7 Steps To Improve the Profitability of Your Frontline Staff

Why It Starts With You


Some owners or management get majestically miffed when I suggest that at least 70% of their business problems are caused by them.  Especially when they’ve just spent 5 minutes talking about their hopeless staff. Well, who hired them?


Step 1 – Hire the Best People


So, select extraordinary staff and managers. If you want a super business, only hire super people that you know you can let loose on your best customers.


For staff with direct customer contact, hire people who can connect with your customers, and make them feel special from the moment they come in. Sweet, shy frontline staff don’t cut it.


You need a person who really looks forward to helping your customers buy/rent what they need to get their jobs done; someone who is able to put a customer at ease and then ask gentle probing questions that pull out those needs, and able to empathize with their pain points.


Someone who asks smart questions that move the sales process along, rather than stupid questions that stall it.


As part of your selection process, give them an opportunity to role play with one of your staff first, and then with you.


The other normal selection criteria – education, language excellence, computing – can all be taught, but personality and emotional intelligence are developed over a lifetime.


Step 2 – Walk the Talk of Your Business Culture


When you hire someone, let them know up front how your business works. Don’t give your new starts unpleasant surprises, by being all sweet and light during the interview and then resorting to bad behavior once they are on board….


What mixed message are you sending when you advise them that stealing brings instant dismissal – and then they see you or a manager take cash from the till to go to lunch?


Management Bad Behaviour is A Cultural Defect


Only one or two management detractors can totally undermine a work team. Could you ask your staff if any of these six detractors apply to you or your managers?


  1. Lose your temper under pressure.
  2. Make some people look good at others’ expense.
  3. Discourage my bringing up problems.
  4. Favour an in-group of subordinates.
  5. Wait until a problem escalates before acting.
  6. Make me feel stupid when I disagree with you.


Step 3 – Fire Early


Can do, will do, will fit.  It takes a little time to see how someone fits into their workgroup. It’s not always anyone’s fault, just different personalities usually – occasionally a bully comes to the surface, or a drama queen or a victim.


Remember, workgroup respect is the single most important driver of team results. So if they are not fitting in or not performing in their productivity or personal discipline, get rid of them before their toxic behavior infects others.


Step 4 – Set the Tone for Day One


On the first day your staff person fronts up, they are excited and nervous and wanting to impress.  They have made a special effort with their appearance; they are smiling and ready to go. But that all wears off very quickly if your behavior and organization don’t match their expectations.


Prepare: Before that first day, prepare any documents that need to be completed. Let staff know a new wonderful person is coming to join the team. In fact, why not throw a mini party and wow them in? Make sure you personally have allocated time to that person. Assign a mentor for that first day.


Step 5 – Train Well and Often


Product Knowledge: If a salesperson knows the benefits and features of a product they are in a better position to give useful advice on fit for purpose for the customer’s job to be done.  Teach them gains and pains relating to outcomes. Now you are selling on value and not on price. Between your suppliers and the internet, there is plenty of opportunities to put together a product information catalog. Make it available for staff smartphones and your tablets.



Selling Effectively: Selling effectively has two elements – the process and the means of adding value.-


The selling process includes:

  • Effective engagement/connection
  • the best qualifying questions to determine the job
  • probing for customer-required outcomes
  • overcoming customer objections
  • the best ways to ask for the sale
  • using scarcity and urgency to close the sale
  • cross-selling to compliment the original purchase; “we don’t sell plants, we sell holes in the ground.”


Adding Value is a subtle, psychological approach to the process:

  • create anticipation in the process
  • properly present the product as though it is worth a million dollars, not just five
  • have them experience the product
  • engage their senses – touch, sight, taste, sound, smell
  • converse with a colleague, not a stranger



Customer Service: Knowing how to handle customer inquiries, complaints, sales, returns – all with a sense of ease – can help create an enjoyable customer experience. Have staff know their upper levels of service delegation.  There must be procedures for escalating issues, recording and reporting problems and solutions, and conducting surveys.


Operating Procedures: Get key procedures tested, written down and available to staff.  Be very clear about having your procedures followed, these are non-negotiable standards for staff to work the way YOU want them to. Your objective is improved productivity and increased profit.

Rosters: Make it easy for staff to access and change work rosters. Replenishment: provide in-store support to ensure the product is available for sale. Cash Management: Make money handling easy and secure, and reduce risk to staff from dangerous or loose procedures. Security: Raising alarms. Opening and Closing processes. Workplace Safety and Hygiene.


Step 6 – Set Personal Goals for Staff


Set daily targets for each salesperson.  Visit them as a group daily, and individually at least once a week to ensure targets are clear and any blockages can be fixed. Make sure you give feedback on results achieved the previous day. Let them know your targets for the day as well, those that impact on their results.


Visitor Conversions: To be able to measure conversions, you need an effective method to count visitors.  Conversions are a useful measure of your overall staff effectiveness and improvement.


Sales per Employee: work to gain increases from better training. Let them compare results.


Upselling and Cross Selling: Ensure your systems can record and measure the changes in order to report on them and reward top performance. Does a salesperson have at least 30% multiline sales receipts?


Conversation practice: Have cards or tablet prompters for staff to practice with.  Great if your staff can test their knowledge and record improvements.


Mailing lists:  Set targets for the share of customers and visitors that have joined your mailing list.


Step 7 – Reward Well and Often


Go out of your way to praise your people for a great job well done. Make it public and give their performance special status. And do it immediately. You need to reinforce great results to help turn great results into standardized behavior.


Use imagination in the rewards you offer – it reflects your own level of gratitude.


See, it’s all about YOU.


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