Here are a few commonly asked questions on retail. Check out what other owners have to say on the subject!

Q. How should I introduce my new employees to retailing?

A. “It should start even earlier,” says Patricia Owen, owner of the skin-focused Faces DaySpa, BeautyBoutique and SpaShoppe in Hilton Head, South Carolina. “We include questions about retailing in our interviewing process.”

Kristi Valenzuela, success coach, speaker and owner of the consulting firm Crystal Focus, Inc., suggests that can be as easy as handing the applicant a red pencil and asking her to attempt to sell you the product. “They may feel silly, but what you’re looking for is their willingness to try. If they push it aside and say they can’t do that, chances are they won’t attempt to retail your products either.”

Once you’ve made the hire, retail training needs to be an integral part of your orientation and training program. Valenzuela recommends developing a retailing system, writing it down in black and white, scripting the pitch, and role-playing the system during orientation. “Finally, draft an agreement that says they’ve been introduced to the system and agree to play by the rules, and ask new employees to sign it the first day. It makes them take retail seriously.”

But make sure all your employees play by the retail rules, or your new employees will quickly backslide into bad habits.

Valenzuela saw the power of an entire organization in retail action when she recently coached a salon in Round Beach, Illinois.

“Their retail to service ratio was a startling 23 percent, where the national average is about 8 percent,” she says. “We kept questioning the math, but found the ratio was right—so we took a hard look at the system. We found that when appointments were booked, the front desk advised clients of upcoming product specials. When clients checked in, they were again reminded of specials and told to ask their service providers what products would work best for them. Service providers talked about products during the service and at the shampoo bowl. At the end of the service, the service providers pulled recommended products and handed them to the client as they checked out. It’s solid and it’s brave, but because everyone in the salon did it, it didn’t feel uncomfortable, and it worked.”

 

Q. How can I get my staff to take retail seriously?

A. The most effective retail systems directly tie retail goals to an employee’s ability to advance in the salon. Daired Ogle, owner of Daired’s Salon and Spa Pangea in Arlington, Texas, maintains a system where staff providers advance through a series of levels with goals set in retail, retention, pre-booking and conditioning treatments sold.

“When a staff member accomplishes these goals and maintains them for a period of three months, they are promoted to a higher classification where they can charge more money for their work and they receive a new title. Each time they receive a promotion, they are given new goals and the process begins again.”

Employees are evaluated weekly on their goals, and management discusses strategies for improving if necessary. “Our main goal is to elevate our customer service level, and all these areas we measure tie together—when we’re doing them all well we really are creating a great experience for our guests.”

 

Q. Do retail contests encourage staff to sell and clients to buy?

A. Yes, but only when structured properly, says Ogle. Be careful what individual goals you are rewarding, or the same people end up winning each time and everyone else gives up. Ogle structures competitions to include an overall team goal and reward with individual goals and rewards.

“We track retail dollar per ticket for everyone here, and often will reward a growth in percentage of retail dollar per ticket. But you have to realize it’s much harder for someone averaging $20 in retail per ticket to double their percentage as it is for someone whose averaging $7—so you have to mix up your rewards.”

During his last contest, Ogle organized a three-month long competition where for the team reward the salon rented out a party barge and entertainment for a Sunday afternoon event on a local lake.

“When the salon reached the goal, everyone shared in the reward, but staff members who reached individual goals got to invite a friend along.”

Ogle stresses for these competitions to work, results must be posted daily, “as much as humanly possible.” For this recent promotion, his staff created a chart with a boat as the goal, and as products were sold the water level on the chart rose toward the boat. “Our staff were so excited, they actually would call on their days off to see how we were doing,” he laughs.

Valenzuela recommends pulsing promotions—alternating contests that reward service providers every eight weeks with contests that reward clients.

“For example, during an eight-week period, every time a stylist sells a dozen of a promotional product her name goes into a hat for a drawing for a prize that’s determined by your budget. Then, for the next eight weeks, every client who purchases two products gets to enter in a chance to win a spa gift card or whatever you want to give. The pulse keeps the momentum of the motivation going by switching it up.”  

Valenzuela believes in the ‘chance to win’ contests, because like Ogle, she stresses that competitions can’t simply reward those who sell or buy the most. “If they do, then in the end the only people competing are those in the top two spots—everyone else simply gives up.”