On scanning many job adverts over the years, one of the most descriptive words used in recruiting is “experienced”. Be it for sales staff or any other customer interface positions. While experience, no doubt has some merit, is it more important than looking for people with the right attitude?

I have seldom walked out of a retail business and said, unless it was a hi-tech category, and said to myself “How good was that, he/she was really experienced”. I have however thought on departing “what a lovely person, he/she really treated me well, I’ll be back”. Unfortunately more often that not those thoughts are more along the lines of “What a poor effort that was, he/she showed no interest”

Those poor efforts usually begin with a greeting similar to “You right there?” or no acknowledgement at all, as the mobile phone or staying behind the counter, are far more important!

The job title for the majority of these people would be sales assistant or similar. Why were the employed and trusted with this important role of generating sales then, if they do not do their job description well? It does not matter how experienced they are if they do not want to engage the customer in a positive manner!

It would seem to me that employing people with the right attitude and disposition is therefor far more relevant than experience. I have often seen training programs, both ‘in house’ and external that that try to teach selling skills, but I do not recall seeing one that tries to change attitude.

There are many retail businesses that do not even measure a sales person’s conversion rate, average sale or even sales achieved. Sales would be the most discussed topic at senior level in any business, yet too many managers tolerate ineffective sales people. Or don’t even care to look for the right kind of people.

I believe businesses can train new employees, at this level, on everything about the job they are employed to do, but seems all wasted, to no avail, all lost if the wrong attitude is evident.  For me a good attitude in a store wins over a tired, experienced one, every time.

One of the Buzzwords is “We need to understand our customer better”. “We need to be customer focused”. Good and well, but it cannot stay in the boardroom; it should start on the sales floor, where the customer is. Unless the entire company mantra and ethos is focused on service, it won’t happen, especially if the sales people are not of the right attitude.

Why then do we see so few job ads for sales staff headed ”Do you have the right attitude? Do you love customers? We can train you to do the rest.” I have always chosen ‘happy, outgoing people’ over experienced for my sales force.

Peter Sheppard is the senior consultant of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies. He can be contacted on 02 9460 2882 or peter@retaildoctor.com.au