MAY 16, 2017

The Importance of Highly-Trained Salesmen, in the Age of Automation and Self-Checkout



Training in Retail

“For brands and retailers, it’s clear that engagement with product education is a leading indicator of sales.” Alan Spalter, President of Retail Assistance Corporation, preached at this seasons UBM SWIMLESSONS in New York.

So just how much of an impact can brand knowledge and helpful expertise on the sales floor really make?


Front-line customer service is obvious. Staff who interact directly with a customer must have a skillset and mindset to meet or exceed a customer’s expectations. Some of the more important traits and abilities might be friendliness, empathy, communication skills, problem solving and patience.  But even the most empathetic salesmen need brand knowledge in order to sell successfully.


Marshall Fisher, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, led a study involving more than 63,500 retail sales associates in 330 stores over 2 years, comparing point-of-sale data to sales associates’ in the categories and brands they sell.

The main conclusion? Sales associates who engage with product education sell more. A lot more. 


When a customer enters a retail location, they are looking for help. 50% of customers walking into a store expect expert advice on a product and if they receive it, 73% of those customers walk away with a purchase.


Getting sales associates to engage with product in your retail location is one of the most effective was to increase sell-through.  In fact, the study showed that sales associates who completed even one short training sold 69% more than those who didn’t. 
Associates who completed six or more training modules sold 123% more than those who took none. For brands and retailers, it’s clear that engagement with product education is a leading indicator of sales.


Maintaining a highly trained sales staff is not an isolated endeavor. Training must be perceived by the employer and the employee as an ongoing process in order to garner the most success.  For a multi-brand retail location, this means new product training not only for each new brand, but every season.  Encourage your brands to visit your retail location to speak to your staff about the benefits of the product.


For your retail store to be truly customer focused, employees must understand not only the customer, but the product.  It’s more than demographics and it’s more than empathy, and it’s more than automation.


Alan Spalter, President of Retail Assistance Corporation 

Marshal Fisher, UPS Professor of Operations and Information Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania 

Fast Company