Why training is time well spent

Paul Lees, Tarmac National Sales Manager for Packed Cement, explains how keeping on top of learning really can pay dividends for merchants.


We all know the challenges faced by merchants in order to survive, develop and grow their business. We’re also well aware that professional development is key to produce committed, skilled and well-qualified staff members that can take the business to new heights. But what exactly are the benefits of merchant training?  

It’s a no-brainer. Keeping up-to-date with industry best practice, plugging gaps in knowledge and refining skills are all essential elements that will give any merchants the edge in a competitive market. Training is a win-win – for both the merchant looking for professional development and, ultimately, the end-user.

Plugging the knowledge gap

Across the construction industry, product development is constantly evolving, with research and development a big area of investment for many firms. For example, Tarmac Blue Circle’s cement brand ensures that all stakeholders, including merchants are kept fully aware of new products and developments, as and when they arise.

Training provides merchants with the opportunity to learn about these new developments and products, not only giving them a competitive edge but also helping them boost sales. By refining their knowledge of products and industry advancement, merchants will gain the confidence to provide customers with sound expertise and wise counsel, helping to grow their reputation by acting as a trusted advisor. By demonstrating good company and product knowledge, staff members can promote the quality features as benefits, and in turn, become sellers, not just order takers.

Maximising margin

Margin erosion through unnecessary discounting and poor sales techniques can be a key problem for builders’ merchants, so it’s important that all front facing staff receive suitable training to tighten margin management.

Of course, there are the obvious training considerations, such as understanding margin, mark-up, profit and net-profit. Yet, a major factor for sales representatives is to be able to recognise the process and key steps in successful negotiation.

An example is cross selling, which can be one of the simplest ways to grow revenue. Here, merchants should be taught the skills to successfully negotiate with the customer to identify buying motives and achieve a win-win situation. For example, staff showing genuine interest in customer projects and offering their expertise should be second nature to them. This will inevitably lead to more sales, as staff give their advice on which product they should purchase.


When people hear visual merchandising, its not uncommon for them to feel nervous and uneasy, especially if they consider themselves artistically challenged. However, strong visual merchandising has a huge impact on customer experience in builders’ merchants, so it’s important that it is done right.

A good training module will teach staff how to create attractive and tactful product displays that not only create visual desire for customers but also increase wider basket spend through strategic placement. Reducing single line purchases and enhancing the customer journey should be a priority for merchants. One way of doing this is to place products in eye-catching, logical groups, that not only increases awareness but also make the purchasing process easier for the customer.

Overall, well-designed, impactful displays which expose the customer to as much relevant merchandise as possible – while avoiding a disjointed mess – will increase sales.

Customer service

Customer service is self-explanatory, in that everybody aims to support their customers before, after and during the purchasing process. But, while the concept of providing an excellent service may seem simple, it can all crumbing down with poorly trained staff.

Any reputable training course will demonstrate the importance of good, clear and honest communication between customers and those individuals representing the builders merchants. Establishing the key skills of delivering effective customer care for the benefits of the customers will do wonders for customer retention, as well as the business itself.

Importantly, the key results from a customer service module will bring elevated service level standards, as well as a better understanding amongst staff when it comes to customer perceptions and the components of excellent customer service. After all, any decent salesman can make a sale, but it takes great customer service for them to keep coming back.

Overall, to help achieve commercial excellence in-store, from plugging knowledge gaps and influencing sales to positioning and cross selling, make sure to snap up any manufacturer training opportunities, as and when they become available. Expanding your team’s knowledge and expertise will no doubt bring added value to your customers, which will amplify sales.

About Paul Lees

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