Your shoppers are coming in armed with knowledge. Can you say the same about your sales staff?
Most home furnishings retailers understand the importance of sales training. But it’s important to note that consumers are becoming even more enlightened, empowered and discriminating. Training for mattress sales is especially crucial based on the mindset, attitude and mission of the shopping consumer.
The question to ask is, are you doing what’s necessary to fully prepare your sales associates to be of service to these armed-and-ready mattress shoppers?
To help maximize the effectiveness of equipping sales associates for mattress sales, this article will drill down into the concept of training, exposing three aspects—teaching, training and coaching. The goal is to help sales associates better serve shoppers and to improve the likelihood of turning them into satisfied customers.
Consumers visiting home furnishings stores may truly be browsing for ideas with no urgent intention of buying. Whereas very few if any would spend time browsing for mattresses with no need of buying.
In addition, mattress shoppers are more likely to go online to arm themselves with information on brands, features and benefits, specifications, pricing and ratings. Under-equipped sales associates can find themselves on the losing end of power struggles when facing emboldened shoppers resulting in higher ratios of “just lookers” and be backs compared to buyers.
Closing percentages, average tickets, returns and attachment rates of adjustable bases and accessories are a stark indicator of the effectiveness of a sales staff.
Every retailer and associate must consider training as an ongoing process and each should examine that process for its effectiveness. The investment in training can pay dividends for all participants. Consumers are the real beneficiaries. They are much more likely to buy better quality mattresses from competent sales associates and are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase.
So what makes training effective? It’s the degree and depth of engagement and involvement of the sales associates in the process that makes the difference.
Effective sales training has different levels that progressively increase the involvement and participation of the trainee.
Teaching is the most basic. It is a linear method, meaning information is given directly to the sales associate and he or she must understand it, remember it and then apply it. It’s simply memorizing, a passive type of learning.
Teaching is actually effective for basic factual orientation issues of policy, and procedure such as writing a ticket, how to check the delivery schedule and inventory levels, etc. Most people can learn this type of information quickly. Usually there are manuals or resources available to make the information available until it’s assimilated.
Even product knowledge can be learned in a linear fashion through memorization. Applying product knowledge to the selling process is another matter. That falls into the area of selling skills.
The problem with teaching selling skills is the information is much more complex. Rather than straight facts, it involves concepts, ideas, hypothetical situations and problem solving techniques. It’s challenging, at best, for a trainee to grasp selling skills in a passive, memorization manner.
Interacting with customers is multidimensional with an incalculable possibility of scenarios. This requires that the sales associate become actively involved in the process to become effective.
The first level of active involvement is called, well, training. Typically an instructor gives the sales associate information and demonstrates how to use it by example.
Then the sales associate is to perform the task with the help of the trainer. The sales associate can practice in role-playing sessions to reach a level of competence and confidence. As sales associates progress, they can begin using the new skills in actual selling situations with supervision. It’s at this point in the process that sales associates should spend considerable time on the sales floor observing the interactions of experienced sales associates and their customers.
In time, with proper training, sales associates can fly solo with customers using their acquired skills. At this level, they can begin to use their own creativity and intuition and problem-solving abilities.
It’s quite common for the training process to diminish at this point, if the sales associate is performing well. This, however, is the point the transition should be made to the top level of training.
Coaching gives full autonomy to the sales associate but provides support, advice and motivation. Coaches stay involved from the sidelines to make sure the sales associate is performing up to their potential and to facilitate continued improvement. Just as in professional sports, even top performers need a coach.
One of the best benefits of having a well-trained staff, in addition to the increased sales that come with it, is lower turnover rates. Sales associates who reap the benefits that mattress sales can offer are more likely to choose to make it a long-term profession rather than just a job.
For retailers wanting to increase mattress sales and create more satisfied customers, effective teaching, training and coaching may likely be the best way to achieve sustainable results.