If we were to do any generic comparison among various industry segments, Retail would be one of the most dynamic of all industry sectors. . This dynamism, while being a key differentiator of this sector, often also acts as a challenge for the sales force. The industry that is now driven by creating superior customer experiences is not an easy place to be in. Given the nature of this particular industry sector, right from operations to front-end sales associates, everybody has to make certain that they are quite abreast with the latest in the industry. With this, comes an element of spontaneity as well, which is an important attribute for any retail sales staff.
Thence comes into play the crucial role of employee training. Undisputedly training has a critical role to play, especially in the retail sector where the front line associates have a major and immediate influence over consumers’ buying decisions. For example, in a store environment, the biggest stimulus for the consumers is always the sales staff, hence, the kind of conversations they have with the consumers, their product knowledge, how much well-groomed they are etc. are of pivotal concern. Even the right channelisation of the spontaneity is something which can be achieved with apt training. Training can easily be termed as the spine for any strong workforce structure. Retail staff can be likened to the forefront troops in the battle to win and retain the customers. It becomes crucial to pay close attention to the way retail workforce interacts with customers and closes the sales transactions.
However, despite being an indispensable function which directly impacts the ROI of the organisation, there still are many companies which do not recognise the significance of training. At times, even the extreme reliance on only one kind of training also hampers the journey towards the growth goal. Every organisation strives for higher productivity and efficiency levels, quality outputs, shorter learning phases etc. for its employees. Also, once being linked only to enhanced product knowledge, an overall grooming based training, wherein soft skills are aptly emphasised upon, is now more about creating unforgettable customer experiences.
There are of course myriad benefits of a well-trained sales force, some of which includes:
Building awareness: Training not only empowers the sales force, it also helps them to identify various opportunities that exists and build more awareness about a product/solution which is extremely important in the realm of retail, where change is really the only constant phenomena.
Driving adoption: Training focuses on generating superior product advocacy and enhanced selling skills. By providing in-depth knowledge about the given product or service, training enables every retail staff to become a product ambassador themselves in order to drive adoption.
Improved productivity: Training also brings about standardisation and ensures effective implementation of the sales strategy across the organisation by getting in more efficiency and consistency in the sales methodology. This ultimately links retail staff training to optimise ROI of the company.
Improved employee retention: The retail sector is well known for its high attrition rates and a mismatch between the profile and requisite skill set is a big factor behind that. Proper training imparts the necessary skills and knowledge to the employees, so that they feel confident and accomplished at their workplace. Thus, by equipping and enabling the retail staff with the required training, organisations can inculcate a growth culture among them which will in turn help them in retaining the right talent.
Fostered growth: Businesses require workforce that is oriented towards the organisation’s vision. Well-trained and ambitious set of employees are like assets to any company, as with proper training, they always aspire to surpass the performance benchmark, in turn contributing to the organisation’s growth.
Given these myriad benefits of training, it is hard to ignore its role in the overall growth of a brand. Apart from getting convinced on the role and requirement of training, it is also significant to ascertain the various ways of imparting training. The fact is that different people learn in different ways and therefore, an organisation has to leverage manifold training methods in order to impart retail selling skills in their employees. Therefore, in order to create the most effective training module, it is extremely important to ascertain the method through which interaction would be conducted. Classroom training, remote training, on-the-job training, e-learning, webinars, self-running modules – audio, video etc. are some effective methods, however the choice of one of them or a hybrid model should be based on the level of mentoring and coaching required, of course in lieu of the ecosystem and infrastructure as well.
Given the highly competitive and constantly evolving state of the retail sector, effective and impactful training has gained supreme importance and is now seen as a ‘much-needed’ long term as well as sustained investment by organisations of all sizes. Training is no more a standalone proposition, but has become quite an integral part of the overall retail echo system.
The article has been authored by Sunil Munshi, CEO – India, Denave