By Joshua Strutt
Strategy Analyst, Retail Doctor Group

The secret to a focused, motivated and goal orientated retailer is generally not found in the shop.

Seem strange or even impractical? From our experience the start of assessing whether a shop team is sales focused starts in the backroom (or manager’s office).

The backroom should be the engine room of a well run motivated store and no surprises that when assessing a retail shops performance there are some tell tale signs of the business focus that lie within this small room. Typically, apart from orderly and categorised stock back-up the other major sign is the absence or presence of clearly obvious sales targets and sales performance, along with service scores on the backroom wall.

Retail is a competitive business and highlighting the performance in sales of a team member seems to be an area of question to some retailers. Some retailers simply do not have sales goals in the business, and without a goal and objective, staff are not motivated to achieve. We regularly use the metaphor of a sporting team whose primary objective is to win the game, without this objective, what is the point in playing in the first place? A retail environment should be the same, whereby all staff have the ultimate goal of making sales.

There are other questions that we typically ask in our diagnosis, although if you can honestly answer yes to each of these 15 questions, you have a ‘fit’ sales culture. If not, then a major part of your strategy is not paying a dividend and there is clear room for improvement and development.

Do you…

  1. Have weekly and daily sales targets displayed in the back room for all staff?
  2. Have business leaders who are passionate about increasing sales?
  3. Benchmark KPI’s such as items per sale, average spend and conversion and are these measured?
  4. Have clearly defined selling and non-selling tasks within the business?
  5. Create individual sales targets for each staff member?
  6. Hold daily start-up meetings to motivate staff, introduce new products and promotions and allocate tasks and sales targets for the day?
  7. Measure sales performance by product category to product against stock holding?
  8. Celebrate success when your staff exceed expectations?
  9. Have an incentive program that rewards sales achievements?
  10. Have a “steps of a sale program” that is tailored to your business appropriate selling style?
  11. Teach your staff about the key features and benefits of your products?
  12. Have individual coaching sessions with staff based on their performance?
  13. See team member’s individual sales increasing as their experience increases?
  14. Encourage a culture of achievement, progression and continuous improvement in your business?
  15. Have staff training that contains questions and mini “tests” to ensure accreditation and progression?

Here are some business fitness tips to ensure you are fostering a sales culture in your business that goes beyond the shop floor and is embedded in all your HR activity:

Create a strong sales culture in the business.

‘Fit’ businesses have aligned cultures and truly believe the number one importance of making sales. 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).

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 little while ago and constantly, 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.

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 with further training, conferences or new recruitment practices.

Recruit enthusiasm

Recruit from a base of clear, sales aligned behavioural questions with the adage of ‘recruit the will, teach the skill’ applying. Enthusiasm can be fostered and encouraged but if your new recruit isn’t motivated from their first day, how will they be in a year? Find that person that responds with “Unbelievable”.

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.

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!

Are your sales people 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 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 to maximise conversion. Knowledge is key in making those additional sales!

Engage with your staff

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. 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 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 with you and they will make you happy in return.

Employees who feel a sense of purpose, contribution and growth in a business are more loyal, have lower turnover and are more productive.


  • Communicate the purpose and values of the organisation clearly to all staff.
  • Have goals and foster a winning environment with recognition for success.


  • Encourage staff to provide feedback to management.
  • Have individual sales targets and communicate to the team how them meeting their budget effects the business as a whole.


  • Provide training and coaching to staff at all levels. Evaluate staff performance and provide directions for improvement.
  • Encourage job related and career related development and as much as possible, recruit from within the business.

Essentially, a retail business is a sales business that differentiates in brand, position, offer and process, yet many retail businesses don’t focus on sales and as a result sales culture and consequences for the sales performance are lacking.

Happy ‘Fit’ Retailing

 Josh holds an MBA from Swinburne, coupled with a deep background in retail implementation. He is our resident analyst who runs the Mystery Shopping business and works on client projects and industry data interpretation. Josh is Retail Doctor Group’s Strategy Analyst and the go-to person for understanding how to efficiently run daily retail operations for big picture growth.