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RETAIL THINK TANK: Join the debate

Ronnie Dungan
RETAIL THINK TANK: Join the debate

Our Retail Think Tank asks our panel what's important when choosing staff - musicianship or salesmanship? What do you think?


Genevra Champion, Musicroom

It isn’t a simple case of which is better, as both ‘types’ have the potential to make great additions to a retail team. Our own store teams come from very varied backgrounds, but the staffing within each individual store contains a blend of those who are musicians first and foremost, as well as those with solid retail backgrounds. It is this balance which is crucial to the successful running of a retail unit. From a customer service perspective it is essential to have product knowledge and an affinity for music in its broadest sense to help customers with their enquiries, confidently demonstrate products, advise on the best solutions to their needs and so on.
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 Chris Jones, CODA Music

You can’t take a one size fits all approach here. If the position that you have available is specialised and involves product demonstration it would not be appropriate to employ a sales person who could not play. In a general MI sales environment I would always look for enthusiasm, personality and a strong interest in music rather than the ability to play an instrument to a high standard. Previous retail experience is sometimes useful, but skills are not always transferable from one sector of retail to another; starting with a blank canvas enables you to train new staff in a way that is appropriate to your business.

Andrew Wass, Gear4Music

Virtually all of our sales, customer service and purchasing staff play at least one instrument to a good standard. That is our starting point when recruiting, because with the right attitude and training, acquiring useful retail skills is easier than getting to Grade 8 Violin! Staff members with a musical background generally have more instant credibility with customers and suppliers. However, a balanced team is essential, and when it comes to some aspects of business – like finance and logistics – specialist skills are more important.

Roy Chudobskyi, Nevada Music

When I started in the trade, playing ability was more influential in the decision to recruit, with customers heavily relying on the staff to influence their buying decisions though demonstration. Times have changed and my priority now focuses on the primary need for outstanding customer service and a good sales manner in order to stay ahead of the competitors. Of course, being a seasoned musician is beneficial and gains customer respect, but is not as important as it once was with the onset of social networking media such as Youtube to satisfy the product demonstration need at least in part.

Mark Taylor, Dawsons

Our customers are musicians and so we need to employ musicians when recruiting in sales roles. However, we're not a museum so it's important our staff have sound commercial awareness. The key is good customer service, which leads to the customer making a purchase. In non-sales roles, it's important to recruit staff with the appropriate skills for that role. 

Dave Passera, Wembley Drum Centre

When recruiting new sales staff, the key skills and attributes I would look for would include having a warm personality, enthusiasm, charisma and the ability to be a team player. Being able to connect and communicate with all types of customer, from beginner to seasoned pro is also extremely important, allowing the salesman’s  natural personality to do a lot of the selling. Retail experience is obviously preferred, plus a minimum level of musicianship, but just being a nice guy – someone that people would want to buy from – is what I really look for.

Noel Sheehan, Sheehans Music

A background in retail can be an advantage, but it depends on the culture they are used to. Being a player is always helpful, although there’s nothing worse than staff showing off to customers. The most successful sales people have a passion for their subject, and enjoy serving customers. If those characteristics are there, then training can turn them into great employees. Without the passion, all the training in the world will achieve very little.

Simon Gilson, PMT

This is really easy to answer – they must have both. I don't believe you can learn about musical instruments in a virtual way; you have to play them. We would not be capable of our primary function in procuring and nurturing customers without our staff’s depth of knowledge as a musician. However, it's true to say that the passion is more important than virtuoso ability in an instrument category.

Rupert Bradbury, JG Windows

What I don’t look for is people who “have always wanted to work in a music shop.” 

Firstly, everyone fills out our application form so I can easily compare one with another. I’m always very pleased to see anyone who mentions something about sales targets and wanting to close sales. Sales experience definitely comes over musicianship every time, although they need to have some level of playing ability. Staff that have come from other High Street retailers are usually a very good bet, because you know there will have been a high level of training provided. 


Tags: retail think tank

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