My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. – Abraham Lincoln

Recently we were approached to have our implementation division conduct retail sales training. According to the prospective client this would immediately lift their retail sales.

Believe me, we wanted to do business and increase the value of this client’s investment. However, we know that sales training for retail staff is a false panacea and is, more often than not, a complete waste of money.

Shock horror, aghast! How could this Retail Doctor speak in such tones!? It’s because all retail sales are actually the outcome of a number of interrelating factors.

Retail sales invariably come from:

  • Position/Point of difference;
  • Very involved positive leadership;
  • Lower levels of staff turnover than industry benchmarks;
  • Increasing transaction numbers (it’s a numbers game);
  • Wonderful and appropriate customer experience;
  • Plenty of coaches in the staff with few referees;
  • Speed of stock, including replenishment, into the shops and online;
  • Profile of stock, getting the right product to the customer every time;
  • Performance of stock;
  • Great business analytics to measure every aspect of the interrelationship of stock, people service, supply and performance; and
  • Staff focus and accountabilities.

Now I could reveal some more interrelated elements of the drivers of retail sales, however that would be giving away business fitness secrets!

Let’s return to our prospective client. I was confident that sales training per se was not going to be the answer, although it was one important factor.

When we visited the client’s business, we saw some interesting factors that would definitely work against a successful sales program – especially when it came to their in-store implementation.

These included:

  • An obvious lack of performance metrics/goal culture – where was this retail team headed and what does better performance look like?
  • Staff turnover of over 35% (consider a norm of 18-20%);
  • Stock intensity would only deliver sales of a maximum of $600,000 (if everything sold) when sales clearly needed to be at $800,000+ based on the size of the footprint and appropriate benchmark performance; and
  • This is a fashion business and we see that there are out-of-stocks in the main sizes and hero products.

The overall point being that sales training for your retail staff is effective and necessary when all the other interrelated aspects as listed are understood and managed.

After all, the rise of omni-channel retailing, global competition, and the increasing quality of Australian retail won’t worry this retailer – getting the business fitness basics will occupy plenty of time.

Happy ‘fit’ retailing!

First published by Smart Company, July 2014