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The Three Types of Sales Associates


Which One Do You Employ?

I am sure there are more than three types of sales associates, but for the sake of discussion I have always looked at three main categories - the Weak Sales Associate, the Average Sales Associate and the Superstar. Let’s first define each of these categories.

The Weak Sales Associate: This employee can have many different attributes from being not trained and not knowledgeable to having a destructive attitude. Either way you look at it, both of these qualities can kill your business. The interesting aspect of this is that it’s not always that employee’s fault, but rather fault of management.

The weak sales associate: This category of sales associates is one who is not trained and knowledgeable is the easiest to improve. Duh! They require training and knowledge. The question is how are you going to train and make them more knowledgeable. There are many stores that have long detailed training programs for new employees, some of them are as simple as a two to five day training session. The topics which should be covered would be the history of the business, the philosophy of the business, a discussion of the mission or vision statement a business might have and all of this would come under a category that might be referred to as a new employee’s indoctrination. What you are attempting to do here is to start to have the employee understand why you do what you do.

The other two areas that you want to cover in the initial training would be product knowledge and why you buy what you buy and sell what you sell. The last section of any training program should be what the employee is expected to do and how to do it. In other words, we are going to teach them about our products, tell them what your expectations are and how to sell them.

The danger that many of us have in training employees is that we will assign an employee to follow another employee. That’s a great way of doing it, however, don’t just have the new employee follow just one person, rotate them. You don’t want an employee to pick up all of the bad habits from one. One last word on training, it is a constant and ongoing commitment. Understand that the new employee with a wonderful attitude who doesn’t understand the business, the products or how to perform is just as bad as the employee with the destructive behavior. Let’s talk about the employee with the destructive behavior. Generally speaking when we talk about bad behavior, it always comes down to they have a BAD ATTITUDE.

Attitude is comprised of three elements:
  1. Facial expressions -- looks
  2. Body language
  3. Tone of their voice

All of these elements are easy to recognize and we seem to get a quick image when we mention any one of these factors with a bad attitude. Can’t you just picture the person who rolls their eyes or looks disgusted and you just know what their body language is going to be like. And don’t we all know the tone of their voice? One of the exercises that I will do in a live seminar is to ask people to say the phrase “good morning” but say it as if they are disgusted, aggravated, annoyed and then have them contrast it to happy, excited and positive. The facial expressions and the body language go with it naturally.

The bottom line, make your employees aware of what a bad attitude is, ways to improve it and if they do not, they must be terminated. It just flat hurts you and your business.

The Average Sales Associate: This is a category where the majority of our employees fall. What they do is whatever is asked of them, they generally have good attitudes, they are pleasant with customers and they will make a sale when the customer wants to buy. In short, the average salesperson rarely hears the expression “I had no intentions of buying, I just stopped in to say hello”.

The average sales associate are many times referred to as just an order taker. They rarely suggest multiple items and their Units Per Transaction will always be close to 1; as opposed to the superstar who will have Units Per Transaction of 3, 4, 5 or more. This average employee will have some customers request them, but not often. This associate can feel secure about their job, but should always worry about being compared to stronger employees. This is the employee who we should work with to improve their skills and encourage multiple sale transactions.

The Superstar: I believe there are two parts to the superstar. First, they are engaging with the customer, they have a belief that they are there to service the customer and help them to buy what they want and need. They don’t necessarily look at themselves as salespeople. Many times people get confused and think that the strongest salespeople are the most outgoing with a bubbly personality. That’s just not so. Many of these superstars do have outgoing personalities, but the one thing they all have in common is that they ask the customer questions and listen to their answers.

That is the reason why customers relate so well to them because the superstar is focused on that customer. I recently had a friend who went to Chico’s and raved about her experience because the salesperson befriended her by listening to her needs and wants and made suggestions that fulfilled those needs and wants and made maintained the attitude that “this is what we should do” as if to say “I am on your team”. That is why my friend bought more than she expected, spent more than she planned, left happy but realized when she got home she didn’t need a couple of the minor accessory pieces. Then felt so bad about returning it and didn’t want to return it when her superstar was there because she didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

BINGO! Guilt is a wonderful thing. Logically, she does not need those accessory pieces. Emotionally, she will probably keep them. The best part is she will go back to the store and ask for this superstar by name and even call in advance to make sure she is there.

Now the bad or dark side of the superstar -- many times they know it. The true superstar is NOT a prima Donna. They are team players, they help out weaker sales associates and they don’t ask for special favors. You can be as friendly to this employee as possible, but never at the risk or health of the business. True superstars don’t put management in comprising positions. They don’t ask for special favors and their focus is always in the best interest of the store first. Sales ability is great but sales ability with a strong team attitude makes the true superstars. That’s why every NBA team wants LeBron James because not only can he perform, he is a consummate team player and natural leader. Let’s learn something from basketball, when you find people like that go after them, recruit them and watch your business grow.


is for the staff first and if they can come with joy and leave with joy then I am pretty sure that they deal in joy. Does it translate in to profits? I am not sure. However it makes my day more pleasant and I believe this translates to the client's feeling that they are welcome. It is not always about the science of business. Sometimes just old fashion interest in what your client wants is a great presention. Our moto here toward clients is: when you want what you want. That is the overriding mission statement and I always believe that everyone who comes and works for me deserves my respect in knowing for them that this is exactly how they wish to act.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 06, 2010 3:05 PM by Ron Hahn
I wish you would address the topic of desparation. In this economy, like it or not, I have found notes of desparation creeping into my voice when talking with customers - I don't like it, I am conscious of it and try to be upbeat, but sometimes I just can't help it! I talked to one of my retail neighbors who confessed that she actually got down on her knees and pleaded and begged a customer to buy something! So I know I am not alone! I have not gone to those extremes, but it's getting there.... what can you do about feeling this way and not letting it show through?
Posted @ Tuesday, July 20, 2010 4:43 PM by Jan
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