By Josh Strutt
Deployment Consultant, Retail Doctor Group 

The noble art of retail selling is an area that is surprisingly often overlooked.

Fiction: Anyone can sell.

Many retailers believe that every trained salesperson can engage the customer in a non-business approach, assess customer needs through skillful questioning, retain the vital information, be ready for playback at a later stage, and then skillfully introduce from products to a benefits laden package to the customer based on their needs.

But wait! It gets better when this skilled salesperson effortlessly bundles the add-ons into the package of products that the customer simply must have. Elated, this customer leaves the store ready to tell 20+ other advocates and turns them into evangelists for that brand’s customer experience.

Fact: Customer service is not the same as selling.

Some salespeople don’t know how to sell very well. A smiling face, sunny disposition, and helpful manners are nice and important. However, they don’t make these people profitable salespeople. A great salesperson should be a strong active listener, who is confident with the right degree of humility and genuine interest in the customer. They should know their product and be enthusiastic when explaining its features and benefits.

The right sales training, supported by an effective people framework, will go a long way to delivering increased sales performance and help you stay fit and resilient in today’s market.

Through our RDG Mystery Shopping program, we see plenty of selling data across a large range of retailers. One area where opportunity is lost consistently is the add-on or upselling. In fact, this happens in 1 OUT OF EVERY 2 encounters. This is just profit walking out the door. Once again, a strong sales strategy will never deliver if the investment in selling skills and performance frameworks are not in place.

Between 70% and 80% of purchases are impulse. These people will buy that add-on with their product purchase, if only somebody would ask. Thus, this begs the question, “Are we selling more to the customers we have and are we measuring this by items per sale, average sale, conversion and gross sales by team member?”

Did you know that the conversion ratio of shoppers to buyers in specialty retail only averages approximately 15 per cent? This means that 8.5 out of every 10 people who walk through your doors leave empty handed!

Think about what the effect would be on your bottom line if transactions stayed static while your average sales figures were up by 10%, your conversion increased to 30% and items per sale rose by even just one.

For example, a specialty retail store makes $2000 on an average day while selling to 15 per cent of their shoppers. By selling to an extra 15 per cent of people entering the store, they increase their conversion ratio to 30 per cent and have the potential to double their daily sales to a whopping $4000, without attracting a single additional customer.

If you then extrapolate this increased amount across the retail channel, we can start to see the missed opportunities occurring as you read this article. Selling more to the customers you have is a vital objective in today’s environment.

Operationally ‘Fit’ companies have fully integrated and complete Effective People frameworks which allow them to maximise sales conversions and therefore dollars without any capital investment or increase in overheads.

What would it take to improve the ‘Fitness’ of your salespeople so they have the skills and motivation necessary to convert more shoppers into buyers?

Fitness tips for Effective People

Think, talk and make sales

‘Fit’ businesses have aligned cultures and truly believe the number one importance of making sales. What do I mean by aligned? By way of example, if the board and CEO are not talking sales at every opportunity and with every team member, then it is unrealistic to think the field teams will think, talk, and make sales. The IT manager having a sales focus is just as important as the regional manager’s sales focus (it may just be weighted differently on their individual scorecards).

Stand for something or fall for everything

The CEO should communicate the state of the nation’s sales performance to all staff members regularly (each quarter as a minimum). I saw this with a client a few years ago and it stays in my mind as an effective way to speak of the importance of the sales effort and the joint teamwork required by everyone at every level to deliver increased results.

Standardise your recruitment guidelines

Clear and standardised recruitment guidelines will help align your team to a common goal and create a real sales culture in your business. Look at the turnover rate, the reasons staff leave and when. You will see some very common trends, and, in many cases, inconsistent recruitment practices are a significant factor.

Recruit enthusiasm for selling!

Recruit from a base of clear, sales aligned behavioural questions with the adage of ‘recruit the will, teach the skill’. Over 70 per cent of exit surveys we do show that staff who initiate leaving, do so because they did not feel ‘engaged’ with the business.

Strong engagement starts with strong induction

Whether it be a buddy or mentor system, simply making sure the new team member has a clear ‘go to’ person (who is not the boss) is a helpful step to inducting them to the sales focus of the business. Match your new employees with someone they are comfortable with asking questions and expressing their concerns to and who can communicate the sales alignment.

It’s all about great, motivated people

Great people make great businesses, we all know that. Ask people in many businesses whether they feel great working for their bosses, and you will get mixed responses.

Our research tells us that engaged, motivated staff deliver an average 20 per cent higher sales and margin improvement to the fitness of a business. Consider also the damage the unmotivated team member can do. Brand damage by stealth can be detrimental so keep your staff happy and they will make you happy in return.

Performance culture

Set clear performance standards and goals, provide coaching, training and feedback and offer reward systems for excellence. You will then not have to worry about making sales or delivering great consistent customer service as it will happen as part of your winning culture.

The top three

Ask your managers and staff to anonymously nominate their top three goals in the business. If 100 per cent of your staff are not nominating sales as their number one goal, it’s time to think about increasing your cultural alignment (think back to that conversion rate!)

Don’t be worried if you don’t get over 70 per cent alignment as our research shows that this is common. ‘Fit’ businesses, however, will measure this regularly and always aim for 100 per cent!

Provide teams with knowledge for confidence

Are your salespeople fully confident in their product ranges, the features, and benefits of the products they are selling?

If the answer is not a resounding “Yes”, work on further training in this field. Introduce new products and have your sales people ‘sell’ them to their fellow team members at weekly team meetings.

Be sure they know the features and benefits of all products, associated accessories, and add-ons to assist them in maximising conversion. Knowledge is key in making those additional sales.

We have hundreds of other fitness tips and our ‘Fit for Business’ and Effective People training programs are guaranteed to increase your sales, systems and profitability.

Happy ‘Fit’ Retailing

 Josh holds an MBA from Swinburne, coupled with a deep background in retail implementation. He is RDG’s resident analyst who runs the Mystery Shopping, RDG Learning Academy businesses and works on client projects and industry data interpretation. Josh is the go-to person for understanding how to efficiently run daily retail operations for big picture growth. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email