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Ruth Larkin sales series: staff

Ruth Larkin has joined us as a monthly contributor to bridalbuyer.com focusing on sales. First up in the series, Ruth discusses how to get the most out of your sales staff. 

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Ruth Larkin is the owner of Lark Bridal and RULABELLE. Lark Bridal distributes leading bridal brand Maggie Sottero Designs in 27 countries across Mainland Europe and MENA, and the RULABELLE multi-wear bridesmaid and formal collection globally. Ruth is the lead consultant of the company’s Sales Academy, and works with government trade agencies, providing training and mentoring to SME’s internationally. Ruth’s career has concentrated on international sales across multiple industries, focusing on expansion, commercialisation, creative evolution, increasing closure rates and customer satisfaction.

Why is it important for bridal business owners to ensure that their staff have the correct sales technique?

The right technique will not only increase sales but also improve customer satisfaction, referrals, and reputation. The more empowered your team are, the better their performance, and the stronger the closure rates.

People often talk about mirroring behaviours in sales, but first it is critical your team mirror their sales techniques to represent your company mindset and culture. Every engagement with a customer, whether at pre-appointment, in-store, or the follow up, is all part of the sales process, and every touch point effects the successful closure of a sale. If your company mindset is one of customer intimacy; creating an experience for the bride to find their dream gown, and bringing them step by step on a journey to say yes, then having a team member with a hard sell technique can inhibit the sale and destroy the experience. When your team’s technique mirrors your company mindset it helps to build brand reputation and increase your teams organic closure rate.

This starts with you. Explain your company mindset and put in place a clearly defined, repeatable and implementable sales process that works for your business. Create a clear culture in-store. Give your team the toolkit they need to flourish, and the sales will follow.

Where do you start when training staff?

Training your team is about improving professional performance. For everyone involved this should be exciting, invigorating, empowering and generate clear results. You are investing time, energy and resources into developing their performance and ability, but also into best positioning your business for success. Knowledge and confidence are key to success. By empowering your team with these, the motivation and positivity that you can instil in them can be just palpable.

Training should be on-going with a mixture of frequent 1-2-1’s, regular short group training, and detailed training at least every 6 months.

One-2-One Training

This can be as simple as noticing a team member carrying out a task in a way that you know can be improved. Don’t destroy confidence by intervening at the time if it can be avoided, but afterwards approach the topic with encouraging opening statements;
I noticed you approaching that topic in an interesting way, I’ve found that handling that type of situation this way really helped…
Consider morning quick fire rounds to keep knowledge of stock fresh;
A size 10 bride walks in looking for a slender gown, lace elements, she wants to hide a tattoo on her lower back and has a small bust.. What 3 gowns do you pull?

Short Training

Try carrying out a 45 minute team meeting with coffee and cupcakes on a regular basis, and pick a topic to cover based on what’s relevant at that time. This bite size training is normally well retained, and also feels like a team building experience, adding to the team culture. Some great topics are;

  • Handling A Difficult Bridal Party
  • New Options For In-Store Styles
  • The New Covid Bride
  • Top Styles For Each Size And Shape

Detailed Training
It is great to align this with new collection launches. This is a great opportunity to best position your team for success in the season ahead.

This training session should feel like a team event, something everyone looks forward to. Investing in your team training, whether given by yourself or an expert, will pay for itself through sales success. Block off the store for the training or consider going off-site to avoid distractions.

This is a chance to focus on your company mindset, values, and what you want to achieve. Discuss your sales process and how to progress customers through each step. Who are your sweet-spot customer of this new era? The bride is changing, so is her budget and wedding style, so understanding your new customer is vital to sell effectively. As soon as your team can sell anything, so bring out the gowns. This is the most exciting time of the season, new products and exciting opportunities. Go through each item, highlighting the selling points and the most suitable customer. This detailed training drives results, increasing closure rates, improving up-selling and cross-merchandising, and elevating customer experience.
Can you give us a guide to improving sales conversions in your staff?
1. Put in place a clearly defined, repeatable and implementable sales process
2. Discuss the reasons behind lost sales so that they can learn from them
3. Empower them with knowledge and confidence through appropriate training
4. Acknowledge their successes and achievements, but also hold them accountable for mistakes to avoid repetition
5. Set the pace – if you want a culture of energy, enthusiasm, and positivity, then lead by example and create that atmosphere.

What training should a store owner be carrying out when a new member of staff starts?

The ideal time for a new member to start is when you are holding one of your detailed training session. It allows them to jump into the team, get straight into what your store stands for and lets them experience the products in detail. But if timing doesn’t pair up, don’t worry, spend time 1-2-1 going through the procedures, sales processes and expectations in-store. Discuss your core customers and their typical buying behaviours. Arrange a run through on all products and highlight the top bread and butter styles. Try to pair them with another team member who can answer any questions and help lead them through the first few days but remember to check in often.

Incentives – tops tips

Not all incentives need to be cash related. Sometimes recognition can be equally powerful. Consider a monthly acknowledgement for top achievements, top sales person, best reviewed team member etc. and possibly feature them on your social media. Also consider monthly, quarterly and annual goals with prizes at the end to achieve as a team. Think a team outing, a spa day, a new coffee machine for the canteen etc.

Remember, a business is only as good as the people it has supporting it, so never underestimate the power of your team!

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