Discover what’s holding your frontline sales team back from achieving success.

Many people see sales as a job function that only a unique few undertake, but the truth is that every day, humans are trying to get other people to buy something. As children, we sell our friends on the game we want to play. As teens, we’re selling a potential date on why they should go out with us. And as adults, we’re selling our coworkers, bosses and clients on our ideas and offerings. But for some reason, the word “sales” invokes feelings of displeasure or even fear, and can cause us to fall short of our potential because we have preconceived notions that it’s hard, unwelcome or generally not something we want to do.

We know that we achieve bigger guest check averages and happier guests when we sell from a guest’s perspective, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Read on for the biggest sales growth obstacles in FECs and how to break through them with confidence.

1. Insufficient training for frontline sales

What seems natural or common sense may not be to anyone else so it’s critical that you never leave something as important as communicating your FEC’s offerings up to chance. Often times, managers take the time to teach skills like point of sale operation, cleaning checklists, and basic guest service, but they fall short in helping equip team members with the language they need to become confident with selling at the front line.

In my experience, a great onboarding training program includes training in why you’re in business, what you have to offer and how to do it – factoring in both hard and soft skills. But just like when you sell to guests with different buying styles, remember that your team members have different learning styles and then build a varied training approach.

While teaching English, I learned that it’s best to let your audience discover the information for themselves to help it stick. The more interactive your training sessions, the better prepared your team will be to handle different sales situations at your FEC. Vary trainings with visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile team members in mind so that everyone can get what they need from the training. Use a PowerPoint with engaging images (don’t succumb to death by PPT), flip chart work, and scenarios – live or in pictures.

Rather than simply lecturing, “when a guest approaches Admissions, do XYZ,” try turning more statements into questions, like “what do we need to do when a guest enters our facility?” When you elicit the information, team members build more confidence and remain engaged while you continuously assess learning gaps and introduce or reteach any content or skills as necessary. Make it memorable and fun – and don’t stop once a team member is through onboarding. Consider regular trainings to introduce new offerings, skills or to help team members stay motivated and sharp.

2. Not sticking to goals

It’s common for you and your team to start out great. Maybe you attended a seminar on upselling and you’re excited to do great things in your FEC! But before too long, your momentum begins to stall out. Sound familiar? I call this “creep” and it’s the dip in sales and guest service motivation over time when left untouched – and remains a primary reason ongoing focus and training is so important.

If you want your FEC’s frontline staff to focus on sales every day, make it part of your culture. Just like how your point of sale touches every guest and every dollar, remember that upselling conversations should happen with every guest on every shift. You can achieve this through modifying items in your point of sale to automatically trigger your team member to offer a large drink or a specialty add-on, with a daily or weekly product push discussed in pre-shift meetings, or with specific dollar or unit sales goals. Team member bonuses, commission and contests are great ways to incentivize staff to sell more because it appeals to their need to know what’s in it for them. Use your system’s sales reports and sort by team member, item or station to track and manage success and coaching opportunities.

3. Individual fear factor

Fear is like a weight tied around our ankles that keeps us from moving forward. Okay, that’s a little dramatic. But think about it: fear prevents us from asking for the date, trying out for a team or going sky diving. Ignoring fear or being flippant about its effects is counterproductive. Instead, “confront your fears, list them, get to know them, and only then will you be able to put them aside and move ahead” – Jerry Gille.

So just what are team members afraid of? Here are the top three.

  • They’re afraid of seeming salesy, pushing or being annoying to your FEC’s guests. That’s why it’s so important to train them with the right language and lots of practice so that they can navigate the conversations effortlessly — even when it’s time to thank the guest and move on to the next.
  • They’re afraid of the line of guests in front of them and feel too busy to engage. At Admissions, team members don’t have a lot of time of time to have in-depth discovery sessions with guests, and that’s okay. Arm them with the right introductory language, a firm handle on your FEC’s offerings and the important selling points that will help guests see the value quickly.
  • They’re afraid of rejection and being told ‘no.’ This is tough – no one likes being rejected so it’s up to you as managers to help team members understand that rejection is not personal. Guests aren’t saying the team member or FEC is bad, they’re just not interested in that offering. Teach team members that a ‘no’ doesn’t mean a failure but rather an opportunity to offer something more compelling now or even next time. If staff are connecting with each guest and thinking about what’s in the guest’s best interest, it’s a win every time.

As a manager, it’s important to keep your sales management approach in check as well. If team members are afraid of how you’ll react if they don’t make their goals, I believe it will add unnecessary pressure and make their interactions worse. Use praise and constructive coaching to lift them up rather than to tear them down. While the younger age group likely to be your frontline staff these days is competitive, they (like just about every other human) do not respond well to being negatively compared to others. Let the numbers and successes of individual team members do the talking, and refrain from “rubbing other team members’ noses in it.”

4. Assumptions are made

Assumptions are at the root of so many evils, and absolutely can impact your FEC’s sales. If you make too many assumptions about what a guest wants or is willing to spend, you’re almost guaranteed to leave money on the table and lose upselling opportunities. Remember: you don’t have to apologize for what you charge at your FEC. You get to charge what you want with the right product quality and service level behind it. But pricing assumptions can be tough to overcome.

I spoke with a business owner of a high-end birthday party experience and when I saw his pricing, I told him that he was leaving too much money on the table. For what he was offering and to whom, he was severely underpriced. He’s not a parent but said that he didn’t think he would pay what I was suggesting for a birthday party. But it’s not necessarily about what you would pay or what you think a guest can afford but rather making thoughtful suggestions based on what you hear from guests that you believe would enhance their experience in some way. The bottom line here is to help team members understand who your guest is, their expectations, and to not allow biases to influence what they’re willing to suggest or offer to guests.

They might also be assuming that their contribution makes no difference – either that you don’t care or don’t “need any more money.” A culture based on transparency and team commitment is the best way to counteract that assumption – and it’s especially debunked when you couple sales targets with team member incentives.

Though it may seem like there are a lot of sales growth obstacles that your FEC needs to overcome, the answers can almost always be found in the relationships you cultivate with your staff and guests. Have some nonnegotiable sales management systems in place so you can maintain your focus, prevent sales creep and crush your goals.

Check out how CenterEdge reporting and analytics can help make maintaining the right sales focus easier.

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