Retail sales training

Written by John Swallow on 6 October 2016

Hello All,

In a world of killer campaigns and on-line competition, the retail customer experience is vital. We all know that.

So my challenge now is to combine an already great customer experience with increasing volume and achieve a level of customer spend that delivers great value to both the customer and our store owner partners? This is a really nice challenge to have.

So, I am looking for an innovative solution from the globe to enhance our ability to do just that.

Does anyone have a solution to my challenge or has worked with someone or a training company that has delivered proven shifts in KPIs, can deliver across at least 5 countries and has representatives or alliances to deliver training in local languages.

Your experiences would be greatly appreciated... John Swallow

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Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 12:02

Dear John

I read your message several times - I found myself drifting off and even mildly irritated in response to phrases like "killer campaigns" and "innovative solutions".  When I started reading, I thought we were in for one of those self-congratulatory ads that are actually against the rules of the forum.

If I understand you, you're not trying to advertise anything but to ask for help.  Is that right?  So, I'm trying to translate your request into something that (i) engages me and (ii) I understand.

Clearly, you're looking for a provider who can deliver training and consultancy which will make a real difference to your business.  It sounds to me as though some of the measures (KPIs) you want to improve on are increased customer spend - but without any reduction in customer satisfaction (and yes, it can be hard to achieve - right?)  I'm not sure whether or not you are already experiencing growing volumes of sales or want to - just checking for the purpose of clarification.  Equally, I'm wondering whether or not you have an expansion programme or aspiration to expand the number of retail units or whether you already have a presence in the five countries you mention and want to increase sales per unit.  I think it might be helpful to have this level of clarity and also to know which five countries we're talking about and how many units per country... enough information to make an informed recommendation.

Historically, Tim Royds has been the person here on the forum who specializes in sales training.  Is that right, Tim?  Hilary Cooke also springs to mind for her work in hotels... I'm wondering if yours is the kind of challenge she would be interested in helping with.

I realise my emotional response (the irritation I mentioned earlier) is shining through in my response.  I do want to help, though, rather than to frighten you off.  I know people can feel vulnerable in sharing, honestly, what problems and challenges they face and in asking for help here on the forum.




Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 12:50

Hi Dorothy

Is seems that I sound like a salesman but no, I am not a supplier...and no, I don't find your reply unnerving. 

Yes, you are right, I run an L&D Academy and I am looking for ideas and potential recommendations for suppliers around retail sales training.

I think you can tick the box that we have done all of the usual stuff over the years and I am looking for something different that really delivers (actually it seems not that easy these days, as many external programs are based around over-fluffy experiences for delegates who leave courses having thoroughly enjoyed them and then proceed to do absolutely nothing tangible as a result).

We are a chain of 500 units with high market share and strong growth in a highly competitive environment. We are already in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Netherlands and have an established Academy (virtual and physical) delivering a wide range of programs to support these units.

I would be very grateful for your's and others input on potential directions. I never have a problem discussing challenges and how to solve them.

Thanks for your help and look forward to discussing more! John








Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 14:21

Great to hear from you, John, and for the clarity you provide.  And yes, I understand how much training can get all the right ticks on the happy sheet and make no difference at all.

I look forward to reading additional contributions, too :-)




Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 17:30

John, good to see you have been providing training which people seem to enjoy - a shame they are doing nothing tangible as a result. Maybe this is over fluffy training, or  something about the environment/line management/culture which has got in the way? With that number of people not implementing new learning (assuming they learnt something) then some on the job observation and coaching may tell you more. That may help you consider what type of provider you need, or whether to look at how you not only provide training, but a framework for implementation.


Submitted on 7 October, 2016 - 07:23

Thanks Guys.

Also, any recommendations providers that you have worked with would be really useful? or any good directions on specific speakers on this area? where there has been a proven ROI... I am looking at a couple of companies at the moment which are possibilities but I would like to widen the funnel. Please let me know any thoughts. Cheers John




Submitted on 7 October, 2016 - 11:34

Hi John. My take on your post is that you are looking for an innovative, scalable solution that can drive continuous and sustainable improvement across a range of KPI's.  As you are working in the retail sector, no doubt you also need a highly practical approach that will engage action-oriented folk. I've recently been involved in helping to deliver a program owned by the Neuroleadership Institute aimed at increasing B-to-B sales through changing the shape of conversations.  The program involved 3 x 90 minute tele-classes, one per week, with practical assignments in between.  The hard-nosed (but ultimately very human!) sales people responded very positively to the neuroscience underpinnings/evidence and the reported changes in behaviour and results even in just a 3 week period was astonishing.  There is a link to some case studies here  As an Associate of the Neuroleadership Institute, I declare a vested interest in recommending them.  At the same time, after 9 years of applying the learning from neuroscience in my work, I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't have the evidence of impact.  Whilst headquartered in the States, they have a global presence. If it's of interest to have an informal chat about this approach and bounce some ideas around, I'd be very happy to do that.


Submitted on 10 October, 2016 - 13:38

Hi Jane, Many thanks for your thoughts on this one. Although in terms of retail delivery I was thinking more to focus on classroom blended with some on-line support on our LMS but I will definitely take a look at the thinking. Thank you so much for spending time on this. Kind regards John

Hilary Cooke

Submitted on 7 October, 2016 - 20:14

Hello John,

Dorothy is right - thank you - your question does make my pulse race. However, before I start I want to be clear that my intention is to add something to your enquiry and not promote myself as a provider. Also, I echo Dorothy in suggesting that you speak to Tim Royds for sales training. 

Having said all that, it seems that you may be turning over the wrong stone in looking at the training, because this sounds more like an issue of insufficient or incomplete transfer. 

It seems that you are evaluating, because you have data that people are enjoying the training, but there is no correlation at all between satisfaction with training experience and change in behaviour on the job. (That simple 4 level evaluation model that we are all encouraged to deploy is, in fact, fatally flawed.)

The good news is that shifts in behaviour leading to customer satisfaction and incremental spend is fairly straight forward to fix because the metrics are simple. It is relatively easy to correlate input with outcome and results.

I know all this because I have just spent 6 years on a PhD study looking at the same issue, but with leadership development  - which is much more slippery in terms of achieving transfer and making sure that developing leaders actually results in some sort of change and traction in the business.

So can I help you? Yes, I probably can - but by helping you to find the right solution rather than putting myself forward as that provider. 

In short, you may need another training provider like you need a hole in your head, but you do probably need to tighten up some nuts and bolts on transfer and you possibly need to collect some more data to help you make that decision.

If this sounds about on target, then let me know via this forum and we can continue the dialogue in the open. That way I can help, but still maintain my integrity regarding this space.  Does this work for you?

Best wishes 



Submitted on 10 October, 2016 - 13:46

Hi Hilary

Many thanks for your reflections on this. Sales always tends to get pulses racing!

And yes, it is transfer after training that is proving challenging.

I guess I could have framed it better by saying that our training delivers a customer experience which was way beyond our expectations some years ago and continues to increase, which is borne out by our service metrics but when you add aggressive discounting in such a competitive environment, some team members in some stores find it challenging to personalize the experience in such a way that the customer can gravitate from price to value. 

My current thinking is to gain 360 engagement from the various different support functions, train managers first and then for example, 3 team members per store (including the one responsible for in-store training), across 40-50 training interventions. Providing resources on-line and a webinar for trainer follow-up. Not enough yet though.

Thank you for being willing to discuss it further.

Kind regards John



Submitted on 8 October, 2016 - 12:21

Hi John, have a look here to see if anything is of interest:  I worked a little with Jonny Tapnack.  Yvette






Submitted on 11 October, 2016 - 10:19

Many thanks for your tip Yvette! KR John

ChrisScott (not verified)

Submitted on 8 October, 2016 - 14:03

I agree with the thoughts shared in Hilary's post - it may be a problem with how the learning you are already doing is being coached and supported back in the work place. Although my company provides bespoke training in customer service and sales - I'm not sure it's what you need to this isn't touting for business! 

If i were in your position and with an already (by the sounds of it) full curriculum of learning experiences for your people - I'd be looking to make the link between line manager accountability and the people that have been on the programmes that have already been delivered. I'm quite sure that there are very few "new" approaches in service. The language we use may change over time and the customer expectations are certainly changing - however the principles of great service (ie providing what the customer actually wants rather than what you think they want) and treating customers as the individuals that they are will never change. 

If you do go down the route of a new supplier then definitely allow them to immerse themselves into your business to really understand where any issues in transfer may lie - often the answer is there it just needs a bit of time to investigate. 

Funny how we are all saying you don't need another supplier... we must just ooze integrity :) 


Submitted on 10 October, 2016 - 13:50

Hi Chris

Many thanks for your post! 

You are right, coaching has to be a key element in this and we are currently undertaking a coaching program with our support team, our managers and then our in-store trainers, in the hope that we can better implement future training programs. Accountability is a key point also, I agree. One would think that it would be automatic when in effect the person managing the store also owns it, but that is probably where an increased focus on coaching comes in together with a raft of other factors.

ps I smiled at the end.

BR John



Submitted on 11 October, 2016 - 10:34

Hi John, hi all

Interesting... your comment about owner managers sparks something for me, John... how skilled are your store owners in the role of manager?  I can imagine that anxious store owners might become quite directive in their style and that this might actual reduce staff engagement rather than increase it.  So, how to respond...?

Firstly, perhaps the investment needs to be in the store owners first and foremost.  It might help you to read Daniel Goleman's article (readily available and for free on the internet) "Leadership That Gets Results".  Why read it?  Firstly, ask yourself if leadership style and staff engagement might be an issue and use the article to reflect on what styles you observe amongst the managers in store.  You may then want to think about support to the store managers that educates them around leadership style and how it can impact (i) the experience of staff and (ii) how they behave.

Secondly, yes, coaching for your store managers.  This is both about (i) helping them to be effective in their role as manager and (ii) helping them to coach their staff and (iii) helping them to model coaching behaviours.  Coaching is one of the styles that can increase engagement and improve performance.  So great that you are already investing in this area.

Thirdly, reading through the responses so far, I thought of Timpson's here in the UK.  The staff in my local branch consistently rave about working for the company and, when I ask them why, they say it's a bottom up company... they get to make decisions.  I love them and go back again and again.  So, just sharing this in case you want to look into this company.

So, in short, my intuition/conclusion based on the unfolding discussion is that your major investment needs to be in the store managers.  I don't assume that owner managers would automatically do what they need to in order to make the stores successful.  They may have the motivation. They may not have the skills.  And their own fears are likely to lead to a leadership style that has the opposite impact to the one they desire.

Does anything here ring true?



PS Love it that this thread has stimulated so much discussion :-)


Submitted on 14 October, 2016 - 11:30

Hi Dorothy

Many thanks for your thoughts again.

Thanks for the tip, I will definitely read that article. I have provided development from various different directions on leadership styles but it could be that more is needed.  Going back a stage, we have also been bringing in more retail focused leaders into store partnership to blend with the existing owner-ship group, whose knowledge and skills can often be more technically-orientated rather than people-focused.

Timpsons, interesting, thanks, I will take a look.

And you are right, whatever I look at always takes me back to the managers first and we should focus on them first within this process.

Thanks and have a great weekend! John








Hilary Cooke

Submitted on 14 October, 2016 - 15:44

Hi John

I have seen / made this kind of change work with the following ingredients in the mix:

    Define the specific outcomes required - what behaviours need to change? What are the must haves, shoulds and coulds for making a difference in this situation. Be clear and make them itemised and measurable as far as possible.
    Set up targets and contexts for improvement / growth / business development in the relevant parts of the business / key metrics as a result of these behaviours being more frequently used.
    Introduce a project process to tackle this issue and achieve these results - give it a name, identity and clear purpose aimed at the outcome / results, not the input / training
    Share and get senior managers on board and manage stakeholders and their key accountabilities for how they will support the project, help with transfer, rah rah the achievements and improvements etc. Get them out of their seats to support it actively (and not just waiting for it to happen through the alchemy and mysterious magic of L&D)
    Define who needs to know and do what differently, more of it or less of it and get all relevant content for a training programme trawled together and curated, using your in-company experts form a variety of levels and best practice from all over the place. 
    Chuck it over to a training expert - in-house or external - to make lovely looking and feeling training materials for you - could be classroom delivered and/or a blended approach but it all needs to "speak to" each other and be part of an integrated whole. Also in different languages if required. Needs to be nice to handle and work with, be pragmatic and a really really really sizzingly ace set of tools. 
    Get your brightest and best managers / people from the operation together and train them to be awesome trainers. I mean stand up ovation stuff - engaging, practical, experienced, great role models - nothing like leaders training other leaders to get results.
    Help the trainers deploy the lovely materials in their own regions / parts of the business with all the nitty-gritty taken care of for them - so all that they need to do is turn up on the day and dazzle. 
    Build a transfer process so that managers support people coming off the training and guide new skills deployment (learned from your awesome trainers) in the workplace. Don't make a goldfish climb a tree and don't make trainers responsible for transfer. Managers are there to coach improvements in their people - not just twinkle when it suits them when comes to the performance outcomes of L&D inputs.
    Build in a process for this to happen (and have consequences if it doesn't) I don't mean exhibiting their heads on spikes at the entrance - but it does need to matter and be on the agenda of the larger cheeses in the company. Or if they are the owners of their own business units, then in their P&L somewhere. 
    Measure results
    Throw a party!

In summary, I think it is pushing and pulling on a variety of levers that will make the difference. Also, it's not rocket science (unless you are retailing parts for outer space exploration, then it probably is) but it is a systematic management of a number of moving parts and intervening variables - that's why you possibly need to start with collecting / using data so that you know which levers you can pull internally and where you might want a bit of external push.

Hope it helps and thanks for a great thread!

Best wishes



Submitted on 17 October, 2016 - 18:04

And, John, I would add to Hilary's list... get clear on the full range of skills and competencies needed and recruit for them in the first place.  It sounds as though you are already learning this lesson and adapting your approach to recruitment.




Submitted on 2 November, 2016 - 11:30

Just a quick response to the posting from "theoaustinje5", recommending sales management training.  I think you are in breach of the rules of this forum at present which state:

What are the main reasons for posts being removed from the Forum?
By far the main reason for a post being removed from the Forum is when a recommendation is made with no declaration of interest. This is closely followed by responses from members recommending their own services or products - such replies should be kept off-forum by emailing the member who requested information directly.

This is easily rectified.  Would you please let forum members know what connection you have with the sales management training organisation to which you have provided a link in your posting?  And could you do so within the next twenty-four hours?

I ask this of you because it's my experience that the rules of the forum help to maintain a high quality of discussion and to keep the forum free of self-promotion or at least to have it identified as such, which serves us all.  I personally find that taking time to declare any interests meets my need for respect.  If you don't respond within twenty-four hours I will flag your contribution up to the TJ team for their consideration.




Submitted on 2 November, 2016 - 20:52

Hi John.  Excuse the late input to this one.  

I'd strongly endorse what Hilary has said.  There's a lot of twaddle spoken about what training will achieve (IMHO!)  Alone it will achieve very little, if anything at all.  It's all the 'stuff' around whatever input is required in terms of enhanced skills, know-how and confidence which makes a massive impact on success and so outcomes.  

I focus on B2B rather than B2C, but some of the core principles are common to both worlds.  If I may be so bold to answer the question: "What would I do if it were me?", then if engaging with a partner I'd want to work with one who...

...was just as (if not more) interested in helping me manage the environment within the business which drives the desired behaviours as understanding any 'training' that were required.

...helped me to develop and implement influencing strategies to ensure that line managers supported, encouraged, and coached delegates both before and after any training input.  And could provide coaching support directly if needed.

...understood Sales Process and could define the Sales Process my team implemented in order to identify precisely what part(s) of the process could be enhanced - and then designed bespoke interventions targeted to influence those points in the process.

...wanted to work with me to develop and implement an initiative which was of a quality sufficiently high to be an Award winner.  And that is most definitely not about just designing a course or selling a whizzy sounding course with all the right buzz words off a web site.

As you might be gathering, this is a passion of mine!  Training for too long has been a cost centre, whereas what it really should be shown to be and seen to be is a profit centre - it should make money.  I'm not an expert on your world John (B2C), so can't help you directly.  I can though provide lots of thoughts about how to ensure you engage with the 'right' partner and how to ensure the initiative is successful.  If you'd like me to send over a couple of articles, just ping me an e-mail - happy to help (and to anyone else who might be interested)

Good fortune.... :-)



Submitted on 3 November, 2016 - 11:44

Hi John 

Fabulous advice from Hilary and Dorothy as ever! I just wanted to recommend a sales training company that is run by two friends of mine who are part of the not-for-profit network for trainers in Yorkshire that I have run for many years. I am pretty sure that having implemented some very wide-ranging retails sales training programmes incorprorating engaging workshops, coaching, observation and feedback and testing, I'm pretty sure that they have a lot of information about the return on investment of their projects. The organisation is Lammore and their names are Mark Blackmore and Simon Roskrow. Do send me an e-mail if you would like to be hooked up with them for help, advice or maybe even to commission a programme. 

Hope this is helpful. 

Shirley x


Submitted on 3 November, 2016 - 12:31

Just to let everyone know that having not heard from theoaustinje5 within 24 hours (as requested) I have gone ahead and dropped Jo Cook a line, as I said I would in my message above.




Submitted on 4 November, 2016 - 11:32

Hi Dorothy,

Thanks for pointing this out. Some research has shown that this person, essentially, works for the business that is being promoted in the post. As you say, this is a violation of Forum rules. I've deleted the post and will let the person know.

Thanks all,



Submitted on 24 November, 2016 - 09:34

Hello Everyone!

I just want to say many thanks for all of the contributions on this thread.

I am happy to say that we are market leader in most of our markets by remaining hungry, humble and open to all advice and suggestions. I will "close" this down now from my perspective.

Best wishes




Submitted on 9 December, 2016 - 12:23

Hi John,

some interesting feedback and suggestions to date. All I can add is to ask what role HR are playing in supporting your strategy? I found that when I was trying to change the culture in a division of a major bank from Tell to Coach, it gained greater traction when the managers objectives were changed to reflect this