Why do some salespeople write £1m, while others book just £400k? Because you let them - and addressing this issue could be worth 15-20% in extra sales, writes retail performance coaching specialist, RPS …

In most retail businesses there are those who make a commercial difference and those who do not – those who can sell, those who serve, then those who stack (we use this term generically for those who focus on retail standards and stock more than shopper experience).

Traditionally, retailers had all the power – offer a great range, put on promotions, and customers were guaranteed to come in. We know that this no longer works – there is little exclusivity or differentiation, anyone can get anything anywhere and anyhow. The consumer now has all the power.

When we ask retailers what makes the difference, they often say “our service” – but when we ask customers, that’s not what they say.

Even if they do, so what? Everyone loved Woolworths right up until the day it closed.

Changing with the trends

The point is, even if you do give great service (and remember that’s not what most customers say), it’s not enough – your teams must sell. Not pushy selling, like the leopard who attacks without warning – but like the cheetah who lazes in the long grass, ready to pounce (stealth selling), and certainly not a scavenging seagull who picks up the scraps whilst making a lot of noise.

The savvy shopper

We are now in the era of the savvy shopper. Tthey often know more than the salesperson – not just about the product, but about your competition – and they are prepared to drive their ideal purchase using their iPhone.

I can’t believe it’s not better

In most big-ticket and commissioned retail sales you will probably have your stars who write between £850,000 and £1m a year, while at the other end you will have someone writing £300,000 a year. Historically, that was okay – some stars, and some servers to sweep up the rest.

Today, that is not good enough – everyone must contribute to the company's performance. This is partly due to consumer confidence presently, and we will probably see some upturn when the politicians have had enough fun – however, consumer behaviour is changing.

Gone are the days when shoppers looked around five or six stores before buying. Gone are the days when shoppers could check the real value of what they were buying. Gone are the days of relying on us, the experts. Gone are the days a shopper had to come into our den to buy anything.

Today, shoppers research at home, compare choices in-store and decide either in the store or back at home. No longer do they say "it’s too much effort to go back up the hill, we’ll just buy here".


There are two big opportunities we see with your existing team and your existing footfall. Those who come in have probably already done some research, therefore are in the market. If your £300,000 people even got to £500,000, then your sales could improve by up to +17% – or, in some cases, up to +20%.

Your underperformers are probably costing you -20% in sales because they do not have the knowledge, skills or drive (mindset) to exceed target.

Capturing the opportunity

Set the scene - coaching the team - sell like ninjas. Senior people must set testing targets and the mission to be the best at something. Managers need to become coaches, similar to the sports world, where practice and performance go together. Salespeople are there to sell – if they are not converting more shoppers to happy customers, then they are not doing their job.

Four ways to bring your low performers up to the average

First is identifying areas of opportunity - identify where their personal opportunity is, be it: more leads; number of orders; average order value; value of add-ons and accessorisation; or number of comebacks - those who cannot decide today.

Next is goal and action setting - agree on a gameplan: write down an agreed list of actions; and set a target, such as five more leads a week.

Third is skills and behaviours - tweak techniques and talk them through the changes: get them to learn from who's proficient in their area of opportunity; practice to perform - practice the new way of doing it; and talk it through to check you are happy.

Fourth is accountability - hold people accountable: did they do everything that was agreed?; did they do it to the right standard?; and did it move the number?

The RPS performance system, based on Olympic sport performance principles, has delivered results for furniture retailers for over 35 years. Call today on 01344 849393 and quote “RPS Furniture News RPD”, or click here.