It is common to hear a top performing salesperson say “I’m the top salesperson, I don’t need sales training”. They blitz targets, rank as the number one salesperson in the company month after month and make themselves a bucket load of commission. You can’t blame them for thinking they don’t need to know anything else.
The top salespeople, might be number one in terms of sales turnover but are they building relationships with customers and creating advocates for the business? They may close a large number of transactions and put dollars in the till today but may do very little to create a positive lasting perception of the business.
In some companies, attending sales training is seen as a chore as just another boring training session salespeople are required to attend. Or, it’s seen as punishment for poor performing salespeople, only to subconsciously send them the message to ‘lift your game or else’. No wonder training gets a bad reputation.
There are benefits to having the entire team attend sales training, new or old, top or low performing. First, it ensures everyone is aware of what the company’s expectations are in relation to sales and customer service, leading to improved consistency in the experiences provided.
Sales training isn’t necessarily about overhauling a salespersons interaction with customers. For some salespeople, it may act as a refresher or a refocus. Perhaps they’ve been in the business for many years and just need a little inspiration. For others, it might be picking up one or two tips to help them improve certain areas they struggle in. For those newer to a sales role, sales training can give them a place to start, knowing what the expectations are and providing them with much needed confidence.
It’s also a way of remaining relevant. The sales and service industries are fast moving environments. Things are constantly changing; customer’s expectations, trends, products, the economy and so on. If one day has gone by, the whole game has changed. Therefore, if salespeople keep doing what they did five years ago or even six months ago, it may have been relevant then but it may not be as effective today.
For businesses who find themselves dragging their salespeople to sales training kicking and screaming, it’s time to shift the perception. Rather than communicating attendance at training as a task, promote it as an opportunity. Endorse it as a means of ensuring everyone is on the same page, refreshing and upskilling, leading to business and personal growth.
It’s amazing how often we place an order in a restaurant, a drink from a bar or a snack from a café and the person serving gets it wrong. We end up with something completely different from what we ordered or a variation of, only for us to complain and ask for a replacement which ultimately, costs the business money.
This isn’t limited to the food and beverage industry, it’s rampant with service providers everywhere. Although we are being asked “Can I help you?” our response isn’t completely absorbed with errors and misinterpretations common place. It’s mind boggling how often a person assisting or serving, doesn’t listen and gets it wrong.
Staff’s listening skills are a continual frustration of customers. One reason why this occurs, is our tendency of hearing, a physical process of perceiving sound, without listening which is a mental process of processing meaning. A classic example of this, is being asked at a checkout “Would you like a bag?”, even if we respond “no”, the person proceeds to provide us with a bag anyway. Although this can be partially linked to habit, the frequency in which this occurs, demonstrates a worrying trend. Our active listening skills, need some work.
Wikipedia states, active listening “requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said”. Increasing awareness and providing staff with training in active listening is one way in which businesses can improve this vital element of providing quality service. Taking this one step further is upskilling in reflective listening, where a person repeats the order or request back to the customer, to confirm their understanding. By repeating or paraphrasing, the person is more likely to remember what the customer has said and as a result, get the order or request right the first time.
Reflective listening also shows an intent to listen and understand. Too often, it seems there is a lack of desire to truly understand customers’ wants and needs. Assumptions are made, hoping it will be enough, to satisfy and allow them to move onto the next customer.
All of us as human beings have a basic desire to be heard and understood. Therefore, having a genuine intent to listen to customers and fulfill their request with accuracy, is a basic in customer service. Although we can train staff to improve these skills, largely listening is a choice. A person makes a conscious choice to hear, to listen, to understand and then to serve.
In the past week, I’ve read two separate articles regarding two very different national retail businesses in all sorts of trouble. One is having a massive closing down sale after going into voluntary administration and the other making record losses.
Both articles discussed various contributing factors to their downturn such as; the impact of online shopping, increasing running costs and international competition. When I saw the names of each of these troubled businesses, I realised there was another common theme, I’d had poor customer service experiences in both of them.
One of these businesses in particular, over the last decade I had seen a decline in service provided to customers in many of their stores throughout the country. A lack of staff on the shop floor, policies that weren’t customer friendly and service that was now almost non-existent.
The other store I’d been into on several occasions, each of which I recalled the staff busy chatting amongst themselves, ignoring customers and making it an unwelcoming place to visit. I’d therefore never actually purchased from the store, choosing to shop elsewhere.
That’s exactly what shoppers will do if you don’t give them a reason to shop with you. They will chose to go to a competitor or even shop online.
Online shopping is a growing challenge facing bricks and mortar stores. One of the major differentiators retailers have over online shopping, is the shopping experience they provide their customers with. Therefore, it’s vital this experience is a positive one otherwise, they may do nothing other than drive the customer to shop online.
The service experience is also a huge factor that sets stores apart. With similar products available at similar prices in numerous different stores, a business must give customers a valid reason to shop with them, rather than choosing the competition. Unfortunately however, too often customers are provided with reasons not to shop in a particular store.
When I read about profit loss, impending staff cuts and store closures, of course I feel sad at their demise however, I think back to shopping experiences in many of these retail stores and can recall nothing but disappointing, unsatisfactory and deterring experiences. You can’t expect to survive, if you are not winning and retaining customers.
A retail store relies on customers, they are what keep the doors open. The focus and priority therefore, must be customers and providing them with quality experiences. If they don’t, they too might be displaying ‘Closing Down’ signs and become another empty shop in the shopping centre.