Why and How to Make Your Staffing and Training Strategies Fit Today’s Customers

A look at new customer buying habits, and how you can hire and train employees to serve customers better.

There’s no “I” in “Team,” but there is a “me” in “Customer.” So, it’s no surprise that staffing and sales training should focus on customer wants and needs (i.e., the customer’s WIIFM—what’s in it for me?), but what are those wants and needs these days? How should training address those wants and needs? Who should you be training—that is, how should your hiring take customer wants and needs into account?

Consumer Buying Habits

Consumer buying habits have changed. Even in the midst of the most recent recession, you couldn’t find a parking place at the mall on the weekend or get into a good restaurant without waiting for hours. There were waiting lines at the spa and coffee shop. There were more tattoo parlors every year. It’s not that people didn’t spend any money. Instead, we need to understand what they spent their limited funds on, and why.

Some companies developed marketing strategies (and products or services) that made them essentially recession-proof (Gracon, B. (2016). “Meconomics 101: 16 Ways to Improve Your Marketing, Selling and Business Management for Today’s Consumers,” Castroville, TX: Black Rose Writing). Whether selling luxury cars or cosmetics, a dinner out or tattoos, these companies shaped and capitalized on the new consumer buying habits.

Research into these and many other types of companies and their marketing campaigns identified three key consumer wants states—enhanced self-image, to be entertained, and to be pampered—as bases for these successful business strategies and better sales results (Gracon, B., “Meconomics”).












Current marketing examples include:

Self-image: GoPro video equipment tells us, “This is your life. Be a Hero.” (GoPro. (2016): https://www.ispot.tv/ad/AwWD/gopro-hero4-snowboarding-featuring-travis-rice)

Entertain: Pringles chips tells us, “You don’t just eat ’em. You duck lip ’em.” (Pringles. (2016): https://www.ispot.tv/ad/AlFL/pringles-duck-lips)

Pamper: Dodge RAM trucks tells us, “You don’t have to be a king to be treated like one.” (Dodge RAM (2016): https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dodge+ram+king+commercial&view=detail&mid=09A4906ABF633D1AF77009A4906ABF633D1AF770&FORM=VIRE)

Of course, you need to hire the right people and train them well. So, let’s look at how you can apply these three consumer buying habits to meet your staffing and sales training challenges. Properly done, you won’t need to have a multimillion-dollar marketing budget to sell as if you do.














Many businesses hire people based on the company culture or hire people who are like the owner. These hiring strategies aren’t always focused on meeting customer wants and needs, especially when those wants and needs change. Instead, hiring processes should recognize customer wants and needs and evaluate staff candidates accordingly.

1. Self-image: Customers want salespeople who will help them create or amplify their self-images.

  • Search each candidate on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. What self-image does the candidate project?
  • Does it match your target customers’ typical self-image(s)?

Consider adding interview questions such as:

  • How do you determine a customer’s self-image (trendy, techy, high-fashion, thrifty, etc.)?
  • Which products and styles would you show to a customer with each of the following types of self-image: trendy, techy, high-fashion, thrifty?

2. Entertain: Customers want enjoyable experiences, even when shopping. Consider adding interview questions such as:

  • What have you done in the past to make shopping fun for your customers?
  • How would you simplify our sales processes?
  • What would you recommend we do here to make shopping more fun?
  • What promotions do you think our customers would enjoy?

3. Pamper: Customers are pampered by many types of businesses: restaurants, cosmetic counters, luxury car dealers, spas and salons, jewelry counters, etc. Offer jobs when you see people providing outstanding customer service—they know how to pamper customers.

You can also add interview questions such as:

  • Please give me an example of when you made a customer feel very special.
  • How do you feel about customers who want to be pampered?
  • How do you feel about showing customers our best products first?


Let’s assume you’ve hired the right people to serve customers who want to enhance their self-images, be entertained and be pampered. Now you need to train the new hires on selling this way and bring your current staff up to speed, too. You can do that using the following tactics.

1. Self-image: To incorporate self-image into your training programs, use techniques such as:

  • Ask new hires to think about and share their self-image with you and how they will adjust their sales techniques for various customer self-images.
  • In a staff meeting, discuss your staff’s collective self-image profile, compare it to your target customers, and discuss adjustments necessary for better sales.
  • Always practice applying new knowledge and skills in ways that appeal to customers’ self-images.

2. Entertain: To incorporate customers’ interest in entertaining (and simple) experiences into your training program, use these techniques:

  • Ask new hires how to make the shopping experience more fun for customers. Ask your experienced staff the same question and incorporate these ideas into your business.
  • When changing your products, services, and business processes, discuss how these changes will improve the customer experience and practice application of those improvements.
  • Incorporate role-plays in which staff members “play” the customer role, focusing on how enjoyable (or not) their shopping experience is.

3. Pamper: To incorporate customers’ interest in being pampered into your training program, use these techniques:

  • Discuss the impact that pampering customers can have on your business and staff paychecks (as appropriate).
  • Ask your staff to recall experiences when they felt pampered, and discuss how to build those types of experiences into your sales processes.
  • Create scenarios and ask your staff to practice their pampering skills on you and one another.

In all cases, ask training providers to incorporate self-image, entertain, and pamper application of new skills into the design of their training programs. If they can’t do so, consider finding new training providers.

Brian Gracon has 20 years of experience as a training and marketing consultant and instructional designer (www.meconomics101.com and www.traininggetsresults.com ). He is the author of “Meconomics 101: 16 Ways to Improve Your Marketing, Selling and Business Management for Today’s Consumers” (Black Rose Writing, 2016).

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