your baseline training about how to open and close a register, how to ring up a sale, how to ship, how to stock shelves, how to pick web orders, how to use mobile POS on tablets, etc.

The second is product knowledge training. This specialized training should include knowing who this product is for and who it is not, what situations it is good for, competing products in the marketplace, and how to facilitate a hands-on trial. That education helps every employee understand the benefits of the features of a product to be able to share with a shopper.

The most important training is No. 3, behavioral retail sales training, the soft skills of how to engage a stranger. After all, all of the product knowledge in the world is useless if your sales associates don’t know how to engage a stranger with an open heart.

At it’s most basic, a good retail sales training program should take learners through these six steps:

  1. Greet Like You Mean It. Get close enough they can see you, smile and say, “Good morning.”
  2. Make a Connection. Find some clothing or jewelry on them that you can compliment or say something positive about.
  3. Your Question. Use one standard question that helps you see the project, not the item they are looking for.
  4. Point Out the Benefit. Facts, aka features, are boring. People buy based on what something does for them, not what it is built from.
  5. Add Something. Paint a picture of how one additional product will help the customer get more from their first purchase.
  6. Good-bye for now. The handoff at the counter is the last impression your customer will have of you so make it genuine and memorable.

Shoppers are armed with more data than ever when they walk through your doors, so you use your own data to measure just how good a job your associates are doing at converting your browsers into buyers.

Shifting your focus from just getting retail associates to understand a sales process and moving them to actually using it is going to help you create better customer service, increase both your shopper satisfaction scores and reviews…all of which rolls up into having created an exceptional experience for each and every shopper.

Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to succeed against online competitors.

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, has helped thousands of businesses in hospitality, manufacturing, service, restaurant and retail since 1994. His clients have ranged from multi-national luxury brands to small business mom and pops. With over thirty years experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, Phibbs has been a corporate officer, franchisor and entrepreneur. His speaking presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and re-memorable format. His newest product is SalesRX, his online retail sales training. Visit him at

Social Connections

Gift Shop Plus Summer 2024
Get one year of Gift Shop Plus in both print and digital editions for just $16.

Interested in reading the print edition of Gift Shop Plus?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs