Engaging Staff to Drive Sales & Service

Invest in Your Employees

Customers are the core focus of any business. Without customers, a business cannot exist; however, without employees to work in your business, you won’t be able to sustain and grow your company for the long term. I often hear of store owners working in their business day in and day out because they can’t afford to hire staff.

I was even one of those owners once! Once this cycle starts, business owners get stuck and it is a very hard pattern to break. They get caught up in the day-to-day routines of running a retail store and can’t actually work on their business to grow sales from a top-level view.

Employees are the backbone that supports owners. Happy, educated, and empowered employees can take your businesses to an entirely new level because they are retaining your customers and building relationships in your store. Owners can then market and grow their business, trusting that when a customer walks through the door, the team they have invested in will be there to do an exceptional job of selling to and servicing their customers.

Here are some tips you can apply within your store to help grow and challenge your employees.

Engaged Employees

I know I wake up every day excited to go to work. Do your staff? Do they love what they do? Have you asked? Ask! You will learn what makes each person want to work for you and why they are there. More often than not, it’s not just about getting a pay cheque. People need to work, so why did they pick your store? Perhaps they have a passion for craft beer and are working on their cicerone certification.

If your employees aren’t happy to be working in your store, send them on their way to discover what they are passionate about. Then find someone who does care. Determine how you can support each person on your team and that knowledge will end up being applied to your customers. Your costs for turnover will go down, and you will end up with top performing staff that provide excellent customer service and are excited to be a part of a team.

Great Expectations

Often store owners look past setting standards for store procedures and organization. Ensure your standards for cleanliness, organization (i.e. purchaser orders, invoices, and receiving product) as well as customer service are communicated clearly. Once communicated, ongoing follow up and retraining may be required.

A great strategy is to create a policy and procedures manual that outlines all expectations and provides the procedures you want your staff to follow. That way, when you are not present, they have a resource to check when they have a question.


When your team takes pride in your store, they will make it their priority to maintain the standards. This translates to customers feeling safe and welcome in a store where care and attention to detail has been considered. Product sales increase because customers are offered comfortable shopping experiences with access to friendly staff.

If you want your team to understand your store policies, don’t just throw a boring manual at them.

If you have new staff or people who haven’t worked in retail before, you need to educate them! Be sure to teach them your expectations in terms of operations and procedures and not just educate them on the products you carry. Of course the products carried are important to know, so continual education and trade events should be offered.

Ongoing Education

Continual education for your team comes in many forms and should always be ongoing. Bring in reps to provide product knowledge sessions for your team. Just be aware of your licensing regulations and that anyone working, may not taste, or go back to work after a tasting. Give your staff the knowledge about what they are selling and let them showcase their favourite items.

If you want your team to understand your store policies, don’t just throw a boring manual at them and expect them to read it. Review it often, make it fun for your staff, and use it as a tool that can grow alongside your business. Have five-minute pre-shift meetings to review the expectations of the day. For example, you may want them to all focus on double checking IDs that day.  Or perhaps you have a promotion going on for a wine that’s on display and want them to focus on selling that promoted item.

Role Playing

Equip your staff with the knowledge on how to check ID and what to do when they suspect a fake ID. Role playing is a great tool that gives your team knowledge on how to handle a potentially uncomfortable situation when it occurs in real life. You can even use role playing to create real-life examples of how you want your customers greeted when they enter the store. For example, I would expect customers to be greeted within thirty seconds of entering the store, by saying hello and acknowledging them with a smile and pleasantries and not yelling “Hi!” from 50 feet away while I unpack my latest order. The order can wait, customers cannot.

Give employees access to a small petty cash allotment to implement changes that directly enhance the store or guest experiences.

At first, it’s definitely uncomfortable doing role playing with a partner in front of the team, but everyone takes something away, plus it’s fun! Policy manuals and role playing within your team allows your staff to become educated and empowered. It builds confidence in them and they feel valued. This sense of value gets transferred to your customers who feel valued when they shop at your location.

Empower Staff

Once your team understands they are valued, continue to empower them. Let them make choices and decisions on behalf of their store. Give them access to a small petty cash allotment to implement changes that directly enhance the store or guest experiences. For example, you could set a policy that any team member has access to up to $30 to implement something in the store.

One ownership group had a store that everyone and their dog (literally) shopped in. A team member decided it would be a great idea to add dog treats at the till for their customers’ furry friends. Doggy treats were offered for free, providing customers with a unique and different experience, and it increased their shopping frequency. That empowered and trusted team member implemented a great idea, and it built sales.

When the ownership creates an environment that empowers their team, it goes a very long way to elevate the customer experience within the store. The store environment has a happy, positive energy that both staff and customers enjoy.

Rebecca Hardin is Vice President of Rising Tide Consultants. Connect with her for help with creating your own set of policy manuals or for store operations assistance. www.risingtideconsultants.ca