Effective Coaching for Employees in the Retail Sector

Coaching Business
February 16, 2023
Table of Contents

As a store manager, what does one do when a particularly difficult customer walks through the door? Imagine that a new – or not too adept – salesperson gets assigned to them. Does one immediately:  

  1. Subtly ask the salesperson to step away and take over the conversation?  
  1. Support the salesperson by hovering in the vicinity?  
  1. Trust the salesperson and hope tensions don’t boil over?  

This is just a small example of the numerous daily challenges a floor or a store manager has to deal with. But introducing the right coaching at the right time can do wonders—after all, the retail industry is still quite KPI driven and something like coaching is expected to generate ROI. The retail sector as a client is quite focused when it comes to what goal they exactly want to achieve and within what timeframe and also prefers analytics to measures effectiveness. Hence, business coaching for retail companies isn’t a cakewalk.

Introducing a coaching culture in the retail sector can be quite challenging for multiple reasons. In this blog post, we’re going to look at some tips that can help you, as the retail coach, play a huge part in the growth of the business. 

Effective ways of retail coaching 

Coaching in retail can get quite tricky. But we have identified 5 retail coaching tips through which you can help retail employees deliver an enhanced retail experience to their customers: 

1. Think sales  

Challenge: Store managers quite often focus predominantly on operations, pushing the most obvious sales drive — interacting with the customers — to the back burner. They fill up their daily roster with tasks like filling orders, building task lists, documentation, etc. Even their correspondence with their sales staff is around store appearance, visual merchandizing, the greeting rule, etc. While all of these create a wonderful impression on the customer, what has a more prolonged and persistent impact on a consumer is the interaction with the sales staff — the primary shopping experience. On-point customer support makes all the difference.  

Coaching Opportunity: A retail coach should guide the store manager or the assistant manager to observe the sales staff interacting with customers–absolutely different from what an ecommerce business coach would have to handle. Encourage your client to lend an ear to the conversation transpiring between the sales professional and the customer, followed by a constructive and objective feedback. In retail management coaching, you need to stress the importance of focused feedback or observation-based feedback like “I noticed that you were a little pushy with the customer while convincing her to try the newly launched perfume.” Ask your client to trace it back to the sales staff’s experience, bringing the ownership back to them. Encourage your retail manager to have a productive conversation with the sales staff instead of castigating him/her for a poor sales move. For retail business coaches, goal setting conversations go a long way in achieving the desired result. This helps figure out where training is needed, and study behavior patterns to build an effective coaching program. 

Tools & Tips: Introduce the GROWTH model instead of an annual review here. GROWTH stands for “goal”, “reality”, “options/ obstacles”, “will/ way forward”. Establish a SMART goal by focusing on the behavior pattern that needs to change. With Simply.Coach’s Goal and Development Planning, you can manage each client’s goals and progress in one place. Next, evaluate the present situation; this is where you can start your journey. Ask the client useful questions like “what is going on now”, “what have you already done to attain your goal”, etc. at this stage.  
As a coach, your aim is to help unravel the individual potential of employees through asking questions. This also helps built an inter-personal relationship between the coach and the client. Next, involve the team to brainstorm ideas, options, and means to achieve the goal. Ask questions like “what else could be done”, “the pros and cons of each means”, etc. Once the team is clear on how to achieve the goal, you finally need to get them to commit to certain actions. Ask them questions like “how will you inspire yourself”, “when are progress reviews required”, etc. With Simply.Coach’s Insights, you can track client progress at a glance. 

Asking powerful question is integral to an effective coaching session.  

We have an extensive list of effective powerful coaching questions here

2. Customer needs & perceptions  

Challenge / Reality: Most store managers spend a lot of their time—if not all—in the back office, dealing with administrative tasks. They usually do not have a clear perspective on the customers’ expectations and market needs. But it’s only when the store manager has everything at the tip of their fingers, can they guide and mentor their subordinates.  

Coaching Opportunity: Coach them on walking the sales floor. As a retail coach, it’s very important for you to expound the idea of walking the sales floor as frequently as possible to your client. This would help them get a thorough understanding of what’s happening within the store.    
Tools & Tips: According to Ram Gopalan (co-founder, Simply.Coach and executive coach), the best way to deal with this challenge is to build a library of reference material that you share with your clients. Simply.Coach allows you to share notes, links and other resources via Shared Resources. In his words, “you can, for example, use a time management tracker to help client self-assess how much time they are spending on shop floor. This will help build awareness in your client.” 

3. Showcase best sales practices  

Challenge: It’s important to instill the best practices of sales in young professionals early on. But most beginners have no idea of what an ideal sales practice is.  

Coaching opportunity: Encourage your clients to use tools such as simulations of real-life situations, including demonstrations of products, price objections, qualifying questions, etc. A store supervisor may also begin with himself/herself demonstrating a successful interaction with customer. 

Tools & tips: Role playing could be an effective tool when it comes to honing sales skill in employees. This helps bring life to the coaching process. The demo of a real-life sales situation and the ideal way to handle it, finally brings the aha moment for the professionals. 

4. Reinforce follow-through  

Challenge: When you set out to bring about positive changes in your client or subordinates, merely instructing them is not enough. Many retail managers feel that their job ends with identifying a plan of action. On the contrary, that’s only half the job done. What matters most is to ensure the plan has been put to action. 

Coaching opportunity: While coaching a retail store supervisor, it’s very important to reinforce the concept of follow-through. Make sure that all the ideas discussed are actually being implemented. This gives a better perspective into whether the other techniques are making a significant impact in the client’s professional life. Preach the same to your client, so that he too does the same while dealing with his subordinates. This could be achieved via after-shift feedback or by written documentation from the sales staff. 

Tools & tips: As a retail coach the most effective tool at your disposal is a task tracker that would help you ensure that your client stays on course to achieve the desired goal. With Simply.Coach’s Action Plan you can capture action points immediately from sessions, attach actions towards a particular goal, view client actions on dashboard, and send reminders for overdue actions. 

5. Appreciative enquiry  

Challenge: The retail sector usually works by reviewing the past for mistakes and then trains their staff to mend the problem. A lot of focus is given on what went wrong instead of what has worked well. 

Coaching opportunity: The focus should be on development and not merely fixing issues. 

Tools & tips: As a retail coach, you may introduce appreciative enquiry in your methodology to highlight strengths instead of just putting the problems under the scanner. Positive conversations in your coaching sessions encourage clients to accept constructive criticism and adopt positive changes in their dealings with subordinates & clients and other retail-centric activities. 


As a constantly evolving sector, retail has its own set of unique organizational challenges. Through retail business coaching, you can bring in perspective to help maximize revenue and the conversion rate. Our retail coaching tips would help you put your best foot forward.

Sources: Researchgate, Janek, Kingstowncollege, Retaildoc, Forbes, LinkedIn 


1. How to better coach salespersons?  

As a retail coach how to engage retail employees is a challenge. Running mock situations is a great approach to improvement in the sales process. Ask your client (presumably in a managerial position) to let the salesperson walk them through the entire sales process. Afterwards, she/he should be able to answer some vital questions regarding what they have learnt about the customer, when do they think the customer has made the purchase decision, what do they think they could have done better through it all, and so on.  

2. How important is managing emotion for frontline employees?  

Any job that entails facing customers requires employees to learn to manage emotions. This helps the employees in effective interpersonal interaction. 

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Content Specialist @Simply.Coach

Jayashree Mukherjee is a content specialist by day and a content junkie (on OTT) by night. Passionate about traveling, street food and overturning the underuse of em dashes — she would have been a globe-trotter if she hadn’t been so lazy.

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