Is staff performance in your business everything it should be? Let’s take a look into why it might not be. Staff are your most valuable asset but are you creating an environment in which they perform best? Ask yourself these 10 searching questions and we guarantee you’ll find some room for improvement that will make a difference to your bottom line.

1. Do you have the right staff?

First off, make sure you have the right staff! You’d be surprised how many owners hire people who aren’t actually that interested in the business side of their work. They like doing the job and just want to collect the weekly pay packet without having to think, or be challenged by the role. So, make sure you use a proper recruitment, interview and selection process that will give you someone with a bit of fire in their belly.

2. Do staff want to sell?

Even when you do have the right staff – they don’t particularly want to sell! There’s a simple reason for this – the image of “sales” as the shiny suited, foot in the door, pressure selling hype merchant. None of us want to be seen as that, do we? Hands down mobile phone company reps! Most of us switch off as soon as the word “sales” is mentioned. Get past this by emphasising the “knowledge holder” image of the role. “Our job is advising and helping the client to achieve their desires and these are the products that will help them.” Do make sure your staff believe in your products. It’s not easy to sell something you privately think is !@*#. Hold product awareness sessions, give samples to staff, get knowledgeable supplier reps in to demonstrate and answer questions.

3. Do staff understand your sales process?

Make sure that all staff understand the sales process – train them thoroughly! Get your Business Advisor to coach you through this as it works in your business. Remember every business is subtly different! There are key stages that must be recognised, rehearsed and practised. Everybody hates role plays but it is the only practice which will give the solid confidence needed to improve performance consistently. Make sure that your style is clearly defined – what’s the rule on client greetings? Name use? Farewells? Where is the personality of the business? What themes? What “little extras” can staff add to each client’s experience?

4. Are staff ready to be challenged on price?

It’s your job as the business owner to set prices at a profitable level, but you will be challenged on pricing by both customers and staff. How do you respond? Many people discount when challenged. Train your staff in all the alternatives –
(a) using “soft dollars” as some call it – a pre-selected product with a good enough margin to add real value to the client, but that doesn’t cost you a great deal.
(b) Bundle products into “kits” to make an attractive package.
(c) Pre-sell future services in a “maintenance programme”.
(d) Roleplay with staff the ways to handle “oh, that’s nice but it’s so expensive”.

5. Do staff know how to lead a sales conversation?

Make sure all staff know how to ask questions that lead to sales. Discussing the weather may sound an unlikely sales lead-in, but it leads to a discussion on UV protection, outdoor furniture, entertaining, travel, landscaping, house painting, holidays, cars, TV, movies, and almost anything else you can think of! The key point is you are not asking your staff to become hard sell fanatics, just to have “conversations with a purpose”, not just “purposeless conversations”. Remember Kipling’s rules – ask open questions!

6. Are your staff disciplined at following procedures?

Ensure all staff follow the rules on future appointment making and reminders. Many service operations throw away between 25% and 40% of their potential annual turnover by not handling future bookings and reminders in a positive and assertive manner. Set up a checking process to make sure this is done properly. Your Business Advisor will help you with this.

7. Is your physical environment working?

Your staff need to understand the way the physical environment of your business influences customer behaviour. This includes the actual layout and “flow” of activity around the shop. For example, the colours in use, the noise levels and distractions, the movement and interaction of staff and the movement and interaction of customers. Your staff won’t make sales if the environment irritates or “turns off” the customer in any way.

8. Have you looked at the overall customer experience?

The environment from a sales perspective starts from outside the premises. Consider parking, approach lines, window displays, lighting, doorway, entrance/exit invitations and do remember the sales environment doesn’t finish when the customer leaves the premises. What about that follow up phone call? Do you call to see how they are going? How did the product or service work for them? Any after-sales help needed?

9. What’s driving sales?

What sort of staff performance or sales incentive scheme do you have? Group or individual? There are many systems out there – not all equal. In many cases, a combination of smaller individual incentives and larger group incentives can work well in the personal services industries. You need co-operation, teamwork and a friendly environment in this industry – the customers can always tell!

10. Have you looked in the mirror lately?

Are YOU striving to make your business more profitable? If you are not committing 100%, your staff will sense it and will not go beyond your performance. Unfortunately, many business owners have come “off the tools” themselves, and haven’t changed their mindset in the meantime. In some magical way, owners then expect their staff performance to somehow be better and more focussed on sales than they are themselves. If you can recognise yourself in this – don’t worry – it can be fixed!

By Dominic Moran | Partner | Business Advisor