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Inside Retail & RedSeed

Should sales training change in the face of online retail?

The past two years have been explosive for online retail. Customers that had never purchased online were forced to, leading to increased online conversion and sales, as well as longer delivery times and a struggling supply chain. 

But, with bricks-and-mortar retail soon back on the cards, how will customers’ shifted expectations around shopping change the way retailers need to sell in-store?

“I think it largely depends on which category you’re targeting,” said retail training company RedSeed’s chief executive Anya Anderson.

“There’s never been a massive need in the high volume, low-cost end of retail for team members to know a lot about the products, and I don’t think that’s necessarily changed.”

In the high end, though, it is important for team members to have a better understanding of their product range, and to be able to ‘diagnose’ why a customer is asking for a particular product, and what they can do to help them. 

This has become even more important as global and regional supply chain delays have meant many retailers are struggling to keep their goods in stock, and relying on converting customers to online through endless aisle purchases can put them on a months-long waiting list for stock.

“One of the key things that people need to be able to understand is why a customer is asking for a specific product, and then to be able to ‘switch’ them to another,” Anderson said. 

“In a high-end showroom you probably don’t stock everything: You might have one couch that comes in five different colours, but you won’t have all of them on hand. So what becomes important is not only knowing about your products, but also figuring out what your customer actually needs.”

This is one reason Anderson advocates companies hire staff based on their interpersonal skills, and to train up their ability to communicate with customers rather than giving them a tour of product information and calling it a day.

Customers already have access to product information and reviews online, so if that’s all a salesperson can offer they’ll find it difficult to forge any connections to their customers, and will struggle to sell.

RedSeed’s Learning Management System is built to keep training easy and engaging for employees, and offers courses across the fundamentals, as well as more intermediate and advanced concepts. 

“For us, it’s always about changing behaviour to improve outcomes,” Anderson said. 

“Not a lot of organisations are creating the right internal culture around training, where people want to do it rather than being forced to.” 

According to Anderson, it’s incredibly important to ensure the lessons being taught are actually reaching the shop floor, as it’s only then that you can be sure behaviours have changed and results will improve. 

Inside Retail and RedSeed are working together to create an industry report which will focus on what shoppers want and need from retail staff in order to feel supported, inspired, enabled and empowered. To receive a copy as soon it becomes available, register your interest here.

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