Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

The right attitude

It is important to incentivise staff and find out their motivational drivers to encourage the right attitude, says Sean Howard, vice-president solutions marketing at SHL

With John Lewis spending £6m on a single advertising campaign this year alone and Tesco spending close to £150m last year for the relaunch of its Clubcard, it is clear that the retail sector takes marketing very seriously, perhaps more so than usual during difficult economic times. Question: do retailers, therefore, convert the opportunities created by this marketing spend through employing the staff with the right attitude? Do your staff like selling; do they care about your customers;
are they willing and comfortable to up-sell?

Attitude, attitude, attitude

Recently, I visited Beaverbrooks, the jeweller. The clocks had just gone back, but I couldn’t figure out how to adjust my newish watch. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, I approached a salesman and sheepishly explained my predicament. Even though I was not going to make a purchase, he helped me quick as a flash without adding to my obvious embarrassment. He clearly had the right attitude and I am certain to be a future customer.

Some retailers even define this attitude. Lifestyle retailer, Fat Face looks for “fattitude” in potential recruits, which is a set of core values it wants in its team. McDonald’s has achieved huge cost savings since overhauling its recruitment process a few years ago with the creation of the ‘hire the smile’ initiative. Plus we all would rather buy a burger and fries from a smiler than a misery-guts - and might be more likely to let them up-sell us a Meal Deal!

Have you got what it takes to sell?

McKinsey research in October 2010 found that “at most, 45% of frontline employees across multiple retailing sectors have the personality and attributes to be effective sellers”. Customers do not want to buy from retailers where staff demonstrate a bad attitude and don’t have sales skills, and organisations as diverse as Fat Face and McDonald’s have recognised this and done something about it.

If customers have good experiences, such as mine at Beaverbrooks or in outlets that recruit and motivate the right staff with the right attitude and values, those customers can be up-sold to and will return to that retailer and tell their friends what a good experience they had enjoyed.

What makes people tick?

If retailers recruit those with the right attitude, those who want to sell and look after customers, there will be an inherent motivation level within those individuals. Thirty years of SHL research and experience with retailers reemphasises that there are some people who like selling and others that just don’t.

Recent SHL research has shown that 47% of the UK workforce are staying in a job they dislike for fear of having no other option, a fact that alone should prompt all businesses, but doubly so any business relying on customer-facing individuals, to get under the skin of what motivates their employees. If they do not do this now, they risk losing their employees’ good attitudes. So it needs to be a top priority across the retail sector to implement adequate reward and retention strategies -
and this does not simply involve increasing salaries.

As well as recruiting the right people in the first place, the real trick is, of course, to identify the exact nature of the type of selling in question and to understand your people’s motivators and triggers - ie, what makes them tick as individuals. Even within the retail sector, there are various different types of selling, dependent on the customer base, market segment and product.

Each one of us is driven by a subtly different set of motivators. Knowing this combination makes being able to engage your people - be it through bonus payments or in non-financial ways - much easier, and as a consequence you should see better performance and a strong contribution to an improved sales total.


Attitude is key and needs to be identified during the hiring process. If you expect or want staff that are good at up-selling, you need to recruit with that in mind rather than wonder why staff just won’t ask that one extra question with a smile.

Once an employee is on board, line managers should invest time and energy in understanding not just overall levels of motivation and engagement but, much more importantly, each person’s individual motivational drivers. Making broad assumptions about how to turn an individual or a group from being disengaged into being driven will only ever have moderate success at best. And moderate success will not equate to satisfied and returning customers.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.