How to take your retail sales training program to the next level
If your retail sales professionals aren’t properly prepared, it has a ripple effect across the entire business. Under-trained associates will underperform on the sales floor, costing you customers and revenue.
But while that might sound bleak, there is a silver lining. If you’re looking for strategies to improve your bottom line and make your business more competitive, the starting point may be as obvious as improving your retail sales training program. You may not need to invest in outside retail training services as long as your own program hits the following notes:
1. Use a customer-focused approach
Training often focuses on the functional expectations of the employee—but effective retail sales training programs should emphasize the needs of the customer. In short, retail employees should be taught to see the entire transaction from a customer standpoint and also how to build customer relationships.
It’s not just about making the sale; the ultimate goal is customer satisfaction and loyalty. So put your associates in the customers’ shoes.
2. Incorporate scenario-based learning
Scenario-based learning helps you to discover how an employee would act in a real-life situation. It requires the sales associate to think critically about the sales process and apply their learned knowledge using abstract thought. For instance, instead of asking a trainee to identify the correct definition of “showrooming,” you might provide a series of customer behavior scenarios and ask the trainee to identify which scenarios most likely indicate showrooming.
Sales professionals must constantly think on their feet and deal with unique encounters on the floor and scenario-based learning can help them train their minds to make effective split-second decisions. It also helps leaders ensure that the employee actually understands the lessons on a practical level—rather than just memorizing definitions and concepts.
3. Emphasize durable skills
Certain durable skills—or soft skills—are essential for effective salespeople. For instance, every sales professional should be skilled in active listening, empathy, verbal communication, decisiveness, persuasiveness and similar skills. If you’re conducting online retail sales training, you might also need to account for skills like written communication.
Even if your associates have prior sales experience, don’t automatically assume that they have mastered these skills. Reinforce them in your training.
4. Instill product knowledge
Product knowledge is sometimes acquired on the job or it can be a prerequisite for hiring. But is it part of your sales training? It should be. Customers have questions, and they need to be taught the merits of the product by someone who can authoritatively speak to those merits. Even the most charming and charismatic salesperson will falter if they don’t understand the product.
As new products hit the floor, the product training should be updated accordingly. For instance, if your team sells smartphones, they’ll need to know the features and functionality of the latest iPhone or Samsung device before it hits shelves. If a customer asks “How is the iPhone 14 different from the previous model?” and your salesperson doesn’t readily know the answer, you’re going to lose the buyer’s confidence immediately.
5. Introduce training concepts in order of priority
There are a lot of training topics to cover, and you’re probably not going to get to all of them in the first few weeks. To ensure that everyone is equipped from day one, you need to prioritize training in order of “critical information,” “need-to-know information” and “nice-to-know information.”
When establishing your training program, start with essential procedural training like how to operate a point-of-sale; this training usually starts during onboarding. Next, focus on product knowledge training. Finally, focus on fine-tuning those durable skills. If you hired for talent and experience, your team should already possess the most important durable skills to some extent, so you might not need to lead with this type of training. Adjust priorities based on your circumstances as needed.
6. Make the training relevant
Different retail environments have specific needs and challenges, and the training should be customized accordingly. Someone who sells cars at a dealership will have very different needs than a sales associate at a clothing retailer. Likewise, a person who predominantly works at the register will need to focus on different skills than someone who works a showroom floor.
Make sure to personalize the training so that everyone develops the skills they need to do the job. In addition, opt for a retail LMS that accommodates adaptive learning—so the training materials are automatically optimized based on the immediate needs of the learner.
7. Make the training continuous
When it comes to retail training, there’s always room for growth and improvement. When you consider the sheer number of soft skills, compliance points, product details and sales trends that are involved, anyone could spend a lifetime fine-tuning their abilities.
Don’t limit training to the onboarding phase but instead make it continuous. Make sure that core knowledge is reinforced at spaced intervals (repetition has been described as the first principle of all learning and is integral to sales training). Use a microlearning solution that provides continuous training in as little as 3 to 5 minutes per day. Sales professionals have demanding schedules and limited free time in the workplace, so you need a training solution that fits into the flow of work.
8. Measure the success of your training based on actual business outcomes
Training measurement is critical for all businesses, and retail companies are no exception. But when it comes to sales training, you can’t measure success based on quiz scores. Sales training is only successful if it positively impacts your bottom line.
As you take steps to improve your retail sales training strategy, take note of how it impacts sales, revenue and CSAT scores. With a modern LMS like Axonify, you can set custom KPIs and examine these types of metrics right from your dashboard.
The right retail training makes all the difference
The primary goal is to equip your sales team for maximum success in the organization. But excellent training also leads to happier, more productive retail sales associates who stick around longer, making employee development worth the investment.
For even more useful information on this topic, check out our guide to the characteristics of successful retail training programs.