You need a skilled fisherman to sink the biggest fish

There’s an old saying you may be familiar with regarding staff training: “You may not want to train your staff in case they leave... but what if you don’t train them and they stay?”

Like all good sayings there is more than a hint of truth to it. We all know the frustration of training a staff member, spending money and time on their education, only to have them up and leave... and sometimes to use those skills in a competing environment.

But the opposite can be a greater cost - keeping staff around who are insufficiently trained. Often the cost in missed sales and opportunities goes unnoticed and unmeasured. Most businesses can tell you the sales they have made, but there are very few who can tell you about the one’s that got away!

In fact staff training can be a lot like fishing. You must have your line in the right place (where your customers are lurking), you must have the right bait or inventory, and the right rod and reel to bring them in... but most of all you need your fisherman to have the skills and knowledge to know where to put the line and how to bring the fish in when they hook it.

Like any good fishing, it helps if you can get assistance from a more experienced fisherman who knows the waters well. Taking the time to invest in training resources can be one of the most valuable investments you make in your business.

Before you invest money in inventory or getting traffic to your store, you must have the right staff and the right training in place. There is little point in having the hottest sellers and the best marketing ideas if you don’t do anything with the customers when they come! Identifying the right staff is half the battle, but merely having potential is not enough. Most stores can show inexperienced staff the basics of the product, but it’s the skill of selling that can be so hard to find and nurture. It’s not something that everyone has and when you find someone with that ability you have to give them every opportunity to flourish.

When training your staff it’s important to consider the following points:

1. Don’t fit a round peg into a square hole. Some people are more suited to selling than others. If you have staff who aren’t as strong in the selling area they can still play an important role in the business in a supporting role, performing functions that the business still requires.

2. Make sure your best salespeople get the best selling opportunities. It is nice to share the sales around, but in reality you can’t afford the luxury of seeing large sales walk out the door. A $5000 ring sale is not the environment for a new person to be cutting their teeth! Make sure all staff know who is responsible should a bigger sales opportunity come along

3. Treat training like exercise. Once is not enough. You must reinforce it regularly. It may not always be possible to get all staff to training seminars every time, but with the Internet there are many online resources available that can be accessed 24/7. Lack of time or opportunity is never an excuse.

4. Use all the resources at your disposal. Get access to training and experience from a variety of sources. Sales reps from vendors have often been successful stores salespeople themselves and are happy to pass on both product knowledge and sales skills, as it’s in their interests for you to sell their product well. Organize training with them and your staff when they are in-store.

5. Don’t be afraid to invest the time or money. Itemize training in your profit and loss accounts separately, and allocate a percentage of your payroll to training. When you see what you spend relative to wages, marketing, rent and other costs it puts the cost of training into perspective. It’s also good to see how much you spend on training relative to every dollar of wages. You wouldn’t book an expensive day on a luxury charter fishing boat then turn up with a stick and a piece of string to fish with! The same is true of your training. If you invest in paying staff, then invest in training them as well. Bank on spending 5-10% of your payroll on staff training – it will be the most rewarding part of your HR investment you make.

David Brown is President of the Edge Retail Academy, an organization devoted to the ongoing measurement and growth of jewelry store performance and profitability. For further information about the Academy’s management mentoring and industry benchmarking reports contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone toll free 877-569-8657.