We recently spoke with the owner of Full Compass Systems (retailers of professional audi/video equipment) and she told us that her staff gets as much as four hours of product training a week, all year round.  You can imagine how knowledgable these sales associates are about every item they sell.  Got a question?  They’ll have the answer.

This level of customer service is extraordinary, but it is also what sets this specialty business apart from every competitor. You can use staff training to give your independent shop a big advantage over your competitors, whose standards for product knowledge may be quite low.

At Orange Tree Imports we do a big staff meeting to go over our fall catalogue, which is put out by the HTI Buying Group.  It is important that our employees know what we are advertising — which is equally true even if you’re just running a once-a-month ad in your local paper.

We make the meeting as festive as we can, offering pizza and dessert.  There is always a big prize giveaway at the end of the meeting, with items such as samples or slightly defective merchandise.  We draw names to see who gets to go to the prize table first, and make sure that we have plenty of items to go around.

It is important that during the meeting we not only present information, but we also solicit input from our employees.  We don’t stock everything in the HTI catalogue, but if they’re enthused about an item we haven’t ordered, we’ll try to get it in.  We also pass around samples of some of the new items so that every staff member can take a close look at them. remember, if an employee knows and loves an item, they’ll sell it well.

Over the next two weeks we’ll have three additional staff seminars in the morning before we open, each presented by a sales representative from one of our major lines.  The reps will bring a gift for everyone who attends, and we’ll provide refreshments.  These meetings are very popular, largely because certain vendors realize the value of enthusiastic sales associates and send impressive sample items for each attendee.

It would be ideal for us to spread our staff training out over the year a bit more than we do, because this is a busy time of year. But it’s a good feeling to know that we will be heading into the holidays with a staff well trained in the selling points of the wide merchandise we have to offer.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder