Braintrust Query: Retail Myth Busting

Discussion
May 06, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

We achieve what we believe. Sometimes that serves us well and sometimes that holds us back. Here are some of the myths that create barriers to success in specialty stores and other customer-focused businesses.

Myth #1 – I can’t make sales goals on slow days. While slower traffic creates challenges, it gives the team an opportunity to spend more quality time with customers. One good customer can make a day.

Myth busting action: Give your team higher ADS (average daily sale) and conversion goals on slower days. Higher expectations could be set on calling customers and other traffic building actions.

Myth #2 – Customers want to be left alone. Customers want to be left alone by employees who don’t add value to their experience or until they’ve become acclimated to the store. If the store experience is better with an employee than without, it’s up to the store to make the customer connection.

Myth busting action: Engaging customers is a skill that needs to be practiced every day and something managers/owners need to coach. Make it a focus over the course of a week. If the customer wants to shop without help, that’s fine too.

Myth #3 – It’s hard to find good retail help. More often than not managers/owners hire the best of those who apply for a job, when what they really need to do is go out and discover great people.

Myth busting action: Always be recruiting. Try inviting at least one potential applicant to visit your store every week and give yourself an opportunity to recruit them. When that barista or waitress gives you great service or you meet an interesting and outgoing person at a social event, tell them about your store and invite them to come see you.

Myth #4 – Paying commission negatively impacts the customer experience. It’s not individual commission that’s the issue; it’s the behaviors managers allow to happen. A number of retailers I work with pay an individual commission and deliver some of the best customer experiences in retail.

Myth busting action: Try testing individual commission on two-week or month-long contests and award prizes to the employees with the highest sales per hour. Pay attention to unacceptable behavior by more aggressive employees. After that, you might consider moving into paying on individual sales.

Which of the “myths” mentioned in the article are most responsible for holding back staff and store performance? Can you add other counterproductive retail myths?

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14 Comments on "Braintrust Query: Retail Myth Busting"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

Marketing gets them to the door—or not—but conversions is where it’s at. What happens in the store is a direct correlation to your retail sales training—or lack of it.

These are all good points and stem from the idea that being passive pays off.

In this multi-channel world, it is the active driver of sales who will be leaving those who feel selling is “pushy” and “our customers love our low-key experience” in the dust of their brick and mortar locations.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

We hold a LOT of beliefs that hold ourselves and our organizations back from realizing the full and rich possibilities available to us.

The old mindset is that “What is measured gets done.” The new mindset is “What is believed gets done.” Work on the latter, you’ll get ahead much more quickly and sustainably.

Our beliefs are held in the subconscious, most well rooted by an early age. Changing them tends to require something significant to happen. Generally we are far too timid and gentle hoping for incremental change when what we really need is full-blown transformation. Unfortunately, a myth believed is as strong as a truth believed.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

I often experience retail staff preferring to be cashiers as opposed to actually assisting the customers. When questioned, the response is “the customer prefers not to be bothered” which takes us to the myth. Customers appreciate the interest of the sales person. They want to know who to ask when there is a question. Sales people can be success by staying close and being available when needed. They do not have to hover around the register waiting for the checkouts. Any one can do that part of the job.

The successful clerks are there to help customers find what they want in the store; not only to help them out of the store.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

All four of these are valid myth busters. I especially like number #2, Customers want to be left alone. The explanation is right on the money; customers want to be left alone by non-productive employees that add no value to the shopping experience. How to engage customers is a skill that can be taught; every retailer should train their employees, especially in a retail environment where technical products are sold.

Marge Laney
Guest
9 years 18 days ago
Doug is right on all points. Store personnel have no control over how many people enter their store on any given day, but they have total control over the customer experience once they are inside. Creating and teaching behaviors associates need to move customers through the buying process resulting in conversion should be trained, monitored, and rewarded. For sure, the associate selection process could use improvement, but to say that most associates are lousy is just wrong. Given the right tools and training most sales associates can perform. The trouble with many retailers is that they leave customer interaction and service in the hands of each sales associate for interpretation. This is confusing for the associate and the customer and leaves both unsatisfied. Creating a simple set of behaviors that guide the associate and the customer through critical in-store engagement will result in lower associate turnover and higher conversion. The kicker is store compliance and monitoring the execution of these behaviors. Accessing performance data and instituting a program that rewards these behaviors is the only… Read more »
Dan Raftery
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

I also think all four myths and recommendations are valid. After all, retail service is about, well, service. If the customer interprets interactions as service-oriented, that should work. If it’s interpreted as simply sales-oriented, not so much.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

Very good article Doug. Customers want to be engaged by friendly, knowledgeable people who actually seem interested in their concerns. The other stuff holds true as well. Nice job.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 18 days ago

One issue is that sales commission can lead employees to “pounce” on shoppers who do want to be left alone. They may want service to be readily available, but don’t want to be stopped five times during a walk through the store. So, it’s important that associates and departments coordinate their efforts.

Arthur Rosenberg
Guest
Arthur Rosenberg
9 years 18 days ago

I attended the soft opening of an hhgregg a few years ago. I asked a salesman if he was on commission. He told me he was but assured me that hhgregg would meet, beat or match the prices of Best Buy (there is a Best But nearby).

He went on to explain that while hhgregg incentivizes a well trained staff, Best Buy sends those monies to support its corporate bottom line. His brief presentation and demeanor are not forgotten.

Doug Fleener
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

Thanks for everyone’s comments. The only thing I would add is that I’m not coming from the point that specialty retailers should be passive. I agree with Bob that retailers need to proactively sell, and I believe selling is a natural part of a great retail experience.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

I think it’s all about hiring. We spend to much effort hiring “qualified” people with experience when we should be hiring people that just plain like people. Starbucks is the master of this. Yeah, they also take care of their associates, but let’s face it, they hire fun people who love to talk to people! I wonder what % of their employees has ever either worked in coffee shops or in retail period. That’d be a telling stat of possibilities for other retailers.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 18 days ago
Let’s take each “myth” separately: Myth #1—”I can’t make sales goals on slow days.” Well, this can be difficult if you work the same ways you do on busy days. You have the opportunity to spend more time with each shopper on slow days, so take advantage of that extra time and inform the shopper on product attributes of which they may not be aware. Upsell, also! Myth #2 – “Customers want to be left alone.” That is only the case if the employee knows less about the product than the shopper does. See the response to Myth #1, above. Myth #3 – “It’s hard to find good retail help.” There are more great people shopping your store whom would potentially make great employees than ever before. many are unemployed or underemployed. Stay close to your shoppers and always promote direct contact on the sales floor. Myth #4 – “Paying commission negatively impacts the customer experience.” This need not be the case. Compensation strategy must align with the desired shopping experience. If the employee adds… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
9 years 18 days ago

As I read through the four myths above, something resonated—especially with one through three. It wasn’t the “myth” that held back staff and store performance. It was something that was common to all of them, and that was a potential lack of training. Get good people in and train them the right way and these myths will simply become “un-truths.”

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
9 years 18 days ago

It’s hard to find good sales help. Good sales help is not found, it is made, through careful hiring, solid training, good values and empowerment. You can do all the recruiting you want, but if you are not equipping the sales people to succeed, they will not stay with you. And that is the most common occurrence in retail and leads to lousy customer experience frequently.

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