Training Retail Employees to Ask for the Sale
"Always be closing" is an overused phrase retail sales managers have used for years. It sounds great, and if everyone were Alec Baldwin, it would work.
Unfortunately for these retail managers, the world, and retailing, is slightly more complicated; it is composed of a variety of people with different attitudes, strengths and weaknesses.
To be successful, store managers must be able to assess their sales staff, recognize their capabilities and then mold the majority of them into superior salespeople.
But all salespeople are not created equal…
Before you can train employees to ask for the sale, you must determine the basic personality style of each member of your sales team. Here are the four basic personality types:
When someone refers to a born salesperson, they are usually referring to person with a Driver personality style. These people thrive on making the sale. They well informed about products and understand the possible objections that a customer could make. Their large egos thrive on making a sale. In short, they will not take no for an answer and will almost always ask for the sale without fear. You rarely have to train them to ask for the sale — they just may try to ask for it too soon.
As the name indicates, Amiables just want to get along. In most cases, a fear of rejection limits their desire to ask for the sale. Instead, they will simply wait for the customers to approach them and say, “I’ll take it.” Needless to say, in an untrained state, they are not very successful at asking for the sale.
This personality style is usually the most popular person on your sales floor. However, they can be easily distracted, even while making a sale. The Expressive salesperson is the spark to creating a high-energy sales environment, but that energy doesn’t translate well if you look to them to manage others. They have their hands full managing themselves.
This personality style is often the most well informed person on your sales floor. The problem is that they are not personal enough to translate that knowledge into asking for the sale. The Analytical salesperson presents the facts, then waits for the customer to reach a conclusion. Rarely does the Analytical proactively ask for the sale.
Improving Sales Performance To Close The Sale
Recognizing the different personality styles is just the first step in improving your sales team. While it may seem logical to only hire Drivers, it is not always feasible – especially since they are rare. And while Expressives are wonderful and fearless in asking for the sale, they are rarer still to find in retail.
Instead, retail sales managers should concentrate on developing the Amiables and the Analyticals on the team, as they represent probably 80% of your retail workforce.
Managers must expand the comfort zone of both Analyticals and Amiables by appealing to their strengths. Analyticals need to have a well-developed selling system that shows them the benefits of a product and how to proactively overcome customer objections. Amiables, on the other hand, need rapport-building exercises to help them overcome their fear of rejection.
You need to look at what makes the Analytical and the Amiable feel good about themselves.
The Analytical prides him or herself on knowing everything about a product. In response to a customer coming into a lumber yard and asking for some 2 x 4's, the Analytical will ask a barrage of questions such as, “Treated? Untreated? Pressure treated? Standard? Premium?”
These are perfectly logical questions for the Analytical because he wants the customer to get the perfect product for his or her needs. The trouble is that this can stop a sale in its tracks, by making a customer feel bad and tripping their idiot switch. The customer may walk away rather than spend any more time with them.
Amiables naturally feel good getting to know people, but there’s a twist – the customer has to like them first. It is not part of the Amiable’s makeup to naturally go up to strangers and engage them.
At a flower shop an Amiable stands behind the counter while the customer opens the cooler, picks up a bouquet of red roses, puts them back down, examines some pink ones, puts them back, closes the cooler looking confused. The Amiable, still waiting for a question, just looks at them.
A customer may walk away rather than ask a question, leaving the Amiable alone and sad but not knowing they did anything wrong.
That’s why you have to give both these personality styles a sales process that lets them feel comfortable so they’ll be able to present your merchandise and ask for the sale.
What you need to give your team is the retail sales training to have the guts to ask for the sale.
Classroom training and one-on-one role-playing that models and then makes them ask for the sale must be included in any retail sales training program. It is the simplest, most effective way to build everyone’s confidence.
You don’t need retail salespeople who shrink like some cheap flannel shirt upon first washing when they need to be asking the customer for the sale.
What you need is for the Amiable to have the fortitude to ask, “Can I put that in a box for you?” and for the Analytical to finesse their product pitch that ends naturally with, “Will you take it?”
In addition, there are many employees who don’t ask for the sale because deep down inside, they either feel like a phony trying to sell something to someone, think that the product isn’t worth the price, or they don’t think the customer can afford it.
I truly believe we can change the world by teaching employees – and ourselves- how to approach the world with an open heart. To some it comes more easily than others. Amiables and Analyticals need to be taught.
Working in retail gives you many opportunities to hone the skill of speaking to strangers. When employees master these skills, they make better citizens, students and consumers.
The bottom line of a retail sales training program is to increase sales, but that only happens when you get to the core of why your retail employees don’t ask for the sale. It is merely glib, and misses the point entirely, to tell your sales team to “Always be closing.”
Instead, give them the resources and training to confidently ask for the sale.
Image credit: Svilen Milev
Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at http://www.retaildoc.com/guide. He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author
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