21 July 2024, 12:16
By Adam Hankinson Feb 04, 2021

How retailers can prepare to make up lost ground

With less than a week conducted of the calendar’s biggest trading period (and that’s the lucky ones – Northern Ireland and Wales were already closed for customers before Boxing Day), we’re all hoping and praying that, when we re-open, we can pull back some of the lost sales we’ve missed thanks lockdown #3, writes Adam Hankinson. But when the chance arises, how can we ensure our teams hit the ground running?

If you don’t use it, you lose it! With an earliest expected re-opening of the third week of February, for most salespeople the lockdown will mean a seven-week period of extremely limited interaction with other people outside their bubble – let alone an enthusiastic, highly charged and engaging sales opportunity, maximised in the moment.

Our intrepid salespeople will hopefully be champing at the bit – but will just as likely be feeling a sense of trepidation, accompanied by the fear of having ‘lost it’ (‘it’ being the art of conversation) whilst in enforced hibernation.

The art of conversation – and it is an art – is a beautiful sight to behold, and even better to be part of. The effortless ping-pong of questions and answers, the active listening skills of an intrigued Columbo, and the eye contact and body language of two beautiful swans courting, leading to a level of connection that starts with chit-chat or small talk, works its way onto common ground, and ultimately ends in trust, the tipping point for closing any sale.

Helping our own frontline workers

We will, then, need to help our ‘frontline’ workers prepare for a seamless return to successful selling – by keeping in touch with them (if they’re furloughed), and by holding some digital training sessions (you can still conduct staff training whilst colleagues are furloughed without penalty or charge) before we re-open, blowing off the cobwebs and helping them warm-up their attitude, selling skills and product knowledge.

Three steps to getting match-fit

Here are three steps to consider for getting the team ready to hit the ground running when we can all re-open.

Session 1: Limbering up

A 1-1.5hr Zoom or Teams meeting, to just have a catch-up and see how everyone is coping and share situations and anxieties (children and pets welcome!). Make it fun and interactive, and ensure everybody gets a chance to share/speak on the call (you will see people warm up as the call goes on).

Session 2: Remembering products

A quiz that involves general and product knowledge. Again, book a call with the team 1-1.5hrs long, and share the question-creation task equally amongst the participants (for example, 10 people come up with four questions each, two general knowledge and two on product knowledge, to give you a bank of 40 questions in total). For added competitiveness, you could split your teams into groups or locations/breakout rooms.

Session 3: The day before returning to work/re-opening

If possible, this should be held physically in the store. I would recommend at least half a day of the whole team working together to ensure they are ready to rock and roll, and to reacquaint themselves with colleagues and their long-forgotten work environment.

Make this as much fun as possible, and include a bought-in breakfast or lunch celebrating the opportunity ahead – and a blood-boiling inspiring and motivational meeting that gets everybody up for it!

This is a people business, and we owe it to ours to help them get them in the best possible place for them to do well – for themselves, and for the business.

I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it – you need a plan (and now you have one!).

Adam trains people to sell and manage more effectively, using techniques learned from his own experiences and working with some of the best salespeople and managers in the furniture industry. Whether a business needs help auditing and improving its product range, overhauling the presentation and promotion of its products, recruiting bright and knowledgable staff, implementing new finance solutions, or designing and utilising retail software programmes (SaaS) to help it track KPIs, Furniture Sales Solutions has the answer.

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