Work training!

03 December 2021

I don't know whether to put this in the regular Shenanigans section or to give it its moment in Storytime. This event happened literally today but I'm going to be recounting it in a story format, so I guess I'll put it here. I can't think of any other past events to write about without getting upset anyway. But enough about this, let's recount the day!

Today I went off into the city centre for official work training. Since I started my job, I've been overwhelmed with the amount of information I need to retain, and I didn't really know how to sell anything. Today helped quite a bit, but I still leave unsatisfied, and with the day having rubbed me the wrong way.

My usage of exclamation marks is misleading. Today felt very weird, and I don't think I enjoyed it that much. Helpfulness and enjoyment aren't mutually exclusive, after all. I learned that my work requires me to take on a "relationship selling" technique, which means I have to build rapport with the customer and use that to my advantage to make sales. This feels very disingenuous to me, especially since I am not a people person. It feels like manipulation, preying on the customer, sleuthing them out, and faking friendliness to fulfil your daily target.

The day started off with the regional manager of our chain explaining that we need to build trust. We sell items that require trust to be sold. I am not really comfortable with saying what exactly we sell, but we do sell expensive items. And then for the majority of the day, we went through a structure we have to loosely stick to so that we can make more sales.

One of the worst bits was initiating small talk towards the start of the sales process. Seriously, by the end of January, I can plaster this bumper sticker all around my website with pride, because I hate smalltalk.

What made this worse was that we were only allowed to ask open-ended questions, i.e. questions that do not have a yes or no answer. "What did you do in the weekend?" "I love your top, where did you get it from?" "What do you think about the new COVID rules?" That kind of thing. I literally could not fucking care less about your weekend, your top, or even your opinion on the new COVID rules. I will forget about your face as soon as you walk out of the store.

But anyway. The questions also needed to be non-business related (i.e. not related to the products we sell) and creative enough to elicit an answer. The goal here is to find common ground. "Oh wow, I love shopping at that shop!" is an example.

This seems simple in writing, but it is so hard to do in practice. And I wasn't the only one struggling - the 12 other people with me were having trouble too. Even the oldest person in the room, who was roughly 40 years old in a sea of late-teens and early-twenties, had trouble coming up with these questions. We had to roleplay this smalltalk stage of the conversation (along with the other stages) many times throughout the day. Again, terrible and awkward for all of us involved.

Once middle ground has been established, you then ask "What brings you here to see me today?" The "me" is crucial, because it is expanding on that "trust". Talk about manipulative! Then we have to probe the other person for what exactly they want. Q.A.S. is the magic acronym; question, answer, supportive response. I struggle with leading this to the next stage, which is actually finding some products that match what they're looking for.

I won't describe the rest of the process (except one part) in detail, because I want to talk about the other people in the training. The regional manager, whom I mentioned before, taught us all the stuff. I don't like her. She seems so tone deaf about the genuinity of the selling process. It's like she doesn't realize how manipulative it is. Like I get it, do what you have to do to sell a product and get the owner of the company that sweet money, but at least go about it in a way that doesn't seem scummy. I guess it's because the manager is so extroverted that she genuinely thinks that she's building "relationships", which is stretching the definition quite a bit here.

The regional manager's DAUGHTER was there too. We love nepotism! I talked to her a bit and she seemed a little stuck up. Like we were all shy and that, but I think it was obvious she was judging people for their lack of knowledge and how much they were struggling. We get it honey, you're mummy's special girl, and you're better than everyone else for being so.

There was one other trainee there whom I'd like to mention. At the start of the session, we had to pair off (UGH!) and find some common ground with the other person. I found out that we both liked Jpop (although I wasn't sure if the Jpop she liked was the same type as what I liked) and that we both want to go to Japan. I also found out she likes Kpop. She seemed very nice, but I hope she's not a weeb.

The business I work at is family-run. I found myself wondering throughout the training day: at one point does a family-run business get ruined by nepotism? Seriously, even the regional managers get their kids onto the train. The current owner of the business is the granddaughter of the founder. This owner's own granddaughter actually has her own line of products in one of the stores in the chain. Sheesh! Talk about having your career handed to you on a silver platter.

Back to the selling process. There is one stage that comes into place when the customer makes an excuse to leave and not purchase the product. It goes like this:

  1. Listen to the excuse fully - don't cut in.
  2. Acknowledge the excuse - for example, if the excuse is "I have to check with my husband", you could say "Oh yeah, it's nice to get a second opinion."
  3. Ask this: "Just before you go, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
  4. Then ask: "Do you like it?" Do you like the item?
  5. If they say yes, you need to highlight the benefits that come to the person. (Earlier in the selling stage, you need to describe a feature of the product, its advantage, and the benefit to the customer as based on the probing session).
  6. Ask, "How do you like the price?"
  7. Then ask, "Is it just this particular item or is it more than what you're willing to spend today?"
  8. Nine times out of ten, it's the price. Offer payment options such as laybuy and interest-free, and if that doesn't work, offer a 10% discount on the spot (unless the item is already on sale). You could also find a very similar item that's cheaper, and place it side by side with the other item.
  9. If it's the item, a "value problem", where the customer can afford it but doesn't like the item, you have to show the customer its value. Gotta rake in that revenue somehow.

At the end of the day, I felt bad. I have to manipulate customers to extract their money. Nevermind the fact that I am not a very outgoing and social person. I have to squeeze money out of them for my own good! How can my consciousness tolerate that?

My parents somewhat agreed with me. My dad used it to prove his point about how I should be more outgoing, but acknowledged the fakeness of it all. My mum sympathized with me - that's the way retail goes.

So yeah. That was my day. I felt like I lost a bit of my integrity today. But I have to do what I have to do to make money and hopefully earn a commission. I will try to put this all into place tomorrow and put my own personality spin to it. But I can tell I'm going to struggle a bit before I flourish. I really hope I do well, despite the objections I have with this job.