Putting the passion back into retail L&D: 5 top takeaways (Ep16)

How can you make a business case for learning and development? What is the vital missing ingredient for most training programs? Why must learning be a personal choice? In this week’s episode, we spoke to Bob Phibbs, aka, The Retail Doctor. Bob shares some inspiring examples of scalable learning interventions that have boosted company profits – see our top 5 takeaways below!

Putting the passion back into retail L&D with Bob Phibbs

About Bob

Bob Phibbs, also known as the Retail Doctor, is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing mentor, and author of three books. Bob has over 25 years experience in supporting large organizations with retail learning strategies. 

Hear what Bob had to say about retail L&D on the Learning at Large Podcast:


Or search for “Learning at Large” on your podcast player of choice.

Here are our 5 top takeaways:

1. The missing ingredient for most training programs is the “human” element.

“So, I think the smart money is, you know it’s going to take a lot of work, but you’ve got to be looking at the people aspect more than saying there’s something that’s an expense and cut, there’s something that we have to develop.”

2. There is a learning difference between exposure and training.

“Well, it’s funny, I don’t believe in getting staff up [to speed] quickly. Because … there’s a difference between training and exposure. Exposure would be, you and I are sitting watching TV, Serena Williams is playing at Wimbleton, and you turn to me and say, “I could do that.” And I’m like, “Simon, there’s no way you could do that.” You understand the game, but you haven’t actually practiced that backhand five hundred million times so your body takes over.”

“It’s the same thing. A lot of people want a quick fix: “Oh, well bring someone in and have him speak, and they’ll be trained.” They won’t be trained. They’ll be exposed, because most training makes sense… It takes roleplaying, it takes practice.”

3. Learning must be a personal choice, infused with passion and self-development opportunities.

“It is homegrown. Simon, I look at it that if I’m bored, you’ll be bored… when you go to retaildoc.com and look at my speaking page, you’ll see people blowing up balloons. We make paper airplanes and kind of destroy cake. That’s my thing, because my goal is to model an exceptional experience where you’re not aware of time, and to keep you so engaged that you’re like, “What’s next?” … I need to model what an exceptional experience is and give my all. “

“That’s the job of management; you make an exceptional experience for your employees, and they’ll make an exceptional experience for your customers. Without that, you can’t just expect your employees to do an exceptional job if you’re not going to make them feel like they matter.”

“I mean, we’re killing our employees because we aren’t passionate. I just say, if you’re listening to this, just consider how much you’re settling for when you’re having crumbs and you could have the feast. It usually comes back to looking at your training, looking at who you hire and how you onboard them, and how you hold them accountable.”

4. Bite-sized training that focuses on soft skills is easily scalable and accessible.

“SalesRX is built on 90 lessons, which is a lot. And we have both a foundational and advanced learning. The way I always say it is, as I always say in the course, if you’ll just give me a chance, you’ll find you’ll use these skills throughout your life. It’s not just training this for retail. This is how we talk to people, this is how you get to make a friend, this is how you find something in common with somebody that you work with. This is how you are able to ultimately sell yourself if you want to go out and make a movie, or go to get a loan at a bank.”

“Ultimately, all these skills are soft skills. That’s the difference, Simon. I don’t teach anything about product knowledge. And product knowledge used to be the gold standard – that all our employees know all the stuff about the products. That just isn’t possible anymore. If I’m looking for, I don’t know, red boats that can go 80 miles an hour through a bog, I’ve done a lot of research on that. My world is really narrow. So, it’s very possible I could walk into your sporting goods store and I know more about it than you. That’s okay, because for me, that’s my little world.”

5. Demonstrate the business value of learning by showing both statistical ROI and improvement in “human” experience.

“So, the big buzzwords in retail are conversions and add-ons. Those are the two things I care about. How many shoppers who walked in the door purchased something? … So, the note for a retail learning manager would be, if we could convert 3 percent more traffic to sales, would it be worth it? I guarantee it would. The ROI is so low on training because you can touch every sale – but I’ve got to tell you, there’s a lot of crap out there.”

“Look, there are three parts to the sale. I need to engage a stranger – that’s really hard. I have to win them over in roughly less than a minute each time. Then I’ve got to discover the shopper and get them to tell me their hopes and wants and desires instead of, “What are you looking for?” Then I’ve got to actually make a customer, which means they buy from me today. What it really comes down to is your job is to move the merchandise. Then there’s really only one other thing to look at, which is you need to add the humanity back to a retail store if you’re going to move the merchandise.”

Contact Bob

Linkedin – Bob Phibbs

Facebook – Retail Doctor

Twitter – Retail Doctor

Podcast – Tell Me Something Good About Retail

Blog – Retail Doctor

Join the conversation!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email me at simon@elucidat.com. As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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