Friday, March 26, 2010

Do what it takes

Are you doing what it takes to earn more business? I had two separate interactions today that really blew me away.

First, I had inventory early this morning at a store west of town. Finished that, had lunch and worked at another store until mid-afternoon. On the way home, I got off the freeway and stopped for some bottled water. The attendant behind the counter asked if I was from the area or just passing through. I told him what I had done today and I was just passing through although I used to be a regular customer of that convenience store about 12 years ago. He thanked me for coming back and asked me to make that store "my convenience store" whenever I am in the area.

It took me a second to figure out what he meant by that statement. When I realized what he meant I was floored!! I have NEVER had an attendant at a convenience store ask for my business in such a way. I tell you . . . . whenever I am in this area again I will stop and buy something!

The second occurrence happened at tonight at Target. I received a gift card for Christmas and I still had a balance on it but didn't know the amount. I stopped at the electronics counter where a sales associate was assisting a customer trying to purchase a video game. The customer had some type of unique-ity (rather than a disability) and couldn't understand that he was about $17 short. Are you ready for this? The Target sales associate took out his wallet, pulled out his debit card and made up the difference.

This customer may never comprehend what this associate did. Not to overuse a phrase but this blew me away! I told the associate (Zack) that what he did was beyond what was called for. He said he saw a need and just did what he thought would be the right thing to do.

These guys were doing what it took to make an impression and possibly earn customers for life. I'm not suggesting that you open your wallet and buy your guests' purchases. But . . .

Are you willing to do what it takes?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do more with less . . . Why and How?

Do a Google search on the above title and you'll get thousands of pages, articles and images about doing more with less. Frankly, I believe it is an overused phrase and most people do not understand what is implied by this statement.

However, during the past 18 months, many people across the globe have experienced some kind of economic downturn anywhere from mild to catastrophic. And we are reminded every day in store that many around us are still experiencing tough economic times. It does not matter if the turbulent times were caused by political forces or cyclical economic trends. They are real and the consequences run deep.

So we are often asked to "do more with less." How does this statement affect us? It may mean fewer hours for some employees. It may mean longer hours for others. It means we have to maximize every dollar that comes through our registers. It means cutting expenses. It means taking advantage of buying discounts from our partners. It means paying attention to product trends and customer trends. It means taking time to educate yourself and your customers on new product innovations, new delivery methods and new research.

One term that comes up repeatedly when you search on "do more with less" is organization. Some of you reading this may be thinking, "David, you're not the most organized person in the world. How can you be telling us about organization?" Let's call it a personal work in progress and it is something we can help each other accomplish. For some good tips on organization read this article.

Use this post to be ready when the inevitable statement "Do More With Less" comes your way. If it hasn't hit you yet, be ready for it when it does!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three R's of Success - Relationships

Relationships, Referrals and Reputation.

How are you doing in each of these areas? What's that you say? You don't have any responsibility in these areas? Wrong Kemosabe! As agents of the companies we all represent, everyone is obligated to be an ambassador of their organization.

This is the first part of a three-part series. Let's take a look at our relationships.

Relationships can be with your customers, neighbors, suppliers, fellow employees or management. Did I forget anybody? In our business (retail) our relationship with our customers is at the forefront of our operations every day. Recently, my best customer came into the store. And by best, I'm referring to the customer that spent the most money in my store over the last year. She was shocked to hear that she was our number. I believe she was only thinking about the money she has spent in a year's time to qualify for this distinction.

Where would we be if we had another customer that spent as much as she has? How about 5 more? or 10 more? Why not treat every customer as if they were your best?

Some tips on how to do that:

1. Don't call them customers. I know I have used the word six times prior to this sentence. Instead, call them guests. A guest usually holds a place of honor. A customer is most often symbolized as a dollar sign.

2. Call your guests by name. We now have technology that makes it easier to do this. It may take time but if you welcome your guests at the door with a personal greeting (i.e. their name) your relationship has just been reinforced!

3. Take a personal interest in your guest. Learn about their family, their job or their hobbies. Keep a diary if you must. Some people can keep all that info in their head. Others need to write it down.

If you have ever shopped at Nordstrom or know anyone that has worked there, you might be familiar with the relationship that Nordstrom employees establish with their guests. If you are not, you are missing out on a gem in the retail world. A wonderful book I highly recommend is The Nordstrom Way. It is worth every penny.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why are we afraid of NO?

Why are we so afraid of the word NO? It doesn't cause physical harm, it's not painful nor does it cost us any money. Or does it? Yes, it does.

We can't elevate the customer's NO response to something personal. They aren't always saying NO to us. They are saying NO to the product or the price of the product for reasons that have nothing to do with the salesperson.

In our lives as human beings it is inevitable that we will hear the word NO at least once. In reality, we will probably hear it many times a day. Instead of withdrawing in defeat, we have to learn how to handle the NO's that come along.

How can you do that? Some of the top salespeople in the world handle the objections in their sales pitch. If there are some common objections you know from previous experiences, you can weave them into the conversation. For example, if you know a product has a downside (large pills, funny taste, large quantity of pills, high price, etc.) go ahead and address the issue.

Agree with your customer. If they bring up an objection, you can use a technique that renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziegler uses. Use the words feel, felt or found. "I understand how you feel, our other customers felt that way too until they tried it."

Practice handling objections with other employees or ask your manager for help. Chances are they're not going to say no. :)