Many Retailers often complain about how hard it is to find good staff, yet they almost always advertise for retail experience.

Let’s be honest, Retail is not often thought of as being a long term career path, (which is a shame because it is a great career), so most sales staff are there because they just need some form of income. Perhaps they are undergoing other studies, or maybe they just need a temporary job, whilst they look for something ‘better’ in the meantime. Even some of the long-term staff are only there to provide a second income to their household, not giving the role their utmost, as to them it’s “just a job” and not a career path.

And then there are the ‘born salespeople’, who are often money motivated and thus don’t usually last long, being head-hunted or moving to an industry that promises more money, e.g. real estate.

Let us speculate and say there is as much as 20% of those working in retail, who not only ‘get it’ but are in for the long term. If that’s all we have to select from, why are we only advertising for staff with retail experience? Using this math, 80% of applicants are likely to be unsuitable, even though they can produce a resume outlining retail experience!

“People buy from people”, so it must surely be more important that applicants can demonstrate an ability to engage the interviewer, just as they would a client of yours, than sit quietly behind a great resume. I once hired a used car salesperson, ahead of many other applicants that had strong retail experience. This was because he really sold himself at the interview. I got the feeling that “I would buy from this person”, whereas “I just wasn’t feeling it” with the others.
This person became one of my best salespeople and stayed for several years, but he would never have even come through the door had I not advertised “Retail Experience is not necessary, however an ability to build rapport is”.

It’s my opinion that you can “lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, i.e. you can teach the ‘steps of selling’, but don’t expect any sales to occur unless the person has the drive and desire to not only get the sale but to truly have a positive impact on the business itself.

What are your thoughts? Is it necessary to advertise for Retail Experience, or will a demonstrable ability to engage your clients be a better pre-requisite for you to invest training into?

The best of me to you,
Mr Retail