Staffing Is Key to Unlocking Sales Potential

Megan Swartz

We all know staffing can be quite tricky, whether it’s recruitment, coaching, performance, or discipline. One person in a small business can affect a whole team’s productivity. It’s easy to cling to clichés like “the pay is the problem,” but the rate of pay doesn’t always matter either. While the simple fix would be to pay more (although unfeasible in many companies), that doesn’t necessarily translate to better performance. I think it is essential to hire the right staff for your business.

Most companies would agree that personality trumps experience and credentials. Anyone with half a brain and access to Google can look up answers to common interview questions and breeze right through an interview. So how can you separate the good applicants from the bad? Oftentimes, businesses require “some experience.” But why? The only requirement I find important for new hires is an experienced trainer. It’s easier to train newcomers on your product than to train a newcomer on how to possess the energy and open-minded personality that is critical to your business. So rather than focus on experience in the hiring process, I try to audition by personality — especially in the adult retail segment.

It’s easier to train newcomers on your product than to train a newcomer on how to possess the energy and open-minded personality that is critical to your business.

Personality is vital! In our industry, you must have a team of confident, friendly and enthusiastic team members. This way your customers are comfortable talking about personal information and the help they are getting is genuine. Start the interview with a personality profile to gather an idea of your applicant’s acumen.

Ask questions like:

  • List the five things you’d get right now if I told you to throw a party.
  • Name an experience in your last job when you went out of your way to genuinely make a guest feel special.
  • What was your first thought of our store when you walked in?
  • What’s your favorite retail store ever (any market segment)? What makes it so special?
  • What was the worst shopping experience you’ve ever had? Why?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next year?
  • Why should we hire you and not the other applicants?

At this point, you’ve got an idea of what your applicant’s personality consists of. A lot of times you will hire someone who is very good at interviewing, but once they hit the floor they freeze up. Treat the rest of the interview as an audition. Have the interviewee play the part for which you’re casting. Give them your script, have them answer your phone and even put them on your sales floor to see their interaction with guests. Have them greet your guests walking in, loud and proud (this is half the battle!). The key ingredient to look for in an employee is a learning attitude. If they are willing to take your advice without automatically getting defensive, you have a good candidate.

However, if you are giving an interview and the applicant either A.) cuts you off or B.) goes on and on for days about themselves — then I suggest you tell them “’C’ you later.” This is a business where listening is key. Your guests need to leave with what piques their interest. Not empty-handed because your sales team couldn’t close their mouth and open their ear to listen to guests. Almost all skills can be trained, but personality and demeanor are very difficult to adjust. I always try to hire people that I feel will fit well with the rest of my team.

On the other hand, you may have hired some associates that perform on a level that is slightly less than what is expected (or in some cases dramatically less). Sometimes we analyze our staff and realize the majority is not as top-notch as we would like. You don’t want to replace your team in a day, so you have to work with what you have. I always try to encourage them to, “fake it ‘til you make it.” If you have some team members that are a little weaker in certain areas, then work with them vigorously to get them where they need to be. If they turn out to be unsalvageable in the long run, then you’ve done your part, and it’s time to run more recruitment ads!

Making your staff feel as important as they are can really make a huge difference — especially once you have a reasonably solid team together! First, you have to understand how important they are. Your staff is your front line — your first impression — your first (and often only) interaction with your guests. To your guests, your staff is what makes up your store and what constitutes the most memorable part of their shopping experience! Their actions will make or break you in sales and in repeat business.

When people have an exceptional experience they will often praise your associate and when opportunity arises they will suggest management should give them a raise. That is usually the final result of exceptional service provided that went above and beyond the call of duty. What happens when your guest has a “not so pleasant” experience? At best, they might slam you on social media or leave a bad Yelp review. At worst, NOTHING. That’s right — nothing! Most guests that leave unhappy won’t say a single word or complain at all... they just never come back and you have lost the guest for life. This is the worst possible outcome because you never even get a chance to correct the problem. In short, use your guests’ feedback to shape your critique, consequences and rewards for your staff. If they don't feel important, your guests never will either, and they will take their retail dollars elsewhere.

The bottom line is, you can cast in new faces all day. If they do not possess the skills to go above and beyond the interview process, you can forget about keeping your expectations high when they interact with your customer. Once you find the perfect match, if they are not adequately trained they are doomed to fail. It costs your owner more and more money to have a high turnover rate. Take the proper action from the gate and follow through with each associates training. Once you have found great talent, retain it. Someone who is motivated and/or innovative will grow your business. At the end of the day, you must give your staff the “tools for success” if that is what you wish for them to bring you.

With more than 10 years working with Deja Vu’s various branches, Megan Swartz — Deja Vu’s general manager and buyer — has made a name for herself as a dedicated and savvy, merchandising and operations-managing dynamo.