Peter Freeth, author of Genius at Work and other books, was interviewed by BBC Radio recently on the subject of how to train sales people.
"It seems that the public are becoming more resistant to 'pushy' sales techniques, and that could be one reason why many people are choosing to shop online", he says. "Of course, declining footfall in stores means that if any sales assistant has pushy tendencies, they'll become more pushy out of desperation. When people have their backs to the wall, that's when you see their true nature."
But is sales training helping or hindering?
"All too often, sales training focuses on the mechanics of the interaction and how to get someone to buy. It's nonsensical actually. You're standing in a shop because you know that it's a place to spend money! You don't need to be persuaded to buy, that's why you're there - if the product and price are right. The problem with the majority of sales training, especially retail sales, is that the focus is on the sale as the objective, and that shouldn't be the case. Whenever I use the modelling process described in Genius at Work, I almost always discover that the really high performers in any field have an aim that is counter-intuitive, and seems contrary to the results that they achieve."
"The Genius at Work process is effective because it looks not only at the person's innate qualities and behaviours, but also the cultural context that they're working within. The highest performers innately know that a customer walks into the shop in order to buy something, and their job is to make that as easy as possible. Therefore, their primary focus isn't on the sale but on the service. What constitutes good service differs from one shop to another, of course, but the underlying common trait is an understanding that they're in a sales environment, and when a customer walks through the door, they implicitly accept that. The people who don't aren't going to walk through the door anyway."
In true 'quick fix' fashion, Peter was asked for his top three tips for retail sales people:
1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you want to be approached? Would you want to be hounded? Would you want recommendations? Would you want advice? What works for you will work for your customers too, otherwise you’re not being true to yourself and your customers are unlikely to believe what you say anyway.
2. Don’t pretend that you’re not selling. After all, that’s why the customer came into the store or accepted the meeting! They know it’s a sales transaction, so there’s no need to be heavy handed and no need to ‘convince’ them to buy. They’re already there to buy, but the product and price have to be right.
3. Be honest. If, in your heart, you know that your product isn’t right for the customer, say so instead of seeing ‘Pound signs’ and going for the short term sale. You will win far more respect from the customer, and you’ll see them – and their friends – again.