Are You Hiring Retail Clerks Or Salespeople?

There is a difference… and you and your people need to live with it!

If you sell larger ticket items for the most part, you hopefully have some true “salespeople” working for you. More often than not, the typical retail sales clerks are what are often found manning a small retail shop. And I certainly understand that they have their place. Retail clerks are often very hard workers and do a very good job of what they do. In fact retail sales clerks may be what your particular shop needs.

But you need to understand that. Sales clerks are basically order takers and while you may be able to train them to improve their skills, you need to have the right expectations for whomever you’re hiring. Are you hiring a salesclerk or a salesperson? A different set of skills are needed for a shopper buying a dog treat, a greeting card or a stuffed teddy bear, vs. a shopper who is assembling a complete fashion ensemble, a living room set or a two thousand dollar pool table. The real difference is that a person who had the skills and training of a professional salesperson might not only be selling the dog treat, but also some dog vitamins and some higher end dog food as well, turning that sale into multiple times the original single dog treat.

We all know that retailers make money (or more money) when they make multiple sales. You don’t need me to tell you your store makes more money when your customers buy more than one item from you.

But if you want more than sales clerks working for you, then you need to hire accordingly and/or seriously train and work with your people to learn the skills and understand the differences. At it’s most simple level, to get your customers to buy more, your employees must learn the art of making multiple sales. The simplest and most basic trick to getting this all on track is teaching them to remember four magic words: Did-you-see this? It’s not pushy. It’s not aggressive and it becomes a key part of increasing sales aside from truly listening to the customer.

In a menswear store, if a customer is buying a new suit, your sales­person should be asking, “Did you see this tie? It looks amazing with that suit!” or “Did you see this shirt?” or “Have you ever considered French cuffs? “The buyer might decline. Or he might actually walk over and take a look at those things, even if he’s just being nice.

He may also buy the new shirt and some cufflinks – and be thrilled to have a complete outfit AND your full-service approach.

You don’t ever really know. As long as the customer feels you’re sin­cerely trying to help, there is nothing wrong with trying to maximize the sale.

Your people need to think about it as delivering and providing full helpful service and completing the package, rather than just getting the dollars out of the customer’s wallet!

What you need to understand is that you should not be putting or expecting retail clerks to fill a position that really should be filled by salespeople. This gives you the wrong expectations of your people and places them in a position they’re not ready or trained for. As a result, you may never be happy with them… all because you hired an amateur to do a pro’s job.

There is nothing wrong with trying to turn your sales clerks into a salesperson as long as you and they understand the differences from the beginning. First talk to your people about how you would like to help them become more of a sale professional. Get them to begin thinking of themselves as a salesperson or sales professional. If they see themselves as a real salesperson they are also more inclined to act the part. As a part of your efforts in building any sales team make your people understand the following significant differences between a sales clerk and a sales professional:

  • A sales clerk thinks they are being interrupted by a customer.
  • A sales person understands that the customer is the purpose of the work and the store.
  • The sales clerk is focused on a variety of activities until interrupted.
  • The salesperson is looking for the next sale and determining how they night help the customer.
  • The sales clerk may be a whiz at stocking and merchandising the store.
  • The salesperson is a whiz at listening and understanding the customer’s needs and more importantly their “wants.”
  • The sales clerk is focused on the merchandise and what there is to sell.
  • The salesperson is focused on the customer and their needs.
  • The salesclerk may be good a merchandising a product display.
  • The salesperson is good at talking about and selling the products on the display.
  • The salesclerk answers customer questions to the best of their ability when asked.
  • The salesperson asks questions and try’s to make a human connection with the customer.
  • The sales clerk may ask if there is anything else.
  • The sales clerk may escort the customer to a part of the store and show them what else!
  • A salesclerk may take a shot at asking for the customer’s contact or e-mail information.
  • The sales person explains the benefits of being on the “exclusive” list of preferred customers.
  • The salesclerk takes the customers money when they come to the register.
  • The salesperson determines when the customer has made their final buying decision and is ready to be closed.
  • The sales clerk is usually paid just above minimum wage.
  • The salesperson earns more and should have incentive to sell more.

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