This time of year many farmers and growers begin prepping for the market season. Before long, customers will be lining up at local farm stands and farmers’ markets ready to buy. Before the cash changes hands, however, many customers are hungry for information.
Getting the seeds started, the labels printed and the displays designed is part of the excitement of direct marketing. But don’t forget the most important investment you can make toward a successful season is a comprehensive training for your employees.
Training the staff who do your selling is critical to developing customer loyalty, increasing the average sale per customer and generating the kind of ‘buzz’ that keeps customers flocking to your stand. So, what should you include in your training sessions?comprehensive training for your employees.
First, all staff members should be familiar with the products they are selling. This understanding goes way beyond being able to differentiate between a sugar snap and a green bean. Sales staff should know the variety, why it was selected, when it was harvested and what some of its special attributes are. If you have many different products, keep a reference binder handy with pictures of the product and descriptions of why you sell that variety.
Second, make sure your staff knows your production methods and can explain how things are grown, harvested and prepared for market. For example, if you tell you staff that they are to tell customers that all the farm products are grown sustainably then make certain they know how to respond when the customer asks what ‘sustainable’ means. Likewise, if your products are certified organic, make sure your staff can provide a short, but clear, explanation of what that certification means.
Third keep a chart handy to help staff understand when different items are likely to appear at the market. When a customer asks how long until the strawberries are ready, you don’t want the question to be met with a blank stare, shrugging shoulders or, worst of all, “I don’t know.”
Finally, be sure your staff can answer basic cooking and storage questions. Should this be refrigerated? How long will this keep before cooking? Do I need to wash this before using? What parts are edible? Can this be frozen?
Giving your employees the information they need to be good ambassadors for your business will pay dividends well beyond your investment. Not only will you see the results in increased sales but you will also be developing an educated and loyal customer base.