No matter where you work, having happy customers usually equals a successful company. And happy customers are those who got what they expected in terms of products or services. That’s exactly why retail sales training is so important for organizations: it is sales professionals who communicate with customers on behalf of the entire business.
This article will look at what great retail training entails, as well as some best practices to help you get the results you need.
What Is Retail Training?
Retail training focuses on developing key competencies that boost sales and create a better customer experience. This is achieved through a mix of soft skill and technical training, and covers everything from product knowledge and customer service skills to closing sales and upselling.
Why Is Retail Training Important?
The right retail sales training can help your employees develop stronger sales skills and greatly increase their productivity, which will definitely result in more sales.
It gives employees all the tools to convert shoppers into customers and also to keep existing customers loyal and turn them into brand advocates. According to Trustpilot, 84% of people don’t trust advertisements anymore, which is why customer advocacy (or, simply put, word of mouth advertising) is so important.
Common Retail Training Challenges and How to Overcome Them
While there’s no doubt that retail sales training is very important for businesses, carrying out effective training might not be so easy. Here are a few challenges you might face:
- Choosing a location. Organizing in-person training can be a logistical nightmare. Many corporations have branches in different locations, maybe even different time zones, which can make it difficult to bring dispersed workers together for training.
- Scheduling sessions. It’s often tricky to pull a large group of staff members off the floor, out of their offices, or to another location without closing shop for the day – which can lead to lost profits or some staff members missing out.
- Distributing updates quickly. In many instances, retail sales training needs to be rolled out quickly, with little notice. Often, when a new product launches, businesses have a narrow window of time in which to get their retail staff up to speed on the product.
- Reducing training costs. It’s essential for companies to do their best to reduce their costs. But it can be extremely pricey to gather sales reps from different countries in one place for training or organize training sessions at the last minute.
The way these challenges relate to your company highly depends on the training format you choose. For example, face-to-face training has a lot of advantages, but it’s becoming less and less sustainable as the world is changing and becoming more digital. That’s where online retail sales training comes in.
Why opt for online training?
This is why a rapidly increasing number of companies are investing in digitalizing sales training.
- Anytime, anywhere. Online retail sales training is a flexible option that allows trainees to participate across the globe at a time that works for them.
- Higher retention levels. In-person training days can be long and it’s easy for trainees to switch off when too much information is thrown at them at once. Online training allows trainees to learn at their own pace and review their training whenever they want.
- Online training can be a great equalizer. It allows more advanced or engaged trainees to move at a quicker pace, while those who need longer can take the time they need without embarrassment or holding back the training sessions.
- Less admin work. Once you have your learning management system (LMS) up and running, organizing the training becomes as simple as a click of the mouse. Gone are the days of booking conference rooms or training centers and sending mass emails with locations, times, etc.
- Training data is your digital body language. An LMS tracks and reports progress, giving you insight into the effectiveness of your training. Each click, page view, or drop-off point shows where learners lost interest, got stuck, or excelled. You can use this data to identify skill gaps and create bespoke training to bridge those gaps.
How to Launch Online Retail Sales Training
Now let’s look at how to launch your online retail sales training successfully, how to choose the correct training format, and what tools you’ll need.
Decide on a training format
Before you launch your training, understand the three main types of training methods: asynchronous, synchronous, and blended learning. They all have pros and cons, so get to know them before you choose the right training method for your program.
Asynchronous learning is a style of learning in which students study at their own pace. In the context of retail sales training, this might include watching a pre-recorded retail sales training video, going through a retail sales training PowerPoint, completing online training modules with assessments or sales simulations, and a much bigger focus on self-driven learning.
Synchronous learning is where the instructor and trainees are in the same place at the same time. This would usually include in-person training sessions or live online sessions where the entire class learns together. One of the benefits of synchronous training is that there is an instructor to bring the training to life, answer questions on the spot, and make sure that trainees are paying attention and engaged. On the flip side, this very much depends on the quality of the trainer and the training program.
Blended learning lies somewhere in between. It mixes the best of both worlds by combining asynchronous learning such as online videos, pre-work, and post-work with instructor-led sessions. When it comes to retail sales training, a blended approach can deliver outstanding results.
Blended learning offers trainees the chance to study the theory portion online at their own pace but follows up with an in-person or live online class to put the theory into practice. However, one of the biggest pitfalls of blended learning is that it can be difficult to organize and coordinate online and in-person sessions.
Choose the right tools
Once you decide what elements will make up your retail training and how you want to carry it out, the next step is to choose the right tools. If you want to join the digital revolution and transform your retail sales training from in-person to online, here’s what you need:
Learning management system (LMS)
An LMS will house your eLearning modules, assign them to learners, and allow you to track who has completed the training, how they performed, and even how long it took to complete it. Choosing an intuitive LMS will let your organization open the tool to the entire company, create a great learning culture, and facilitate continuous learning and cross-training.
Course authoring tool
Next up is a content authoring tool to create your digital retail sales training. There are many options on the market, but the key is to find a tool that helps you build versatile content quickly and effectively, and that’s intuitive to use.
For example, with iSpring Suite Max, you can create online courses, quizzes, video tutorials, role-plays, and more. Since it’s integrated with PowerPoint and uses a style and format that’s similar to this world-famous tool, authors can get up and running in no time. You can build a course the same way as you would assemble a PPT presentation and then put it online in a couple of clicks. Perfect for those last-minute retail sales rollouts. iSpring Suite Max also comes with ready-to-use templates and a character and location library that can take much of the stress out of the creation process and let you dive right in.
A web-conferencing platform can be a lifesaver when it comes to setting up instructor-led sessions, 1-on-1s, and workshops for a blended training approach. Platforms such as Zoom offer simple, user-friendly ways to hold instructor-led sessions that can be recorded and then published on your LMS. Some LMSs, such as iSpring Learn, already have these tools integrated so you can jump right in.
Create a retail training program
Now that you’ve got the tools in place and an idea of how you want to carry out your training, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. You need a retail sales training program.
A good training strategy is key to success. Retail training requires a roadmap of where you are, where you want to go, and how your training will get you there. Analyze your current training. What’s working and what isn’t? What are the weaknesses of your retail staff? How can you develop those areas? For example, if your company is losing customers because your reservation process requires too much customer effort, you might want to create a retail sales training module to work on ways to reduce customer effort.
A good retail sales training strategy usually includes:
The first step in your training strategy should always be onboarding. It’s the perfect opportunity to introduce the company, as well as answering all the top questions new hires might have about the company and their role. Onboarding covers everything that touches on the organization: its history, mission and value, corporate culture, overview of the products/services provided, chief competitors in the market, etc.
Thinking about what to include in your onboarding is just the beginning. Next, you need to consider how you’re going to present it. For example, you might want to record a series of videos or build a number of quick microlearning modules to cover different topics.
One element of any fantastic onboarding training is including an office tour in your digital retail sales training. This quick micro-course from Bright Mind created with iSpring is the perfect approach to help your new hires get the lay of the land when no maps are in sight!
A great tip to make onboarding training as effective as possible is to send a poll ahead of your training to collect all of the top questions and concerns. Then it’s simply a case of creating a short onboarding module to cover all those burning questions. The micro-course below by Extreme Sports is a great example of how you can nail your onboarding in a dynamic and engaging way. And no more three-hour live Q&A sessions, please.
Product knowledge training
Product knowledge training will make up a large and important part of your retail sales training strategy. It should not only cover training on your top-selling products but also give context. What is your brand? What are you known for in the market? What are the common objections to this type of product? How can they handle these objections? The more your retail staff members understand the context of a product, the better equipped they’ll be to sell it to the right person in the right way.
This demo created with iSpring shows a product knowledge course for Marshall headphones that does more than just list features. It uses audio, imagery, and a short history of the brand to give the trainee context not only on what the product does, but also who it might be for.
Product knowledge training doesn’t have to simply entail clicking through lists of features and information. Make your training interactive by having trainees explore the products themselves. The example below offers some retail sales training ideas to let your staff get involved in the training, as by using iSpring’s hotspot interaction to show off product features.
Sales and customer service training
No good retail sales training program would be complete without some modules on sales and customer service. The following modules are the backbone of your training program and they should be extra clear and engaging for trainees. Get creative with your authoring tool and use images, interactive exercises, and constant feedback pop-ups to make sure trainees are retaining what they’re learning.
Customer journey map
First things first – your retail training strategy needs to cover a customer journey map. Understanding the customer journey is a must for all retail staff to build empathy and offer the best experience possible. The journey should map out each step from the website to your store, the first engagement between the shopper and the sales rep, closing the sale, any post-sale follow-up, and re-engaging the customer. Remember that not all shoppers are customers.
Now think about how this knowledge could be shared. For example, you can use iSpring’s Steps interaction to show the customer journey visually. Helping your trainees visualize the journey will be much more engaging and dynamic.
Here are some top tips on creating a customer journey map for your retail sales training.
Sales training sharpens skills to increase conversion rates and ensures that the employee is equipped to work on the sales floor. It covers everything from operating a POS to merchandising best practices. For example, if your retail sales training module is on merchandising, use visual aids to help trainees get ahead. Have them rearrange a shop floor, spot the items in the incorrect place, or qualify different key terms and match them with their definitions.
No more mindless clicking – make your learners part of the learning experience. They should be thinking, reacting, and engaging at every turn. Check out this incredibly interactive merchandising training created with iSpring for some retail sales training ideas.
Behavioral sales training
When it comes to retail sales training, soft skills or behavioral training is probably the single most important skill set you can train your team on. Knowing the product and the theory just won’t cut it if you don’t know how to build rapport with shoppers.
Behavioral sales training should cover each step of the customer journey. More precisely, greeting shoppers with a warm (but not pushy) welcome, finding something in common with the shopper, asking the right question to get to know not only what they need but what they want, driving the features and benefits while trying to upsell, and, of course, the close.
A great retail sales training program covers all these bases to make sure that retail staff members are fully prepared for each step of a sale. How can you best prepare staff for this? We’re all familiar with the old saying, “practice makes perfect.”
Dialogue simulations with real-time feedback are the perfect way to train your staff on those essential behavioral skills. They build confidence in a controlled, low-risk (safe-to-fail) environment.
For example, this sales simulation on how to deal with an angry customer is a simple way to teach tour sales professionals to be good communicators.
Videos and other multimedia are great for explaining theory, comparing and contrasting a good and bad sale, and storytelling. They’re even more effective if learners need to use their critical thinking skills to qualify, rank, or rate sales. Showing a successful sale or interaction with a shopper sets a baseline for how your sales reps should be reacting to and speaking with shoppers.
This video shows a successful call. Trainees could follow this with a simulation, they could sort the dialogue into the correct order, or even take a quiz to see how much of it they can recall. What’s key here is exposure to examples of how you want them to react when they’re in action.
Compliance training is fundamental to most organizations. It gets a bad rap, but compliance training can be fun and engaging if you have a good concept and a great authoring tool. As part of your retail sales training program, you will more than likely have to build compliance courses on everything from fire safety to cyber safety.
Creating engaging compliance training doesn’t have to be difficult. Learners respond well to training that feels relevant to them and their daily job, so why not put your trainees in the driver’s seat with a simulation? Not only is it more engaging for the learner, but it also prepares them better for real-life compliance issues. This cyber-attack simulation created with iSpring Suite Max proves that compliance training can be sleek and engaging.
Breathe some life into your compliance training by adding interactive elements and a quiz to put your learners to the test. It ups the ante and encourages learners to pay attention to your content. Quizzes also make sure that trainees learn the information, rather than just clicking through it mindlessly. This fire safety course is a perfect example of how you can make your compliance training stand out from the crowd.
Measure your retail sales training
Of course, a surefire sign that your training is effective is sales growth. However, this isn’t something that will happen overnight, so in the meantime, you’ll need some more current data to help you continue to tweak and perfect your retail sales training. That’s where your LMS comes in.
Your LMS tracks your eLearning courses, allowing you to extract real data almost instantly. Understanding how your training is performing is key to success, so this is the data you should look out for:
- Course completion rate. If trainees aren’t completing your training module, there’s a chance you might need to adjust things. Your LMS tells you how many people have completed the course and how many are still in progress. A lot of learners in progress (after the deadline) is generally not a good sign. Try to dig a little deeper and see exactly where those learners are dropping off. If, for example, page views drop dramatically from page 14 to 15, analyze page 14 and see if you can identify why learners are switching off.
- Number of attempts. Use your LMS to look out for the number of attempts learners need in order to complete your assessment. If your course has a final assessment and your learners aren’t able to pass it successfully, there could be other issues at play. Why are your learners not absorbing the content? Is your content related to your assessment? Remember to avoid tricky questions in your assessments and make sure anything that pops up in your assessment has been thoroughly covered in the course.
- Session duration. If your LMS tells you the session time for your learners, you can use this data to perform spot checks to see how your course is performing. If you aim for your course to take 20 – 25 minutes to complete and you have a lot of learners with much longer or shorter session times, it might be time to try a different approach. Go through your course and ask yourself if each piece of content is relevant and if it contributes to the learning objective. If the answer is no, remove it.
To learn about other important data an LMS can provide you with, check out this article on LMS reports.
Calculating your ROI is another way to measure success. How much are you spending on eLearning tools and how much value are you gaining? How much authoring time is your team clocking and how can it be reduced? It takes time to generate ROI, but having this in mind from the start sets a good benchmark.
Note: Get more details on how to measure ROI.
Retail Sales Training Tips
Here are some retail sales training ideas to get you started on your journey.
Use storytelling to engage learners
One of the first steps when training retail staff is to make sure they’re thinking in a customer-centric way. They need to be able to find out who the customer is, what their needs are, and what they want. One great way to polish those skills is by adding storytelling to your retail sales training. Build context by creating characters with unique stories and getting your trainees into the habit of thinking about the customer first and foremost.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
When it comes to sales, the more you know about the product, the more confident you are to sell it. Build confidence in your trainees by making sure they finish their training knowing the products inside out. The key to unlocking your trainees’ learning potential is repetition. Repetition doesn’t mean monotony. Add plenty of knowledge check questions with on-the-spot feedback as well as final assessments to hammer home the key parts of your product knowledge training and make sure you practice key points in different ways. Your staff will thank you for it later.
Make it more than a memory test
Retail staff should do more than just list the features of an item. They should focus on the benefits more than the features. During their training, have them use their critical thinking skills more than their memory skills. For example, reading a list of features and then choosing which benefits are best to push for different customer profiles. This is a great way to make your staff think deeper about what they’re selling, who they’re selling it to, and why that shopper needs it.
Provide opportunities for safe-to-fail practice
Lastly, all retail staff will have to deal with objections. Simulations and role-plays are the best tools for honing their skills in this area. Never underestimate the power of practicing in a controlled environment. The more your staff members get used to hearing objections, the more likely they are to realize that their job truly begins when a customer says ‘no.’
The training world is changing quickly. More and more organizations are turning to eLearning solutions for their retail sales training with fantastic results. Not only does this offer flexibility in regard to location and time, but it can also create a more inclusive training experience.
Trainees are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their learning and can revisit their retail sales training modules any time they need a refresher. Multimedia, assessments, and other interactive learning methods cover all types of learners, and coupled with gamification and live online sessions, your retail sales training will be more engaging than ever.
With the help of your LMS, you can track your team’s progress, pick up on weak areas, and constantly tweak your training until you get the results you want.
So, would you like to deliver engaging retail sales training with a minimum of time, money, and effort? Then try our free 14-day trial of the iSpring Suite Max authoring toolkit. If you still don’t have an LMS, also test-drive iSpring Learn without paying a cent!