NEXT LEVEL TRAINING
training during the onboarding process often focuses on what’s important
to stores. Ongoing training needs to refocus sales presentations towards
what’s important to customers.
Early in my career at a major retail furniture chain, I overheard four new
retail salespeople voice their opinions about the usefulness of a training
program they had just completed. It wasn’t a complaint session, but rather
an honest exchange about their common thoughts and frustrations. They said
that the training part of their onboarding process was boring. It didn’t
help them to feel comfortable talking about furniture. And, it didn’t help
them to use the information presented about store products and policies to
connect with customers.
After hearing their comments, I made it my habit to ask the hundreds of
new hires I worked with throughout my retail career to share their
thoughts about improving the orientation training they had received.
In most retail furniture stores, orientation training is the only formal
store training sales associates ever receive. Even when RSAs are found to
be under-performing, there are rarely training protocols in place to help
We all know that there are many reasons for high salesperson turnover in
retail. These include long retail hours, weekends on the job and weak
compensation structures. And right now, getting paid on delivery-delayed
goods doesn’t help the situation. But, it’s my view that sure fire ways to
lose the most important employees in any retail organization are to
provide inadequate orientation training, non-existent remedial training
and no advanced training. Retailers who fail to focus on education and
salesperson retention are doomed to onboard a never-ending stream of new
hires. Worse still, they incur huge costs from allowing salespeople on
their sales floors who don’t have the skills to succeed.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, ‘Insanity is doing the same
thing over and over and expecting different results.’
That’s why I find it hard to understand why many furniture retailers are
resistant to providing supplemental and advanced training.
Mindsets That Prevent Progress
There is a lot more that shoppers need to think through before they
feel comfortable making a purchase. Being sold on the furniture is
just half of the equation.
Stores need to supplement orientation training with appropriate next level
training. This article will delve into what next level training should
look like, but first let’s touch on mindsets that can prevent progress.
Furniture World’s long time editorial contributer Joe Capillo wrote that
“nothing fails like success.” By this he meant that when business is good,
furniture store owners may feel like they don’t need to focus on
continuous improvement. Perhaps their store locations already drive a lot
of traffic and sales. Maybe pent-up demand from the pandemic coupled with
huge sold order delivery delays have made it difficult to process current
business. Or, the power of their store brands have always been sufficient
to keep powering them to success.
However, the internet’s ongoing sales expansion and the younger
generations increasing proclivity to have lower regard for in-store
experiences are two tidal waves that every brick-and-mortar furniture
organization must address.
There was a time when Sears was invulnerable. The same for K-Mart. Back in
the day no one in their right mind would even dare think that either one
of these powerhouse operations could possibly lose their footing and
collapse. The chief lesson is that retailers must always let insecurity
about the future drive them to improve.
Limits of Orientation Training
Before we discuss solutions, let’s first view orientation training in its
proper perspective. Orientation training is almost always about the store.
It addresses the store’s furniture, accessories, protection plans, credit
options, sales processing, delivery procedures, warranties, return
policies, rules and regulations.
If you are like most retailers, you presently train employees to handle
everything that’s really important to you and your store. But most
salespeople are not given training on what’s vitally important to their
customers. Here’s one example of what I mean. You will often hear
customers say, “Got a card? I really have to go home and think about it.”
Some salespeople will just hand them their card, some might explain the
merchandise a little more, and others might even try to discover a hidden
objection and overcome it. That’s not nearly enough.
The truth is that well over 75 percent of most stores’ customers leave
without buying. That’s because there is a lot more that shoppers need to
think through before they feel comfortable making a purchase. Being sold
on the furniture is just half of the equation.
They may also need to consider a host of decorating decisions before they
furnish their rooms. Do they want to paint the walls or re-carpet before
they buy new furniture and accessories? If they do, how will this affect
their color choices for fabrics, rugs and accessories? What furniture
pieces do they plan to keep in their rooms and who will take away their
old furniture? Should they consider buying new tables to go with the sofa
they like? How much will all this cost and should they pay cash or
consider credit? Is it time for new lamps, or is it better to just keep
the old accessories for now?
How many experienced salespeople
even know or care about the decisions their customers face beyond the
choice of furniture?
Given all these decisions it’s not hard to imagine why so many shoppers
say, “Gotta card?”
How many experienced salespeople even know or care about the decisions
their customers face beyond their choice of furniture? My view is that
highly trained salespeople make it their business to find out all these
potential roadblocks to making a sale early on, and then help guide
customers through this confusing maze.
Connect With Customer Needs
Questions excerpted from “Great Customer Questions For Each
Room,” published in 2020. Part of Scott Morris’ course: “The
Best Furniture Sales Training Ever!!!” All rights reserved.
Another very important skill that holds back even experienced salespeople
from connecting with customers and their particular needs is asking
important questions specific to each room. The 10 insightful questions you
should be asking everyone about home office (see inset) are certainly
different from the 10 you need to ask them about dining. There are also
specific room considerations to address such as:
- What will the focal point be?
Do you prefer a minimalist or a fuller decorator look?
Every room has a personality, what would you like this room to say to
The benefit of providing advanced level training is that most furniture
salespeople can improve their sales performance by learning how to better
connect with their customers. It’s a transformation that begins with
teaching salespeople to ask the right questions, then continues with
providing information shoppers can use to make all the decisions they need
to make beyond just the choice of furniture items.
Truly effective training programs also explain how to win customers over
for life, present the furniture in light of customers’ unique needs and
present a basic understanding of key decorating principles. Happy Selling!