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Retail Sales Training: What it Takes to Succeed in Retail Sales

Cameron Johnson

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Working as a salesperson in retail has evolved into a very unusual profession. When people walk into a store, it’s a fair assumption that they would like to buy something. Otherwise, they wouldn’t really have any reason to enter the store. Ironically enough, though, many people will do everything in their power to avoid engaging a salesperson. They will avoid eye contact, “casually” wander into a different part of the store, or sometimes, just turn around and walk right back out the door.

It turns out that people typically do want to buy something when they enter a store—but they don’t want to be sold to. For centuries people have been bombarded with images and stories of the crooked salesman. And, even the salespeople that don’t have shady intentions, are portrayed as being a “hassle.” How often do you go into a clothing store looking for something in particular and tell the salesperson you are “just looking” in response to his/her offer to help you?

So how does a good salesperson succeed? How can you sell something to someone who doesn’t want to be sold to? What can sales workers do to go beyond the negative stereotypes and help their customers to walk out the door satisfied with their purchase?

While some parts of finding success in retail sales come naturally, there are other skills that can be taught and honed through retail sales training. Our team at Shapiro Negotiations can help you and your team to develop these skills and so that not only will you be able to make the sale—your customer will be happy with their purchase.

So what are some of the skills your team will want to develop to be really successful in sales?

Sincere Customer Service

One of the most important skills any retail salesperson can develop is customer service. After years of distrust, most customers are wary of salespeople. In some instances, they see the salesperson as their adversary, someone who is trying to sell them something that they don’t want to buy.

Part of a salesperson’s job is to convince the customer that they are not, in fact, an adversary who is trying to convince them to buy something they never wanted. Instead, the salesperson is an ally and a facilitator. The salesperson is there to help them buy something they do want. Considering the fact that they have already taken the first step of walking through the door, this is a fair assumption.

When working with customers, be sincere. The minute a customer suspects that a salesperson is trying to manipulate them, they will snap a wall into place. Once this happens, any potential sale essentially becomes a lost cause.

Communication

When we are trying to convince someone of a point, the natural tendency is to talk more. After all, the more a salesperson talks, the more of a positive impression they can give of their product. If the salesperson talks enough, the customer is sure to by, right?

Hardly. A successful salesperson listens more than talks. In order to better determine what the customer wants, it is important for them to ask sincere, probing questions. As it becomes clear what the customer is looking for, the salesperson can then help to guide them to an appropriate choice. Dale Carnegie put it best with a short couplet in his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

SNI’s retail sales training is based upon our founder Ron Shapiro’s book, The Power of Nice.  The goal is to find a situation where everyone wins. After all, if a customer walks out the door satisfied with the purchase he has made, he’s much less likely to regret the purchase and return it. Meanwhile, he is more likely to return and even recommend the store to others.

Product Knowledge

In order to convince someone that a particular product will meet their needs, a salesperson should have a solid working knowledge of that product. The salesperson serves as an expert on the product and should be able to answer any questions the customer asks. If a salesperson demonstrates that they are unfamiliar with the product they are pushing, it can seriously damage their credibility in the customer’s eyes. After all, if a salesperson doesn’t know anything about the product they are selling, then how can they honestly know that it will do the job the customer needs?

A good salesperson must be able to identify and capture the value that their product will deliver to the customer. To do so, they need to know the product backwards and forwards. The customer will naturally have objections, and a salesperson will need to overcome those objections. SNI’s trainers can instruct sales teams just how to do so through a five step process and help them to develop answers to some of the most common objections in our clients’ fields.

Industry Knowledge

A salesperson’s knowledge should go beyond just the individual products they are trying to sell. Knowledge of the industry is important as well.

By knowing about recent innovations in the industry, a salesperson can make recommendations to a customer, sometimes even beyond those that they have available to sell (see Sincere Customer Service above). SNI’s trainers can teach your team to discern what exactly a potential customer is looking for and then apply industry knowledge to direct them to products they may not even know about.

All of these skills can be significant assets when negotiating with a customer or helping to direct them to the right product. Also, keep in mind that many customers will come in seeking to use their own set of tactics to negotiate a lower price. As part of our training, SNI can teach your sales team how to recognize and respond to these tactics. For more information, contact us, and we will help you to determine how best to train your sales team so they can achieve the best results possible.

Do You Have These 5 Negotiations Skills?

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Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Marquette University Law School professor, recently wrote an article for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy explaining the importance of teaching five specific skills for negotiation, rather than teaching with negotiations style labels alone. These five critical abilities, according to Schneider, are assertiveness, empathy, flexibility, social skills/intuition, and ethics. Consider how each plays a part in the process.

Assertiveness

Negotiations are a two-way street, but it’s easy for some people to get bowled over and taken advantage of. Schneider’s first key skill for negotiation is to stand firm in your decisions. If you’re a self-doubter, this can be especially difficult to master, but it’s absolutely vital to making sure you’re getting the compensation (benefits, etc.) you deserve.

Empathy

Empathy and assertiveness might seem counteractive, but there’s a special balance a good negotiator must achieve. You must remember that you’re building connections with other humans, so listening and truly discussing their concerns with honest empathy is important.

Flexibility

The world includes a whole lot more gray than black or white. Things can’t always be the same or stay set in stone. Flexibility is key for better negotiation. You’ll be faced with unique situations and problems whether you’re ready for them or not, so being able to change plans and tactics will keep you ahead of the competition.

Social Skills/Intuition

Even though they’re about business, negotiations are just another form of conversation. Naturally, you need to have polished social skills if you want to excel. If, for example, you can ready body language cues, you’ll be able to adjust your tactics to suit extra-eager or finicky clients. Every person will provide live feedback about the conversation if you only know what to look for.

Of course, your social skills can’t be limited to watching the other person. You need to be able to communicate clearly and project yourself in a friendly, confident way. For many people, approaching others is the hardest part of negotiating, so polishing your intrapersonal skills can help everything else go smoother.

Ethics

The fifth skill Schneider listed is a dedication to ethics. No matter how badly you want to make a deal or come to an agreement, you still need to know when to draw the line. Polished ethics skills ensure you always stay on the right side of the law and don’t compromise your personal or business integrity at any point.

If you’re a little lacking in one or more of these areas, don’t worry. That’s exactly what SNI negotiations training is for.

Super Bowl 2017: X Lessons in Sales From the Best Commercials

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With another Super Bowl in the books, the world can once again analyze some viewers’ favorite part – the commercials. Your sales team can benefit the most from looking back on the failures and successes of this year’s Super Bowl advertisements to more effectively reach customers.

 

Understanding the Weight of Super Bowl Ads
One thing that’s important to understand is just how much most of these companies risk with their advertising techniques. Each 30-second ad costs a whopping $4.5 million, and, of course, longer ads run an even higher tab. The successes are extremely powerful and the flops hit exceptionally hard, so every reaction should be seriously considered.

DO: Make a Powerful Statement

The best Super Bowl commercials this year (such as Budweiser and #LikeAGirl) have one thing in common – they make a statement. They’re bold, unabashed, and ready to add a lot of power behind their message. Whether it’s your own commercial or a mission statement, you have to figure out the power behind your company and run with it. Be bold and powerful about what you’re doing or what your company offers, and don’t let anyone stand in the way.

DON’T: Use Advertising Without a Plan

You can’t just throw up commercials or sales pitches without purpose. If you’re talking just for the sake of talking, it will only devalue your brand and its benefits. Always lean on having a purpose. If you don’t have a clear one, wait until you figure it out before pushing further.

DO: Make Your Brand Memorable

People remember things that are unique. You must make your products and services stand out against a host of competitors. Figure out what it is that sets you apart and cling to it. Different might be a bit intimidating, but it can definitely be a golden ticket.

DON’T: Go Too Far

Uniqueness and memorability are vital, but you must remember to keep things in line with your company beliefs. Often, things like excessive vulgarity may help potential customers remember you, but in a negative way. Salespeople should never tarnish or devalue brand promises just to make a deal. Find your purpose and pursue it, but don’t go too far.

DO: Back Up Every Claim or Pitch

If you’ve been spending time saying you’re the best, make sure you’re ready to prove it. Whatever your purpose, you need to have skill and passion to follow up your claims. Some of the biggest Super Bowl flops are those in which the commercial was better than the brand itself.

A Year in Review: 2016 Training Industry Report

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On average, negotiations training and other training expenditures increased for both small and large companies in 2016, while remaining consistent for midsize companies. Seems like good news, right? Underneath this seemingly bright information for companies that specialize in training and consulting, is the raw truth that businesses are spending more on training because they have more employees.  They are spending about 10% of their budgets on training, which is down significantly from last year…

What does this mean? As training becomes less focused on in-person facilitation, and more focused on online learning tools, training and influencing companies have begun to offer products that reflect the market. Companies are looking to train the largest number of employees for the least amount of money. There is little evidence that online training is as successful or impactful as in-person facilitation but, none-the-less, the shift towards mass, online training is underway.

Personal facilitation is still a relatively big part of training budgets, but the use of blended learning techniques is rising significantly, as the combination of instructor-led classroom training, virtual classroom/webcast training, online and computer based training, mobile device training, and social learning becomes more readily available. These blended learning techniques are often delivered in one of two ways: learning management systems (e-learning) or virtual classroom/webcasting. Why? Overall, technology use among companies is rising, meaning their sales or negotiations training programs are beginning to mirror this.

Looking ahead at 2017, training and influencing companies need to understand the current and adjust accordingly. Outsourced training programs are likely to be more successful in small (100-999 employees) and midsize (1,000-9999 employees) companies, which will be looking to invest in the programs with the best blend of innovative learning techniques.

Cheers to a new way of training and to a profitable year!