Even a smoke shop, head shop or vapor business must have salespeople who are active in creating new sales for you business. First, let’s look at some facts about salespeople.

1. The saying “good salespeople are born salespeople” is akin to saying good brain surgeons are born good brain surgeons. Over the years, I have analyzed the performance of thousands of retail salespeople and can say that I have come across less than a handful that I believe were”born” salespeople. Most sales people acquire their sales techniques, both good and bad. Unlike salespeople, brain surgeons don’t acquire their skills, but are highly trained.

2. No two people are born equal. You only need to look at the results of each of your salespeople to confirm this statement.

3. Product knowledge is important, but sales skills are vital and yet we spend more time talking about product than how to sell.

4. Most sales people have an evolved sales technique. They started in a shop and were told “fill the cash register up” along with a cursory talk about how the store operates. From then on they watched others and this is how they learned to sell (boy, am I glad my doctor and dentist didn’t learn the same way).

5 – Selling is pure psychology. The customer has a need and seeks to have that need fulfilled. Top salespeople do not sell product. They determine what the customer’s need is, then fill that need.

6 – Ask all your salespeople if they are doing the best they can, and most will say “yes”. If you can believe them, and you should be able to, then when you compare their performance you will need ask yourself why one person can create twice as many sales as another. The answer is simple. They are both doing the best they can. It’s just that one has better sales skills than the other.

7. Salespeople often confuse product knowledge with sales skills. This is a major failing.

8. Salespeople often try and sell features but not benefits. Only 10% of the population cares about features (and that’s typically when buying electronics). Everyone cares about benefits, which translate to “what’s in it for me”. Who cares how many times the piston in the new car goes up and down at 100 Kph? Who cares if the seam of the jacket has 6 stitches to the inch compared to 5? Who cares if the diamond ring has 4 claws rather than five? These are all features of the product. What people do care about are the benefits gained from these features. They care that the car gets twice the fuel economy because of the slower piston speed. They care that the jacket will last twice as long due to the stitching. They care that, should the ring be knocked and a claw is bent back, that with a five-claw setting the chances of losing the diamond is infinitesimal compared to a four-claw setting. Your salespeople have to be able to present benefits…not features, to become top salespeople.

9. Many salespeople have the mistaken belief that they exist to sell product and it’s this belief that costs them many sales. First, they have to sell themselves. People don’t buy from someone who doesn’t make them feel welcome or comfortable when they walk into the store. Then, they need to sell the store. Customers want to know they are in the right store, the store that will look after them. Then, and only then, are customers receptive to buying product.

Ok, so as a store owner, now that you have these facts, what should you do?
First, you should budget at least $1,000 per salesperson, per year, to devote to sales training. Then, plan the training. I can tell you from documented experience that most money spent on sales training is repaid in extra sales within weeks, if not days. It’s only a matter of replacing the evolved sales technique habits with a new set of habits called the “Planned Sales Technique”.

What is the “Planned Sales Technique” you ask? The “Planned Sales Technique” uses the 5 psychological stages that we all go through when we buy something, be it a stick of gum or a new house. In brief, these psychological stages are:

1. Attention: Something always gets our attention before we consider buying. To a lesser degree, attention is also driven by need. Unless something grabs our attention, we don’t spend money. For the most part, the attention is created for us by the occasion or need.

2. Interest: We all know that we have occasions coming up, but what is required to get our interest? What we read, see, hear or feel impacts this second stage. This is where advertising comes into play. However, advertising does NOT sell. It gets peoples interested. Advertising only gets people through our door. When we walk into a store, it is 95% in the hands of the salesperson as to whether we purchase something. The other 5% is due to the store not having product that satisfy our needs. How often have you walked into a speciality store, such as a clothing store, gift store or retail store, and walked out without buying simply because the salesperson did not get, and hold, your interest? They displayed a disinterested attitude in you and your needs. You need to train your salespeople to show interest in the customer’s needs, not just try and sell product. There is only one way to find out what interests the customer. Ask, ask, ask! Ask about the need and what you can offer to meet that need. Too many sales are lost because salespeople assume they know what the customer wants. That is easy to resolve. Ask them what they want! I was in a store the other day when a sales person directed a “just looking” customer to the “new range of vaporizers” (it had not occurred to the salesperson that ALL the items in the store were new to the customer) when in fact it turned out that the customer was looking for something completely different. A sale was nearly lost. Salespeople have a big impact on getting customers interested.

3. Conviction: No, this does not mean we are going to jail. Conviction means we are convinced enough to buy the product that the salesperson got us interested in. Their NEED has been satisfied. Salespeople have a 100% impact on the customer being convinced.

4. Desire: Without desire, people will not buy. The desire part is turning the NEED into a WANT. To do this, salespeople have to learn how to associate the product with the occasion and how to bring the two together.

When the salesperson builds the desire, it makes it easy to get a YES decision from the customer.

5. Decision: Once the customer has the desire, the salesperson has to stop selling and close the sale. The Salesperson has better than 95% influence on the decision – one way or the other.

Now that you understand the five psychological stages that we all go through when buying something, it is simply a matter of training your staff how to apply a “Planned Sales Technique”, which takes advantage of these psychological stages. Apply these principles and what your business grow. All the best with your training! SSA

Malcom AldertonMalcolm Alderton is a dynamic Business Development Consultant and Educator, whose 50 years’ experience in the retail industry has made him a much sought after advisor to retailers worldwide. He is an expert at pinpointing problems that need to be addressed in the retail industry. He lectures regularly at various business seminars, conferences, and retail industry meetings worldwide, as. Under Malcolm’s leadership, ARMS continues to grow and develop, and now extensively markets business development systems to the retail industry in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia.