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Training Your Sales Staff Is Crucial To Making Sales

May 21, 2010

My husband and I are in the market for a new BBQ. We don’t have a lot of space in the location that we need to place it in our backyard, so we realize it might not be that easy to find. We are hoping to get a builtin BBQ, so we started out by getting estimates from contractors. We continued our research by searching online for stores that sell builtin BBQ islands. After making a few calls and receiving some recommendations we visited a flagship store in San Diego that specializes in BBQ’s and islands. We live an hour and half from San Diego but we wanted to go to the premier location. We arrived midweek, around lunch hour and the store was empty of customers. There was one sales person in the store, she came over to ask if we needed assistance. We asked a lot of questions relating to price, size of the islands, the grills and were surprized to find that she knew very little. She kept having to go into the back to ask the manager questions or to look up pricing on models that were sitting on the floor. Since we needed a different size island she said that she can get us a quote. We were not very impressed, but she did follow through and emailed me a quote for the entire project included delivery and installation.

My husband and I continued to research and determine if we could place the island in a different location so that we could potentially get a slightly larger version. We came to the conclusion that we could infact get a larger island, so we visited the same store, they are company owned, in a location closer to our home. This time we brought one of my sons, who is very creative and his girlfriend who is in design school for their opinions. It was Saturday afternoon, the store was busy, but there were still sales people standing around available to assist. One salesgirl came up to us and asked if we needed help, we asked about an island that we were standing in front of as well as a few others in the store. Unfortunately, the management does not seem to think these sales people need to be trained on their products, because she knew nothing. Not even the prices of the islands on the floor. She told us that the island came standard with granite on top and tile was an extra charge. When I mentioned that usually granite is an upcharge she did not say anything. About an hour later, she found out that I was correct and she had misinformed us. We waited a long time in between questions for answers, so we finally asked the manager for some help. By this time my son and his girlfriend were getting as frustrated as us with the lack of knowledge that the sales staff possessed. You see both of them currently work in retail and both are super trained in the products that they sell and how to sell. My son is a Creative at Apple, he teaches specialized software to customers. He started out as a sales person and was trained extensively. His girlfriend works at Pier One and has also benefitted from excellent training. So you can see why we were all getting frustrated.

Once the manager started to help us, it was evident that she did not know very much either. She would quote a price and then look it up and find she was incorrect. On a few of the islands there was pricing listed, and she misquoted those as well. When we mentioned what the sign sitting on one of the islands said she looked puzzled since she had just quoted me almost $1000 more than was listed.

Needless to say, we are not buying an island or BBQ from this specialty store. Today we are heading out with a recommendation from a casual furniture rep that I know in the area to another BBQ store and hope that the sales staff know what they are selling.

I know that a lot of specialty casual furniture retailers spend hours training their staff on products and sales procedures. I know a lot of wonderful reps who provide this training. All I would recommend is that you make certain that your sales staff truly understands the information and can relay it properly to customers so you don’t lose them, as this BBQ store did. Perhaps hire a secret shopper to test your sales staff’s knowledge and sales ability. I can tell you that if we had a great sales person, we would have purchased the island and BBQ already and it would be in use in our backyard retreat.

Let me know what you do to provide great sales training? Write a comment.

These are my outside views…Marcia Blake