5 Skills Every Team Member Must Have… Especially New Ones

Have you ever had to hire new staff around the holidays and found it difficult to find the time to get them trained well?  For that matter, have you tried to hire new staff any time of year and found it to be difficult?

Come on.  Be honest.

You have worked hard to create great relationships with your raving customers and fans.  Those relationships can be easily damaged by poor behavior from your team… And you don’t want to lose any business that way, right?

There are 5 specific skills that they must be trained on to make sure that they represent your store in the best way.

  1.  When they do not know the answer to a question.  Nothing damages trust more than when you know someone isn’t being honest.  Everyone has had the experience of asking a salesperson a question and you can just tell that they don’t really know what they are talking about.  Train your team that they don’t have to know everything.  They will never get in trouble for not knowing an answer.  Instead, they MUST be honest and say, “I don’t know but let me find out for you.”  Those words are golden.  Those words keep your customer’s faith in you strong.
  2. How to handle a line of customers at the register.  The worst thing (and the most natural response) is to get nervous and anxious.  That makes those in line anxious and mistakes happen.  Train your team that a line is nothing more than a party!  Really.  It is a sign that they all came to your store for fun and gifts.  That’s true, right?  So tell your team to act like a host.  They should talk to them all.  If they know customers in the line well enough, they can even introduce them to each other and mention things that they have in common.  Train your team to keep smiling and saying that they appreciate everyone’s business and say, “I am so glad you’re here and I will be right with you.”
  3. How to handle chatty customers.  You know exactly what I mean.  That wonderful customer who has so much to share with you…..and you have so much to do…..and there is a line at the counter.  You don’t want to hurt any feelings but you have to get back to work!  Train your team to look into their eyes, smile and say, “I would so love to talk to you more about this – but I see someone else who needs my help too.  I will check back in with you, ok?  Thanks for being here.”
  4. How to not miss ringing up items at the register when it is busy – or ANY time.  At the end of every sale, train your team to look at the number of items rung up on the POS and to compare it to the number of items in front of them.  This actually works best with a partner.  One is ringing and the other is bagging and counting.
  5. How to politely ask a question of a team member when they are talking to a customer.  There are 2 steps to this skill.  Step one is to get the team member’s attention.  There are two ways to do this.  One is to stand behind the customer and catch the team member’s eye.  The other is to have a secret sign that you will touch the team member’s elbow.  Step two is to say “Excuse me.  I am sorry to interrupt you.  May I ask you a quick question?”.

When your team has these skills down, they will always make you and your store look good to customers.  These skills are important in maintaining the wonderful relationships that you have made with your raving customers who are actually your fans.  Wonderful relationships always lead to more sales!

Contributed by Cathy Donovan Wagner, The Retail Maven, who is the founder of RETAILMavens and works with specialty, independent store owners to help them explode their profit, get better results, have more fun and get better sleep. She offers private consulting as well as group programs such as Cathy is also a Retail Minded Advisor and contributes regularly to You can contact Cathy directly at 


  • In order for a team to achieve its goal, members must work hand in hand. If a member doesn’t know how to do this then teach him. If a member doesn’t know the process of a particular task then show him. Also, good communication among members is very important.

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