Let me start with a little background.
I have been working in technology for the larger part of my career, but prior to that I held various positions at different types of retailers. One of my earlier roles was as a sales associate at a large electronics retailer, and I remember this experience very well. This retailer had sent me for sales training for about 10 days prior to placing me on the floor of any of their retail locations. During my training, I was taught proper ways to engage and help guide my buyer to a product that met his requirements, understand his budget, how to up-sell/cross-sell products, as well as learning about the products we offered and their benefits.
There's no more salesmanship in retail, but why?
I bring this up because I’ve spent a large amount of time thinking why is it that when I walk into a retail location today, the sales associate that comes to me is expecting me to give them the product I want and walk me to the cash register!
One of the reasons I believe is the cause for this, is that it takes a significant amount of investment by retailers in their sales associates to get them trained, to be an advocate, to be a consiglieri, to be a sales professional! Not only is the cost significant but the turnaround in sales associates in the retail world of today is enormous. Being a sales associate in retail is no longer a career, it’s a part-time job for most, while they are studying or on the lookout for better opportunities.
Again… Why do I mention any of this?
Because ultimately, this is hurting the revenue generating capabilities of retailers. Today’s buyer, as you probably know, doesn’t rely on the in-store sales associate to guide him to the product he wants. More often than not, the buyer is more knowledgeable on the retailer's offering than the associate. The buyer comes into the retail location having already researched the product he wants to buy and sometimes he has already purchased it on-line. So does this mean that the cycle has changed in retail and that there is a new way of doing business that does not require a sales professional?
Does this mean that the retail sales associate is no longer needed?
Quite the contrary! Your in-store associates more than ever have to be sales professionals. They have to be able to understand the buyer, the products he wants and how to up-sell or cross-sellhim (I will cover up-sells and cross-sells in a future blog). A lot of retailers are focusing on the recommendations, up-sells or cross-sells they propose to their visitors on-line, they focus on capturing via analytics their visitors’ behavior, but very few are capable toextend that knowledge to their in-store associates.
This is where the retail sales associate needs to go.
How can retailers empower their in-store sales associates with the same information they present to their clients online?
They need to give the tools to their part-time workforce to be as informed as the buyer visiting the retail location. The customer browsed or bought something online? They came to pick it up at the store? Empower the sales associate to propose the up-sell and cross-sell products right from the same tools as the system that completes the pick-up process. You’ve collected information about your visitor online? Empower your sales associates to know the buyer once he steps into the store. These are the tools that the current retailer needs to put in place, not to bridge the gap between on and off-line but to continuously empower their sales channels to understand today’s buyer.
Yes, your sales associates are still a relevant channel ;)!