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Retail Sales Teams & Your Bottom Line: Are You Hiring the Best?

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on November 20, 2015

If you own a retail business, you understand how important sales are. They literally define your bottom line. But have you sat down and considered how important your retail sales team is? Today's article is going to talk about how your sales team affects your bottom line and touch on how to find the best salespeople.

The Influence of Your Sales TeamPortrait-of-sales-assistant-000057224834_Small-7

In retail, your sales team drives your in-store business. You've undoubtedly sat down and crafted a sales and marketing plan and developed quotas to ensure business growth. But as imperative as business planning is, hiring the right salespeople is just as important.

Hopefully you've done your market research, and, if your business is open, followed it up with appropriate analytics to understand who your customers are and what they need. Even so, every customer is different. They have different expectations and perceptions of what their experiences should be like.

This is an important first step in understanding the effect your retail sales team has on your business. A good salesperson understands customer’s needs. They inherently know whether a shopper wants to be assisted right now or to be left alone. Good salespeople also understand that they have one chance to make a first impression — and a very short time to create that impression — and that many times it's the small things that end up being the biggest influences on a customer's willingness to buy. Body language, for example, is a major factor, both for how a salesperson should understand the customer and how the customer perceives the salesperson.

Note: There are tons of other behavioral and psychological influences that define the customer's experience when shopping that can be explored and honed in on within your company and during sales training.

Why does this all matter? Consider a few pertinent statistics:

  • More than 50% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience.

  • 68% of customers are more willing to commit to a purchase if a salesperson listens to their actual needs.

Despite this knowledge, 44% of salespeople abandon a lead after receiving just one "no." This is probably because only a staggering 55% of salespeople lack the drive, empathy, and personality to succeed in sales. The importance of having the right retail sales team should be all too clear.

PRO TIP: Secret Shopping

Are you unsure of how to determine what your customers' experience is like? We suggest you strongly consider secret shopping your store. Believe it or not, it's a much more effective method of accurately determining how customers feel about your business than, say, comment cards. The likelihood of getting comment cards from customers comes in two situations: the rare customer who is exceedingly happy from an above and beyond outstanding experience, and the unfortunate, but much more common, frustrated customer after a poor experience.

Secret shopping can help you evaluate:

  • How your store is presented (both in terms of product displays and your sales team's approach)

  • Consistency between departments and/or locations

  • The time it takes for a customer to be acknowledged and before actually being assisted

  • Turn around times on inquiries (e.g., checking stock, checking product release dates)

  • The level of customer service offered by your sales team

Remember that you're not only looking for problems, but you're also looking for what is working right. You want to continue to encourage your top performers!

Hiring the Right People

The first step in positively affecting your bottoms line is, of course, starting with the right retail sales team. While hiring the right people doesn't always produce stellar sales, starting on the right foot is absolutely imperative.

So, do you know how to find the best salespeople? What are you looking for in retail sales candidates? We recommend the following traits:

  • Excellent Interpersonal Skills — Being able to get along with all types of personalities is extremely important. You want to be able to reach all kinds of customers, and to engender a positive relationship with them.

  • Great Communication — Clarity is key. Customers who are confused are less likely to be returning customers, if they even make a purchase to begin with.

  • Tenacity — Sales is often filled with rejection, and the ability to pick themselves up off the ground and look for the next opportunity is crucial for a salesperson.

  • Personal Discipline — More often than not, sales takes time and determination. A good salesperson isn't going to look for shortcuts or a reason to give up.

  • Sharp Focus — To give a customer the right kind of experience, a salesperson needs to be able to focus on what's important, which is to say the customers themselves, and not inter-office politics, or personal issues.

  • Competitive Personality — While you don't want the destructive type of tooth-and-nail infighting that some businesses have classically relied on, friendly competition is motivation to do more, and to do better.

  • Resourcefulness — Good salespeople ought to be able to think on their feet with creative problem-solving. This can also mean knowing what tools are at their disposal and which colleagues may be able to improve the sales experience.

  • Preparedness — Every customer is different, so a good salesperson will put in time doing research, about products and services to be able to accurately assist a customer. Anticipating rebuttals, questions, and concerns also makes a salesperson look authoritative as well as helpful.

  • Timeliness — Hesitation and procrastination are much more likely to lead to the loss of a sale than staying on the ball and working quickly to meet customer needs.

  • Initiative — Good salespeople shouldn't need to be told what to do. They should be on the sales floor doing what they do best!

Improving Sales on the Retail Floor

Quite simply, once you've got the right team, improving sales requires a little investment. That's not just monetary, of course; it requires time. Namely, you need to invest in mentorship and retail sales team training. It can provide amazing benefits, including lower employee turnover, more employees meeting their quota, and higher revenue plan attainment.

But there are also some simple concepts you can have your salespeople start working into their selling process now — presuming they aren't using these tactics already.

  • Establish rapport

  • Choose your words wisely

  • Be honest

  • Pitch based on value to customer needs

  • Only offer pertinent choices for those needs

  • Add on, up-sell, and cross-sell according to customer needs

  • Actively watch and use body language

  • Read customer personalities to determine your technique

  • Challenge perceptions politely

  • Go above and beyond

  • Follow up more than once

  • Be confident, not desperate

  • Learn from your successes and your failures 

Now that you understand how your sales team affects your bottom line, you understand how important having the right retail sales team really is. You can build a stronger company with loyal customers or even a strong reputation by strengthening your salespeople. They are your bottom line!


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The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 40 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 


Topics: Small Business, Retail, HR & Organizational Effectiveness, Leadership, Growing a Business

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