3 Steps to Turning Retail Salespeople into Trusted Advisors

It seems the death of retail stores in the wake of growing digital technology and e-commerce has been a little exaggerated.

But what isn’t an exaggeration is the fact that digital technology is transforming the industry—and customer expectations. Retailers are recognizing this. One of the most common phrases I hear now is “trusted advisor.” How do we get our people to be that person for our customers?

Retailers understand that loyalty doesn’t come from lowest price but from creating a relationship that adds value and looks out for the customer’s needs as much if not more than the retailer’s. There’s also a sense that one and done is not always the best approach to building relationships.

While “clicks” aren’t eradicating the “bricks,” there’s no question digital technology is transforming the retail industry—and customer expectations.

Retailers are recognizing this. One of the most common phrases I hear now is “trusted advisor.” How do we get our people to be that person for our customers?

Retailers understand that loyalty doesn’t come from lowest price but from creating a relationship that adds value and looks out for the customer’s needs as much if not more than the retailer’s. There’s also a sense that one and done is not always the best approach to building relationships.

So while there’s room for “bricks” and “clicks,” we can’t rely on the same skills and approaches we used when it was a one-channel world. Retail sales leaders and salespeople alike need new skills to engage and connect with customers, to build authentic relationships that truly reflect what their customers are looking for in a “trusted advisor.”

So where do you start?

  1. Focus on the interpersonal: Whether it’s empathizing with a frustrated customer who’s making a return, knowing how to engage customers in both slow and busy times, or recognizing the bigger picture of what a customer wants and needs, strong interpersonal skills help salespeople maximize opportunities that could otherwise slip through the cracks.
  2. Make coaching a priority: A shift in how they approach the job means salespeople need the support of leaders who can help them adapt their interactions and lift their skills to a new level. Coaching is more important than ever, especially as a process rather than an event. Coaching in real-time has to be an ongoing commitment and way of doing business.
  3. Create a shared vision, starting at the top: Leaders have to lead the way. Unless they effectively communicate and reinforce the strategic transformation to a customer-engaged culture, it will be impossible to get sustainable commitment to the new initiatives. Leaders have to understand how to motivate and lead others to make the transition to trusted advisor.

The good news? E-commerce hasn’t killed bricks and mortar.

The even better news? There’s a big opportunity for retailers who seize the moment and give their salespeople the skills, reinforcement and support to authentically engage customers and become trusted advisors.

What have been your biggest challenges in helping your salespeople shift to a trusted advisor role? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @mohrretail.

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Michael Patrick
mpatrick@mohrretail.com

Michael held positions in retail management, merchandising, and human resources before joining MOHR Retail’s predecessor in 1986. In 1990 he purchased the retail division of that firm to form today’s MOHR Retail. Michael holds true to his retail roots by delivering learning that changes behavior—providing both immediate and lasting business impact. In addition to facilitating MOHR Retail training programs, he offers executive-level coaching in one-on-one sessions dealing with critical strategic issues such as succession strategies and executive team development. The author of “The New Negotiation Mindset: Guarantee A Bigger Slice,” Michael is a longstanding member of NRF as well as ISA: The Association of Learning Providers. He has a B.A. from San Diego State University, completed Master’s level work at Arizona State University, and lives with his family in New Jersey.