Implementing training in luxury stores - II

Continuing from the previous part which discussed how to 'train the trainer' and how to begin training of sales people, the column continues to discuss the next three points.

By: Jean-Claude Roustant, Consultant-training expert and coach in the luxury business

Posted on: March 10, 2011

Continuing from the previous part where we discussed how to ‘train the trainer’ and how to begin training of sales people, we continue to discuss the next 3 points.

3. On-going training
Training often is considered for new employees only. This is a mistake because ongoing training for current employees helps them adjust to rapidly changing job requirements.

By training your staff in the store you will:

a. Have sales ambassadors developing their clientele:

b. Create a pool of readily available and adequate replacements for personnel who may leave or move up in the organization, and reduce the employee turnover

c. Be able to adapt the staff to new technologies

d. Decrease in the long term the need for supervision

To do this, the person in charge of training will have to make a ‘skills inventory’. This inventory will help the organization determine what skills are available now and what skills are needed for future development.

Then analyze the characteristics of the job based on its description - a written narrative of what the employee actually does. Training based on job descriptions should go into detail about how the job is performed on a task-by-task basis. For this analysis, you can create a form on which you state the different tasks to be performed by the staff (from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, store opening to closing, with the technical tasks, and all the task related to the sale, and customer service). Then evaluate each salesperson by comparing their current skill levels or performance to the organization’s standard or anticipated needs.

Then ‘read’ the form to find discrepancies between actual and anticipated skills levels. This will help you prioritise what skills you need to teach through your training program. The form will also give you a quick assessment of each person.

Once you have determined the key subjects on which to train the staff, you will have to determine when and how you deliver the training for the current staff. In my opinion, it is not difficult to organize almost every week a one-hour training meeting in the store, before the opening of the store. (With 52 weeks a year, you can easily have 40-45 sessions, i.e. 45 hours of training directly useful for the staff).

Different type of sessions exist according to the subject: a lecture with a quiz to pass down the knowledge, group work and role plays related to clients interactions, games that you can invent (there are excellent books explaining how to invent training games), audiovisual methods, videotapes and films providing real world conditions and situations in a short time.

Role playing and simulation are techniques that aim to be realistic. Likely problems and alternative solutions are presented for discussion. I use this technique a lot for experienced staff because very often they believe they know everything and they can handle any situation. But when you have them play, you will always find a lot of improvements. It is a good way to build on their actual experience, to underline what is positive and to work on improvements. You need an experienced trainer to handle this with precaution. This method is cost effective and is normally used for sales techniques and customer relationship.

You can also dedicate 15 minutes to training every morning. It is a good moment to have a supervisor or the store manager present a new product that has to be ‘pushed’ -  explain its key features, advantages and benefits, and give tips on how to present and sell it.

4. Coaching of sales ambassadors on the floor
The word ‘coaching’ might scare brands and make them believe that it is a difficult thing. But everybody knows that it is one of the first tasks of a manager or a supervisor - to be on the floor, listen to their staff, and give the time required to the sales people to help them improve.

Following are the steps which might make the manager’s task easier:

a.    First observe the interaction between a customer and the sales ambassador and take note of what is said by the staff. It will enable you to give a factual feed back.
b.    Then take time to analyze the situation and figure out areas where the sales people can improve. Select only one improvement zone (we speak of coaching, and not of killing the staff with your remarks!)
c.    Then lead a meeting with the person in order to work on the improvement zone. First state what was good (if nothing was good it means that you should not be a manager!). Then go through the whole sale, to allow the person to express what he did well and what he knows he can improve. Then state the improvement point on which you want him/her to work, and use the Fact-Opinion-Change questioning technique: On this point what have you done? What do you think of what you have done? How could you do it differently?
d.    At the end, explain or train on the subject if necessary. Do inform the sales person that you will follow-up and check on the floor.

5. Mystery shopping by sales staff
Another good way of training your sales staff is to create an analysis grid for a luxury service in a store, and then instruct your staff to visit various luxury stores as mystery shoppers. The debriefing is always an eye opener for the staff and it is a simple and cost effective tool.

Finally I would like to underline that if the staff in a store is efficient, gives an excellent service, ensures customers’ loyalty, it is always due to the management team that is using the many management tools available to skill their staff at the highest level.

One very simple miracle tool for the store manager is to be on the floor often to give praise and encouragement to the staff only. Always praise in public. If something is wrong, sit with the sales person later, ask questions, and state what was wrong in very simple terms, without forgetting to reinforce what he did well.

Jean-Claude Roustant is a consultant on training in the luxury business – probably one of the very few providing this expertise. He has worked as the retail training director at Louis Vuitton for 13 years. Today he provides expertise to luxury brands like Caran d’Ache, Relais et Chateaux, Sofitel Worldwide, Maurice Lacroix and fine watchmaking businesses in Switzerland.

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