The Retail Doctor Academy (Staff Writer)

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 so it’s ready for playback at a later stage, and then skillfully introduce the product to the customer, right through to a benefits-laden package that’s based on customer needs and on to the right product.

But wait. It gets better than this when this skilled salesperson effortlessly bundles the add on to the package of product that the customer simply must have. Elated, the customer leaves the store ready to tell 20+ other advocates and turn them into evangelists for that business’ brand customer experience.

Fact: Customer service is not the same as selling.

Some sales people actually don’t know how to sell very well. A smiling face, sunny disposition, and helpful manner is nice and important although it doesn’t make these people profitable salespeople. The greatest asset that a salesperson can have is to be a strong active listener, 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 these increases 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 (over 6000 individual stores over the past 2 years) and one area where opportunity is lost consistently is the add-on or up sell – in fact this is the occasion in more than 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. So 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%? This means that 8.5 out of every 10 people who walk through your doors leave empty handed!

Consider what the effect would be on your bottom line if transactions stayed static while your average sale 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% of their shoppers. By selling to an extra 15% of people entering the store, they increase their conversion ratio to 30% 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 and 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 increase the ‘Fitness’ of our 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 sales increases.

Standardise your recruitment guidelines

Clear and standardised recruitment guidelines will help align your team to a common goal and creating 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’ applying. Over 70% 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 business. Match your new employees with someone they are comfortable with asking questions and expressing their concerns to and who is able to 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 the boss, and you will get a very mixed response.

Our research tells us that engaged, motivated staff deliver an average 20% higher sales and margin improvement to the fitness of a business. Also consider the damage the unmotivated team member can do. Brand damage by stealth can be detrimental so keep your staff happy with you 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 yourself 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% 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% alignment as our research shows this is common. ‘Fit’ businesses however will measure this regularly and always aim for 100%!

Provide teams with knowledge for confidence!

Are your salespeople fully confident in their product ranges and 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 salespeople ‘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 to maximise conversion. Knowledge is key in making those additional sales!

We have recently launched our Retail Skills Academy that is the one stop shop for engaging your team to maximise your retailing opportunity. Our Effective People and Selling Skills training programs are guaranteed to increase your sales, systems and profitability.

Happy ‘Fit’ Retailing

Our Deployment team can give you more tips to be the best of the best in your industry. For more on Retail Doctor Group’s retail consultant services driven by our “fit for business fitness™” programs, email or phone 02 9460 2882.