Coaching employee behavior

If you work in any industry with customer-facing employees, you will find the need to coach their behavior. For many, coaching employees seems like a daunting task and one that is commonly avoided. Luckily, when done appropriately and continuously, coaching employees can become rewarding and highly effective.

Over the past 23 years, we have collected large amounts of data from our video mystery shopping and training programs. During this time, we continuously studied this data with two goals in mind. Our primary goal has been to identify areas for improvement in interactions between employees and customers. Our secondary goal has been to understand what drives customers and employees throughout the overall in-store shopping experience. In our research, we have identified these 4 key revenue driving coachable behaviors that are frequently being missed by service representatives.

Greeting the customer

A warm, friendly greeting builds rapport with customers and organically inspires customer loyalty. This makes greeting customers a critical step in the sales process and one that cannot be overlooked. Additionally, when a customer is properly greeted, they become more comfortable and less sensitive to price.

Another valuable benefit to greeting customers is that it discourages shoplifters from stealing. As reported by the North American Retail Hardware Association, “A simple, ‘Hello…. How may we help you today?’ sends a message to potential shoplifters that you are paying attention”. With shoplifting costing retailers an average of $205 per incident, the simple act of ensuring that a genuine greeting takes place can have a noticeable impact on your bottom line.

When coaching your employees on greeting, it is best to remind them that all customers are guests and to avoid pre-judging based on a customer’s appearance. Convey to them that anyone that walks through your doors should be treated as though they are a buying customer. After all, they likely are.

Asking the customer questions

The discovery phase should be focused on getting to the root of your customer’s problems, goals, or needs. Engaging with customers during this phase is an opportunity to build rapport and trust, which is needed to uncover additional sales opportunities. By engaging and asking questions, customers become aware that you are genuinely interested in finding the right solution for them. Customers perceive service representatives as experts and they are looking to them for their expertise and guidance while shopping.

When coaching your employees on asking questions, make sure to explain to them that simply describing features and benefits is not sufficient for the discovery phase. This time should be focused on learning more about your customer’s needs and what they are attempting to achieve by purchasing your product or service. Remember to listen and be curious!

Showing the product to the customer

The showing phase of the sales process is where any features filling the needs uncovered in the discovery phase are demonstrated. Further, when customers actually see and hold a product, they become more likely to imagine what it’s like to use the product. As a result, they are more likely to become engaged and typically demonstrate an increased interest in moving forward with making a purchase. After all, the sales process is deeply rooted in psychology and human behavior, which can be understood and influenced very easily.

At the core, customers want to complete a purchase, but they also want to feel important and valued when making the decision. When your employees take the extra time to engage with them while guiding their decision making process by showing available options or products, they forge a relationship with customers, resulting in a deep level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

When coaching your employees on showing products to customers, make sure to elaborate on the importance of showing more than one item as well as related items. This is the perfect opportunity for your service representatives to cross-sell and up-sell relative to the customer’s needs. Once the customer’s needs are identified and understood, making additional recommendations for both higher priced and related items to satisfy those needs becomes organic. When done appropriately, this step of sale can increase conversion rates and profit margins.

Asking the customer for their business

Assuming your customer will buy and effectively asking for the sale are important behaviors to monitor in your employees. Customers are much more willing to buy if you are confident and ask for their business in a straightforward and respectful manner. Sure, they will possibly show signs of resistance to buying, but they came to you with a need, which they are looking to fulfill. When a sales representative takes the time required to fully understand a customer’s needs, they become more effective when asking for the sale.

In times where a customer begins showing signs of resistance, the opportunity to continue building additional rapport arises. This is the time to stop, recalibrate, and genuinely listen to the customer. Listen for clues from your customer that will better allow you to address their needs when finding the best solution. Without becoming aggressive, talk with your customer and commit to finding a solution that is the best for them. Patience, understanding, and a willingness to help will go a long way in your sales process. Once the customer has been reassured, don’t forget to ask for the sale again.

When coaching your employees on closing the sale, demonstrate different ways to ask for the sale when faced with resistance. Just because a customer says no, it should never be assumed that they are not interested. It just means that they need a little more convincing, which will likely change their mind.

When focusing on these 4 behaviors, an increase in revenue is all but inevitable. In a previous blog post, we talked about the need to train on a continuous basis since people commonly revert to old behaviors after a period of approximately six weeks. Because of this, it is important to coach and train regularly. When done appropriately, sales focused interactions with your customers becomes seamless and easily perfected by your employees.

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