With customers returning to bricks-and-mortar stores, and retail trade beginning to return to something resembling a pre-pandemic ‘normal’, shop-floor sales people are once again the first touch-point many customers will come in contact with when they want to buy.
And after a year of getting used to product pages and delivery windows, the expertise of someone who knows the product and is talking directly to a customer about it has been sorely missed.
But do their skills still stack up?
According to retail training company RedSeed chief executive and co-founder Anya Anderson, most brands tend to focus on one of two training styles for sales staff: and one is far more useful to customers, and provides a better return on investment for businesses looking to improve sales.
These training styles are known as focusing on ‘product knowledge’ versus ‘skills’.
“Sometimes when sales people approach customers armed with only product knowledge, they fail to build a rapport or relationship and the sale doesn’t go anywhere,” Anderson said.
“Often a customer can get confused by overly technical information – they might not actually know what they’re looking for or what various terminology can mean.”
What this can mean is that customers get disconnected from the sales person, can tune out when they’re speaking, or can get overwhelmed and want some time to think a sale or product over.
Alternatively, with skills training, a sales person can build a rapport, find out what the customer needs the item in question for, and potentially find them something more relevant to their needs – and in doing so build a level of trust that no amount of technical information can match.
Of course salespeople need to have a foundational level of product knowledge, but with sales training these staff can ultimately leave customers with a much better sales experience.
Plus, most technical information of products is readily available on the internet now, and many customers will already have looked at this information or will have it handy when look at the product in person.
“[Understanding] this becomes more important the more expensive a purchase is,” Anderson explains.
“If someone is buying chewing gum this probably isn’t going to be an issue, but if you’re buying a $25,000 lounge suite, a car or a computer or something, it becomes really important [for customers to trust that they’re getting the right thing].
“The thing that really sells for a customer is a product’s benefit for them in particular, so a sales person has got to be able to take what they know about a product and match those two or three key things to the customer that’s in front of them so they feel its the right solution for them.”
In RedSeed’s Retail Suite training program, it provides a sales fundamentals course that is geared around getting staff out from behind the counter, engaging with customers, asking them what they want, and building trust and credibility.
“That’s the baseline, and then you layer it with more advanced techniques… if your customer walks over the threshold of the store, the most important thing is being able to open the conversation,” Anderson said.
“You can’t get to the point of demonstrating product knowledge or closing a sale if you can’t open it.”
To learn more about retail sales and service training courses, or to request a demo of the RedSeed learning platform and content library, get in touch.