Training will put the plus-factor into paint profits

10 Sep 2018


Training will put the plus-factor into paint profits

My geyser burst recently – leaving a badly stained ceiling and surrounding cornices calling for repainting.

In the paint section of a well-established and well-known hardware chain, a friendly assistant politely offered service. After explaining my needs, he directed me to an aisle demarcated “Ceiling Paints” -and disappeared.

Fortunately, I knew exactly what I wanted, chose my paint, and moved to the Paint Desk where my polite assistant was now on duty. I enquired as to whether I would need anything else and he dutifully and professionally picked up the tin, perused the instructions and informed me that all I needed was to follow these instructions.

As leader of SAPMA, which has retail training as mission, I sensed an opportunity of proving a point and asked a few questions:

Do I need an undercoat, because the ceiling is badly stained? My newly established friend nodded, and fetched a can of Universal undercoat.

There are rust marks on the nails in the ceiling - what do I need to fix those? A container of crack filler was fetched and placed next to my paint.

How do I apply this filler? The putty knife was added to my increasing collection of purchases.

How do I get the stained surface smooth before I paint? Another retreat and, voila, a roll of sandpaper surfaced.

How do I apply this to the ceiling - with a roller or a brush? The salesman clocked up another few dozen metres down another aisle, and a roller rolled up.

But this won’t help for the stained cornices? Off he went again and returned with a brush to place on the counter.

Any idea how I can make the back-breaking ceiling painting a little less strenuous? Easy, my now almost bosom friend, said and back he came with an extender stick.

My wife will kill me if I spilt paint on our lovely carpet, I sighed audible, thinking it was now surely time to go. But, no, my now almost-bosom friend, heard and had another answer. A shiny plastic sheet to protect the floor was produced.

Oh, by the way, how do I clean these new brushes, I suddenly remembered? Off he went on yet another mission and, by now puffing just little, returned with a bottle of mineral turpentine to my collection of purchases which now covered most of the counter.

All of this took a while and if there had been a queue behind me, I would have been lynched on the spot with some of the rope visible in an aisle close by. We then totted up the total value of my purchases. The ceiling paint which the salesman initially felt was all I needed came to R400. The additional stuff he had fetched on that myriad of missions down that multitude of aisles added another R640 to my bill which now reached four figures.

So, what is there to learn from this energetic expedition up and down the aisles?

It’s simple, really. I went into the store, reported a stained ceiling, and was sold a tin of ceiling paint. The sales guy was happy, he had his job and made a sale of R400.

But he had missed complementary sales of more than R1000!

Why? Because he not properly trained. He could not see a sales opportunity if it were shoved in his face.

The large hardware supermarkets have commoditised paint. Their collective buying power facilitates completive pricing and this ‘selling proposition’ attracts customers. This phenomenon has happened around the world - nothing wrong with that. But smaller paint hardware stores are suffering and complaining that they cannot compete with the buying power and pricing structures of the large conglomerates.

But they can!

Smaller retailers in the U.S.A. realised that to regain their share of the paint market they needed to do more than sell. They had to become paint specialists. They needed to become PAINT AND APPLICATION EXPERTS and help their consumers - the DIY fraternity. They needed to guide them, advise which products to use, and how to use them. They needed to ask the customer why he or she was buying that can of paint. They then needed to give a quick run-through of what the job calls for. In short, the paint seller needed to be transformed into a paint specialist. The results are well documented. Not only did the American smaller paint stores regain their share of the market, they increased their turnovers in the paint sections by up to 50% and boosted store profits overall. Paint, after all, is among the priciest commodities in a hardware store.

Have we learnt this lesson in South Africa? Not a chance. “Training means time off the job. Can’t afford to have salespersons out of the store for a day at a time. Time is money. Training is expensive.” SAPMA has heard all the excuses.

Now let me destroy them.

By taking advantage of the SAPMA Retail Video Training Programme, your sales personnel can train while in the store, after hours or even at home. After 10 video modules and assessment, he or she can be transformed from seller to specialist. Your store’s paint expert – and your store - will be armed with a SAPMA-backed Certificate of Competence to keep customers happy, and keep customers. All you have to do is download the programme from the SAPMA website

By training your in-store salespersons, you will not only regain the market share of paint that you have lost, but increase profits by not just selling paint, but all the ancillaries needed for the job - at good profit margins. SAPMA’s Retail Video Training Programme will steer you back on the road to profits and just watch word-of-mouth bring new customers to your counter, asking to see your “paint expert”.

Makes you think … doesn’t it?


Executive Director.