Retail Coaching Defined

Coaching for Performance Improvement  

What is Coaching in the Sales Performance environment?

Coaching in the environment of one-to-one selling on a retail furniture selling floor is different than coaching a sports team where individual players make up the team, but are dependent on the other players’ performance for both individual and team success. Think of an NFL running back being dependent on linemen clearing the way. Once past the line-of-scrimmage, the back is largely on his own, and individual skills are predominant. While it is important, in our retail environment, to each individual that the team succeeds overall, an individual salesperson can do well on his or her own.  He problem is, the selling strategy he or she uses is entirely their own.

In our world, teams don’t engage individual customers – individual salespeople do – so it’s purely a one-on-one relationship – like Golf or Singles Tennis. What is different, and missing in most Furniture Store systems is the overall, guiding, selling strategy – the GAME PLAN in sports terminology. Given the importance to the organization of each individual customer engagement, the lack of any written, planned, executed, and coached selling strategy has always amazed me. The ONE POINT where customer contact occurs is usually unscripted, undocumented, unplanned, and unobserved.  No one is observing the game being played to make necessary adjustments to behavior to comply with the written selling strategy of the company. There is no written selling strategy.

This leads to there being no “coaching” based on the COACH actually observing the “game” being played and coaching individuals based on what actually happens out there between a salesperson and a customer. In my long experience on furniture store selling floors, when there is an observation made by a sales manager or team leader, it is usually a one-off situation wherein the manager, having overheard or seen something happen between a customer and a salesperson either inserts herself into the game playing the role of salesperson,  and whether successful or not, moves on. Without timely follow-up coaching, feedback, additional training, re-observation……no learning takes place. Learning, in my way of looking at retail sales training, is only proven through execution, and the only way to know if execution takes place is to observe it, review it with the salesperson, and coach it – many times.

Additionally, the coach doesn’t have to be the greatest player. She just has to fully grasp the principles underlying the strategic game plan, and understand how to gain the trust and respect of the individual players by being dedicated to their individual success, and to the goals of the team – the store and the company. Leadership is an art, and not everyone can do it well, but those who can deserve respect and followers.