To Prepare Your Retail Store for the Holidays, Train!

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a business and no one seems to know anything about the products they’re selling? You’re asking for help and they’re sending you to the wrong aisle, burying their heads in the computer — or worst of all, shaking their head and shrugging. Not only does this erode customer confidence, it usually ends with no sale. It certainly won’t inspire repeat business! Why would anyone return to a store where the staff are clueless about what they’re selling?

Our goal is to provide as much knowledge to our vendors as possible, so that they can properly guide their patrons to the best buying decisions. How can this be accomplished? Store trainings! Regular store trainings are the most effective way to avoid the dreaded shrug and watch your business thrive. It all boils down to these three elements: foot traffic, product knowledge and training benefits.

The fourth financial quarter of the year is notorious for high foot traffic — real live people pounding the pavement at brick-and-mortar stores. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all fall in “Q4,” so it makes sense that it exceeds all other seasons in terms of dollars spent during in-person visits. It goes without saying that as a retailer, you want to optimize your sales during this time, and ensure customers are buying the proper items, so they aren’t returning them the day after Christmas! After all, this is the time when people are not only motivated to shop, they are more or less required to find something for everyone on their list. Why not turn their obligation into something that exceeds their expectations, and even gets them talking to their friends about how your store is the perfect go-to place for gift ideas, whether it’s fun stocking stuffers or something more substantial?

The key to maximizing foot traffic is preparation. Walk through the store as if you were the consumer. What products do you have front-racked? Are there gift ideas spelled out for people who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for? Are the displays eye-catching and leading the customer on a path to more and more items? Get your “store experience” plan in place well before the panicked shoppers arrive. That way, instead of frantically pulling items from other areas on the fly, you can greet customers at each pre-prepared stop along their journey, and chat them up about the products that catch their eye.

Products are the star attraction. That’s why product knowledge is the best way to ensure sales success. It’s really that simple. Make sure that the customer is connecting with the product they want, or the product they want to buy for someone else. Ask questions to keep them engaged. “Who are you buying for?” or “Is this for yourself or a gift?” are great starters to get on the path to a sale. Then give them the highlights of the item they’re considering. What are its benefits? Who was it designed for? What has the feedback been from people who have purchased it before? These are all important factors in deciding whether or not you’re going to put something in your cart. If the sales representative has all the answers, it’s reassuring and creates an important connection.

An employee can be outgoing, attentive and helpful, but if they don’t know whether or not a product works better for men or women, that’s not going to translate well. We want the individuals selling our products to feel so comfortable with the product information that it just rolls off their tongue. That way, they’re in the perfect position for an upsell! We love trainings on product pairings, which benefits the consumer because employees can pass on that knowledge and create a more fulfilling experience for themselves and the person they’re buying a gift for. As a gift giver, it feels satisfying to have a “story” to go along with a gift. Not just, “I found this myself on the rack and thought it looked okay,” but rather, “The woman at the store says it’s the absolute best hands-free massage gel, and told me that it pairs beautifully with these candles.” Everyone wants to put some meaning into a gift, and it’s the salesperson’s job to give them that product knowledge as part of the purchase.

Advice and guidance are especially important when it comes to intimate products used on sensitive areas of the body, because a customer might feel inhibited about returning the item, not wanting to talk about it further since they “got it wrong.” They are far less likely to return for future purchases if they were steered in the wrong direction the first time. Incorrect information doesn’t just hinder one sale, it disconnects the customer from the whole experience of shopping for intimate products. On the flip side, a great experience can also lead to one of the most valuable sales tools out there: positive word of mouth.

The benefits of a well-trained staff are plentiful. Improving sales is the most obvious benefit, but training can also reduce staff turnover. How? Imagine you’re working in a store and you keep failing to close sales because you just can’t seem to connect customers with the right products. You’ve read all the labels and gone online to find talking points, but you’re not closing deals. Your manager thinks you’re not trying hard enough, which makes you resentful, and the cycle continues until one day you quit or get laid off. Now imagine that you attend a store training and get in-person advice on how to hold the products, show them off, talk about their benefits and upsell potential. You learn little details about how the product came to be, what the focus groups were like, and maybe even some funny anecdotes to share about the development or marketing of the product. Now you’ve got some investment in what you’re selling, and you feel confident out on the floor. Suddenly your sales are soaring, the manager is happy and you’re receiving a bonus. Thorough product trainings also ensure that staff can answer questions with ease on the spot and overcome any obstacles to a sale with key facts and details. A well-trained staff is a happy, productive one, which reflects back to the customer.

Let’s return to our walk-in experience. You know that feeling when you’re talking to a salesperson and they know all about the products they’re selling? Yeah, that’s what we want, too.

To Prepare Your Retail Store for the Holidays, Train! By Jared Pomerance originally appeared in XBIZ

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