Build a Workforce of Solid Brand Advocates
In the previous RPU newsletter, we looked at a number of ways to create a culture of continuous employee development. Employee training and education doesn’t have to happen in a traditional classroom for it to be valuable to your employees and to the company. In fact, some skills are better taught on the job or in an environment where employees don’t feel the pressure and anxiety they often associate with formal education.
Another effective way to encourage employees to move their education beyond the walls of your training room is to have them give a talk on an industry topic at conferences or workshops. This is especially effective for training sales associates in specialty retail. The Digital Age consumer comes to your store fully prepared. They’ve already researched your product features, compared them with your biggest competitors, and read all the customer reviews. When they approach your sales associate, they are expecting insider knowledge that they can’t get from the internet.
Is your sales team prepared to give them what they’re looking for? The transient nature of retail creates a daunting chasm between customer expectations of your team’s product expertise and the reality. So how can you build a workforce of solid brand advocates with industry and product expertise? Implement the practice of employee-led industry training talks.
Nothing motivates an employee to master a topic than having to give a presentation to a group of people. Presenting on topics related to the work they already do gives employees a measure of confidence and at the same time fosters a deep understanding of current industry issues surrounding your retail strategy. In requiring presentations like this, you are developing a team of industry experts who can train their fellow employees to be effective brand advocates on the sales floor and at your company’s promotional events. In preparing for the presentation, your employees also develop strategies like outlining, organizing, teaching, and public speaking – soft skills that are critical for success on the job but which are only learned through experience.
In 1973, a market research firm called R.H. Bruskin Associates conducted a survey of over 2,500 adults in the United States, and found that the greatest fear for 40% of respondents was the fear of public speaking. Gallup conducted similar surveys in 1998 and 2001 with identical results – 40% of people feel anxiety over speaking in front of a group. Time and market researchers have tested and found again and again that this fear, called glassophobia, is most common in humanity, outpacing even the fear of death. It follows that more people would rather die than speak in front of an audience.
In many cases, all it takes to get over the fear of public speaking is a successful experience. Once you experience it, you realize that it wasn’t as bad you thought it would be, and we don’t have to go far to find a relevant example. I recently submitted a research project to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, a professional association in my educational field. My paper on lecture capture policies was accepted and I was asked to present my findings at their 35th annual conference in Anaheim, CA. In addition to formal presentations and keynote addresses, the conference provides many opportunities for emerging scholars to present and receive constructive feedback on research in various degrees of completeness.
Although I had confidence in my knowledge of the topic, I had never given a presentation of this magnitude before. As the conference approached, I began to feel anxious and seriously considered backing out. I felt extremely vulnerable as I thought about the audience and their criticism. I imagined them picking apart and denouncing my work in public forum.
Finally, the big day came and I shuffled nervously toward the podium at the front of the. At first, I was a little shaky but as I began explaining the research, my interest in this subject took over and I soon forgot all about the potential critics in the audience. Before I knew it, my time was done. Afterward, a few people in the audience approached me and offered positive feedback. I was relieved. I realized that I had let my imagination take over and paint the worst possible scenario.
Lead Customers to a Sale with a Persuasive Brand Story
In retail, your sales team may never have to present your product and brand philosophy to more than even five people at a time. But how many times have your employees lost a sale because they didn’t know how to answer your customer’s question, or unwittingly did so in a way that caused the shopper’s confidence to drop? How many of those instances could have been prevented, had your sales associate known how to look up the information through your Retail Pro retail management software?
Every instance of engagement between your sales associate and your customer is a mini-presentation on your brand story. Cultivating public speaking skills in your employees can go a long way in making them more persuasive as they lead your customers to a sale, and employers can take the following practical steps to help employees gain these skills.
3 Practical Ways to Build Employee Presentation Skills
Scaffold Shaky Speakers with a Presentation Partner
Not all of your employees will eagerly accept a request to give a product training presentation to the rest of your team. Some might require a little more hand-holding and preparation. That’s OK. The goal should not be to give a perfect, polished presentation, but rather to learn to skills associated with public speaking. You might consider pairing an anxious employee with a more seasoned associate in your company. Having someone else up there with them gives the inexperienced employee a feeling of safety in case something goes wrong.
Give Constructive Feedback to Help Employees Recognize Presenting Strengths and Weaknesses
Don’t forget to provide feedback after the presentation. We learn best through constructive criticism and positive reinforcement. Feedback doesn’t always have to be formal. Simply give an analysis of the presentation and some tips for how to improve the next time. Set a reasonable, attainable goal for your employee. For example, you can send them to a Retail Pro University product training course and ask them to prepare a training presentation on how to use the key features for your other employees, this time without a partner.
Take Public Speaking to the Next Level at Industry Events
While it may seem less intimidating to give a presentation for the employees in your department or company, a formal presentation at an industry conference like the Retail Pro Customer Summits provides an opportunity for a different caliber of presentation. Employees take it more seriously and take their skills to a new level. Remember: the company gains tremendous benefit from the added publicity and visibility that comes with having an industry expert on staff.
Through each of these ways you can develop a retail staff that knows the trending issues and can speak with authority and expertise on your brand. Don’t ever lose a customer to poor presentation skills again.
Interested in Retail Pro product training? Contact us at email@example.com to learn more about our variety of standard and custom training solutions for your staff.