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Train the Trainee

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 150 No. 6 November/December


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Great training sessions as well as the lousy ones have something in common. They are both memorable!

Working a retail schedule can be rough! There are weekends, evenings, and most holidays. Retail Sales Associates (RSAs), who we used to call salespeople, know this going into the profession. For many of them, a training session means more time away from home, either before the store opens or on a day off.

Most store owners and many RSAs would agree that training is essential to the success of any retail operation. However, if you ask an RSA who is having below average success selling a product category such as motion or bedding, they will probably tell you that they don't know enough about it.

A Collaborative Effort

Training and being trained needs to be a cooperative effort. I have attended some doggone awful meetings made extra miserable by the trainer or the people being trained. On the bright side, I sometimes host training sessions that are enjoyable and enlightening experiences. That's when sales teams arrive promptly, are prepared, take detailed notes, ask appropriate questions and participate in demonstrations. And, they do that even though everyone may have to arrive early and in some cases came in on their day off.

Nobody knows what surprises may be in store for furniture and bedding retailers in 2021. But one thing is for sure. If you want your training sessions to be enlightening, try taking the following steps:

  1. Give advanced notice. Your sales team has a home life that includes kids, pets, doctor appointments, vacations, social dates and more. Be respectful of that time and always give two weeks advance notice. If you want to be a world-class boss, schedule all your 2021 training dates upfront for the entire year.

  2. Plan to attend. When inviting a factory rep or outside speaker to a meeting, make sure that an owner, GM, or store manager is also present. Sales training should not be a green light for management to do paperwork in the office. Your staff should know that management is there to learn as well.

  3. Get rid of any disruptions. Anyone who has presented at a number of sales training sessions is likely to have encountered a heckler. It’s that guy or gal who interrupts the meeting, exhales long sighs or yawns, or unfairly challenges your guest speaker. If this happens to you, step up and be a manager! That means, manage that person out of the building!

    They may think that they are being funny, but the truth is that they have disrupted everyone else’s learning and are an embarrassment to your organization.

  4. Get into learning mode. Get your team ready to learn. They should show up with pen and paper or a digital device so they can take notes. Hold all phone calls, turn off the Tijuana Brass on your Muzak, and have everyone ready to go at the appointed time.

  5. Review and Reinforce. Prepare notes on key points ahead of time, or ask your guest speaker to leave written or digital notes. Training sessions may be an hour long every fortnight, but training is an everyday thing. Review the information presented with your team by asking “What did you learn? What will you put into action today? Tell me how you would relay the information to a shopper?”

    Trainers and speakers: you have a primary responsibility to ensure a great experience! Maximize your limited time with this important audience.

  6. Be Prepared. Whether it’s your first time as a trainer, or the 101st, don’t try to wing it! You need to practice and rehearse your presentation. Be sure that you know the material, all the electronic gadgets work, you have the right connection cords, handouts and demonstration tools. Limit your presentation to three-fourths of the time allotted. So if it's a one-hour session, prepare 45 minutes of material. Unless your eloquence stuns them into silence, there are sure to be questions, comments, and sidebars that come up. And if you finish five to 10 minutes early, the RSA team will love you.

  7. Fifteen Minutes. Live by this rule: if you aren’t 15 minutes early to the meeting, you are late. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of start time! You probably need time to find the front door or rest room and a few minutes to set up. By the way—it’s always a good idea to check with the owner or manager about early entrance to the store as the front door is usually locked.

  8. Sales training should not be a green light for management to do paperwork in the office. Your staff should know that you are there to learn as well.
  9. Eye Charts and Interaction. Here is a recipe for a bad meeting. You, the speaker, should not become Joey Bag-of-Donuts by bringing food and reading a PowerPoint presentation word-for-word. Neither should your slides be so crammed with information that they belong on a chart at LensCrafters. It's equally bad form to hand out mass quantities of printed material, and read from it like it’s a hymnal. Use the PowerPoint but speak from memory and from the heart. Ask your audience open-ended questions focusing on their shared experiences. Successful training always includes time for RSAs to show what they have learned. Try a game with questions and answers, the dreaded but necessary role play, or even a short quiz to ensure that you have conveyed your message.

Great & Lousy Sessions

Great training sessions as well as the lousy ones have something in common. They are both memorable! When store owners and factory representatives can work together with clear goals and expectations, training—along with the resulting uplift in sales—will be remembered for all the right reasons.


 

About Peter Schlosser: Peter Schlosser is a warehouse and repair consultant who works with Profitability Consulting. Based in Winston-Salem, NC, he is passionate about quality, and “doing it right the first time.” Questions about this article or any repair/delivery topic can be directed to Peter at peters@profitabilityconsulting.com or 931-561-5488. Visit Peter Schlosser and the team on Profitability Consulting Group's brand-new website at http://www.profitabilityconsulting.com.

 

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht