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Are You Training to Win?

Why you must reach beyond the rote programs to secure regular, increased sales


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Imagine you are a store owner who knows the average value of each of your employee’s sales, because you can track every sale each specific employee makes. You scan the floor, and you see your best staff member, whose average sale is $40, talking to a customer. Then you see a staffer whose average sale is $30 talking to the next customer. You might think this person will cost you $10 in business. You could then estimate that if the low-to-average staffer somehow could be made as effective as the top staffer, and they took care of 100 customers a week, the store’s sales would increase $50,000 per year. In addition, it’s likely that the top person is handling more transactions than the other. If the other could learn to make one more sale a day, sales would increase by another $10,000 a year for a total of $60,000 per year. Multiply that by the number of employees. What’s the sum total? A more successful store. If you can’t measure individuals, you can measure groups, shifts, days of the week, etc. to determine your most—and least—effective salespeople.

Any training program you use should contain certain common elements, including starting conversations with customers, asking probing questions, demoing product, different methods of closing sales, handling objections and add-on sales.

How Much Are You Leaving on the Table?
This exercise acts as a way to convince you to invest more in training to make your staff more effective salespeople. It’s an important message, because most retailers don’t do enough training. Many stores schedule vendor after vendor to train staffers on their products, which is important. However, product information will take your people only so far toward becoming as effective as they can be to maximize your store’s profitability.

Why Retailers Don’t Do More Sales Training
Store owners repeat the same tired lines as to why they don’t do more sales training:
They don’t have time. Instead they move from problem to problem. But you’ve got to spend time on the important things that will help you long term.
They don’t think it’s important. I hope my exercise showed you why the case is otherwise.
They don’t know how. Resources are available to train your staff that will take very little of your time.
They don’t want their staff to be pushy. I hear this a lot. Most customers welcome engaging with people they deal with in stores and are interested in learning about new products that will help their pets. Being outgoing and assertive needn’t be offensive if people are trained properly. Sales training is not what makes people pushy. To avoid pushiness, when you think your staff’s skills have improved, use positive management and motivation techniques such as contests, goals and bonuses. Lead by example by undertaking the same training program. Certainly don’t threaten anyone if they are not improving; it might be better to replace them before you reach that point. Retail sales training is simple and easy to master; anyone who can’t learn it probably shouldn’t be on your sales floor in the first place.

Sales Training Resources
Any training program you use should contain certain common elements, including starting conversations with customers, asking probing questions, demoing product, different methods of closing sales, handling objections and add-on sales. Pet Store Pro, the free online program for pet stores sponsored by the Pet Industry Distributors Association, contains a module called Suggestive Selling, which covers part of what staff needs to know. It’s a good start. A more complete outline of what’s needed can be found in the single volume by Harry J. Friedman, “Sorry I’m Just Looking,” which is the most comprehensive summary I know.

One thorough program that is used by many pet store owners is the sales training offered by Bob Negen’s Whizbang! Training. Negen’s course is part of a much larger program of management tools for independent store owners in any category. Like all of Negen’s programs, it includes ingenious ideas such as having a list of automatic add-ons—e.g., always show a certain treat when food is purchased, and send thank-you cards to customers.

Members of NexPet, the pet store co-op I run, have access to a comprehensive 12-module sales training course online and in workbooks as part of the FlexQuiz program. Pet Store Pro and FlexQuiz both offer the advantages of taking virtually no management time, as they allow staffers to train themselves.

Regardless of how you approach sales training, remember how much it can add to your top line and your bottom line.

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Pet Product News.

Barry Berman is president and co-founder of NexPet co-op for independent retailers and Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals pet food company. Contact him at barry@nexpet.com.

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