Training Day: One Expert’s Checklist for Training a Sales Staff

A spiffy suit and a genuine smile go a long way with jewelry shoppers—but if your staff isn’t armed with concrete sales skills, you’re essentially shoving them into a snowstorm without a winter coat.

Which is why we asked Duane Sparks, chairman of retail consultancy firm, The Sales Board, and creator of the Action Selling sales program, to share his plan for training sales professionals.

JCK: What’s the most important thing a retailer can do to see a significant increase in sales in their store?

Duane Sparks: Focus on developing skills within your staff. They have to understand the buyer-seller relationship and match their selling process with that buyer’s decision-making process.

JCK: What are the basic skills you recommend all sales people know?

DS: The first one is questioning skills. How do you ask the right types of questions to understand the customer’s situation?

Then you need presentation skills, where you connect what you heard from the customer with what you’re presenting. You can tie a new sale into a need you heard from them earlier in the transaction and show that you’re presenting solutions.

Then you need to set a commitment objective, or a sales objective for that interaction. You have to teach your sales people to be able to read any situation very quickly.

Finally, you have to be able to gain a commitment. I don’t like to say ‘close the sale,’ because that signifies that something is over. You need to gain a commitment, and sometimes gaining the big commitment comes after gaining a series of small commitments. Like the customer agreeing to come to the store to see new merchandise—that’s a small commitment.

JCK: What is it about these skills that make them so indispensable?

DS: The reason I focus my energy on those skills is because they are learnable—you can teach people these things. You can measure how much of these skills people have before they start learning. And when they’re mastered they lead to improved performance.