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Planning for Success Starts with your Employees

t was a Friday night. On our way home from dinner my youngest son, Kent, and I stopped by a national office supplies store (Staples) with a unique mission. The first employee we saw was the cashier. She was stooped down, facing away from us, restocking the cash wrap with bags and boxes. We were in a hurry so we walked up to the counter and got her attention. She was friendly enough but turned around with that “deer in the headlights” look. I said, “I’m looking for those little ‘push pins’ that have a small head. I want them in various colors because I’m going to use them to designate various locations on a U.S. map. Do you have them?” She looked confused. She looked desperate. She shook her head. “No, I don’t really know where they are. I’m so sorry. I mean, I guess you could try aisle 15, but I don’t really know. I’m sorry.” As we headed to aisle 15 Kent said, “wow, that was special...” But she was right. They were right there on aisle 15. I walked right up to them. So we made our way back to the cash wrap to check out. That’s when the situation really began to come into focus. As we walked up, our cashier is talking to another customer. This customer is more intense and agitated — and a lot less forgiving than we were. Our cashier is also more intense and apologetic: “No ma’am, I am so sorry. I don’t know where it is. I wish I could help you, but I can’t. It’s my second day and I don’t know where anything is! I am so sorry.” She looked around for help. “John? John! Can you come over and help this lady?” John has a name tag that reads, ‘Sales Associate in training.” I’m not optimistic. John appears and takes the customer away. Kent and I walk up to the frazzled cashier. She’s had a bad day. “Can you ring me up?” She looks down at the push pins. Her face


A salesperson without confidence is an unsuccessful salesperson.

18 • Sports Insight ~ November/December 2011

immediately lights up. “You found them??!!” “Yes,” I said, “They were right where you said they would be. Thanks for your help.” She said, “I’m so happy. This is my second day and I have not had the time to look around and see where everything is. I’ve started a list. I’ll have to add these push pins to it.” Imagine how she felt during that day. She felt unprepared. She felt nervous. I’m sure that at times she may have felt like she was she was continually disappointing her customers. She lacked confidence. A salesperson without confidence is an unsuccessful salesperson. A salesperson who is not confident is going to avoid customers. Worse, if they do encounter a customer, they are very likely to disappoint them. Think about all of the failures associated with this situation: • The customer receives little or no help. • The employee is poorly prepared and feels like a failure. • The store may lose a sale. Why was this store being manned by two “trainees” on a Friday night? I’m not sure, but I do know that too many times we hire out of desperation and rush new people to the sales floor too quickly. When that happens we risk poor customer service, low sales, high turnover and interactions like I had at Staples. Here’s what we should do instead: • Have a plan. Commit to spending a minimum of 16-20 hours training any new employee before they hit the floor. • Teach them in at least three areas: 1. Cash wrap/POS technique and etiquette 2. Product knowledge 3. Customer interaction and service • Give your trainee the opportunity to practice each of these areas. Let them demonstrate to you that they are competent in what you need them to do. • Give them a clear-cut approach to handle any situation. Even if it is, “I’m not sure, but let me introduce you to John. He can help us!” At least your employee is confident and knows what to do. • Reinforce your training by giving your employee lots of opportunity to practice, learn and ask questions. Following this approach will build confident employees, retain your best people and help them to grow into the valuable asset they can be for your customers. Confident, prepared employees will help your customers feel more comfortable. Comfortable customers will stay longer and spend more. O Dan Mann is the founder and president of The Mann Group, a retail consulting firm that helps retailers with sales training and strategies. Mann, the former president of Bachrach, the men’s specialty retailer, frequently speaks at Formula4 Media events.

Success in Retail Starts with Employees  

Creating confidence in your employees will immediately improve customer service--and SALES!

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