Selling to customers and potential customers face to face, often in a retail or service environment, requires a particular set of skills. Sales people need to be highly aware of customer needs, able to recognize buying signals and aware of the competitive advantage their goods or services offer. They also need to be highly skilled communicators, experts in reading body language and have well-developed questioning, listening and assertiveness skills. Training is needed to help sales people develop and refine these skills and more.
Personnel who are new to face to face selling will probably benefit from a formal training programme covering basic techniques. This may be administered in-house or delivered by an external training provider. If possible, it should incorporate video clips and role plays to actively demonstrate selling situations, and good and bad practices.
Customer Care Skills
According to Pat Weymes in “A Handbook of Sales Training and Development,” good face to face sales involves PRACTICE—an acronym that stands for Promptness, Reliability, Accuracy, Courtesy, Tactfulness, Information, Competence and Empathy. This behaviour needs to be supported by sincerity, enthusiasm, natural friendliness and politeness.
In addition to formal sales training, much ongoing training can take place on the job. A trainee sales person may be supervised or mentored by a more experienced colleague. They can learn from them by example as well as by receiving feedback on how they might have done things better. Regular time slots should be set aside to discuss skills development and what has been learnt from practical sales situations.
Understanding Body Language
In a face to face sales situation, body language can be a key indicator of a customer’s attitude and buying intention. According to Weymes, when body language appears to be in conflict with what is being said, it should nearly always be taken as representing the truth of the situation. Body language training can be conducted using video clips and role play, even possibly using actors. The aim is to help trainee sales people appreciate the meaning behind posture and facial expressions, and to equip them to interpret various types of gestures and signals.
Product or Service Training
Customers often want to know a considerable amount of detail about the product or service they are contemplating buying. This means that sales people will need intensive training about the features and benefits of what is on offer, plus any necessary information, as appropriate, about using the product or service, alternatives, maintenance plans, delivery times, guarantees and payment options. This type of training should be regular and on-going, incorporating product demonstrations by suppliers if appropriate, or presentations from head office staff about the company’s service standards.