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Two Ears and One Mouth

George Whalin was the last guy you wanted sitting next to you on an airplane. George was a retail consultant and public speaker (and one of my inspirations). George loved retail. A vacation to him meant a trip to The Grand Bazaar in Turkey followed by a trip to their local mall to contrast the old with the new.

Retail Superstars Book

When George sat next to you on an airplane, he peppered you with questions. “What’s your favorite place to shop and why?”

That was the question he asked every flight into Michigan that got Bronner’s and Toy House included in his book Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America. When he heard the same answers over and over he knew those places must be special.

“The questions you ask are more important than the things you could ever say.” -Tom Freese

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” -Naguib Mahfouz

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” -Anthony Robbins

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” -Stephen R. Covey

One of the most important lessons George taught me was that every customer has a different need to fill. Every customer comes through the door for a reason uniquely their own. Our job as salespeople is simply to find out that reason. You don’t do that by talking. You do that by listening.

“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” -Calvin Coolidge

“Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking.’ But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of your job.” -Roy Bartell

George got to the top of his craft not because of what he said, but because of what he learned and the relationships he made. He knew how to ask the right questions and listen to the answers. He was fascinated by you. If you ever did sit next to George on an airplane, you probably still would consider him a friend.

“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than you can in two years by making them interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

Ask and listen. Your customers want to tell you why they are here.

-Phil Wrzesinski
wwwPhilsForum.com

Image result for fired up! selling bookPS I got all of the quotes for today’s post from a new book called Fired Up! Selling. It is the best quote book I have ever seen. (Disclaimer, I was one of over 1000 judges that got to help select the quotes for the book so I might be biased, but with that many business people choosing the quotes, you know the quotes are going to resonate. No, that is not an affiliate link. Just me telling you this book is cool and will make a great gift for someone you know. Shop local.)

Breaking Down Our Phone Greeting

“Thank you for calling the Toy House. How can I help you?”

That was the greeting I trained my staff to use every time they answered the phone. Twelve words in a specific order for specific reasons. Let’s break it down …

“Thank you for calling …”

Image result for mom on phoneWe were a toy store. Imagine who might be calling a toy store. A mom? Sure. A mom with kids running around playing at her feet? Likely. A mom trying to juggle two or three things at once? Ding, ding, ding. Half of her focus is on something other than the phone.

By using an opening phrase like, “Thank you for calling …” before saying the words “Toy House”, we give her a chance to regain her focus. In that split second she recognizes that someone has answered, that someone is a male voice, that someone is speaking English. By the time we get to the words she most needs to hear to know she called the right place—“Toy House”—she has dialed her focus into our voice.

Have you ever called someplace and they said the store name so fast you weren’t sure you called the right place? That doesn’t happen with this script. You give your customer time to focus on the call so that she hears the name of the store clearly.

The other thing this phrase corrects is the employee so in a hurry to answer the phone that he is saying the store name before the receiver even gets to his mouth.

Also, we begin with the words “Thank you.” There is no better greeting for a retailer. They didn’t have to call you. They could go online. They could go elsewhere. They called you. Be grateful. Say thanks.

“How can I help you?”

This is a question that indicates you are ready for the customer to begin talking and you are ready to listen. I have called stores where they simply say the store name and then shut up. There is usually an awkward silence at that point. Not only is this question polite, but it makes the conversation go much more smoothly. Plus, it reinforces in your own staff the importance of listening.

Notice that I don’t instruct my staff to give out their name at this point. There is a reason behind that. The initial person answering the phone is rarely the person answering the question. As you remember from the previous post, the four questions most commonly asked are:

  • Can I speak to (a person or the manager)?
  • Can I speak to (a department)?
  • Do you have (a product)?
  • How late are you open?

The customer is likely to remember only one name and usually it is the first name they hear. If the customer asks for a department or has a specific question, the person that greets them at that time is instructed to give out his or her name. “You have reached the baby department. This is Phil. How can I help you?”

This way the customer is only given one name to remember, the name of the person who gave her the greatest help and the name she would need to remember if she called back.

At the end of the day, a customer calling your store wants three things.

  • To know that she called the right store
  • To be treated with respect
  • To get the information she needs

When you train your staff on these little details, your chances for meeting the customer’s expectations go up exponentially.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You don’t have to use the same script I used. The most important thing is that you have a script and train the little details like answering the phone with whatever greeting makes most sense for you. Just don’t leave it to chance or happenstance. When you don’t train your staff on these little details your chances for failing your customers go up exponentially, too.

What if You Don’t Train Them and They Stay?

There is an old story of two managers discussing staff training. The first manager objects to training saying, “What if we train them and they leave?” The second manager replies, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

My friends, knowing I write this blog, send me examples of experiences they have all the time. This one that happened last night …

My friend walked into a restaurant. The hostess eyed her from the moment she walked through the door all the way to the hostess stand. The hostess didn’t say a word. Not. A. Word. My friend had to initiate the conversation. Talk about awkward.

Image result for old-fashioned telephoneOne of the first skills all of my new employees learned was how to use the phone. We learned how to answer it, exactly what to say (yes, the greeting was scripted), and how to respond to questions. We even talked about the importance of smiling while on the phone because people can actually hear a smile. (Try it with your friends. Grin broadly while talking on the phone until the person on the other end of the line asks whats so funny.)

I taught the phone skills first for a number of reasons.

  • It made them feel helpful right off the bat.
  • It set the tone for the attitude I expected from them in front of customers.
  • It helped me gauge their communication skills.

Answering the phone was easy because there were pretty much only four questions that got asked …

  • Can I speak to (a person or the manager)?
  • Can I speak to (a department)?
  • Do you have (a product)?
  • How late are you open?

For the first three questions, no matter who answered the phone, you would typically put them on hold. The last one even the newbies on the staff could answer.

The cool thing was watching them practice their phone answering skills. The outwardly friendly staff members had no problem smiling and speaking joyfully. The rest, I knew I would have to work with them on their communication skills a little more.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Communication skills are important. You can no longer take for granted that people know what to say and how to say it. You have to teach it and practice it. By starting early with a communication skill, I set the tone for how important proper communication would be and what I expected.

If you aren’t teaching proper communication skills you just might end up with a hostess who doesn’t know that it is her job to say, “Hello!”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The script for answering the phone was simple. “Thank you for calling the Toy House. How may I help you?” I’ll break that statement down completely in a following post.

When the Boss Plays Favorites

I spent the summer of 1992 working for the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching team building and leadership skills to inner-city kids. It was one of the most meaningful and wonderful jobs I’ve ever held.

Part of it was the difference we were able to make in the lives of these kids. Part of it was the camaraderie of our team.

Dana, our fearless boss, had a style I have tried to emulate ever since. He treated everyone on the team equally. He gave everyone an equal chance to do the jobs. He gave everyone a fair shake at learning the roles we had to play. He never played favorites with any of us.

Image result for playing favoritesBelieve me when I tell you it is hard not to play favorites. As a leader, you tend to rely on one or two team members you know you can trust. You give them the better shifts. You give them the better duties. You forgive them quicker.

The problem with playing favorites, even if done unintentionally, is that it destroys morale on the team. Your staff sees it when it happens. Those that aren’t the favorites will either resent it or resign themselves to not feeling any need to improve.

Here are some ways Dana kept from playing favorites.

He made us all feel special. Dana went out of his way every day to praise everyone on the team both privately and publicly. He made sure you knew what you were doing well. He made sure everyone knew what you were doing spectacularly. That constant praise, especially in front of the group, of everyone meant that he valued us all equally.

He gave us all equal treatment in job assignments. Everyone got to lead. Everyone got the “shit detail.” Everyone got support roles. While it might be easiest to give all the solos to the best singer, Dana’s job was to turn us all into the best. He made sure we all got the chance to shine.

He was honest and honorable in his words. There was nothing he ever said to any of us that could not be repeated. He told us straight up when we screwed up (and made sure we learned from our mistakes). He only spoke in positive terms of growth and learning. He never gossiped.

If you’re playing mind games with your team; if you’re keeping secrets within and from your team; if you’re gossiping about team members to other team members, you’re creating a culture of favoritism. Take it from Dana. If you want a crack team from top to bottom, you need to keep favoritism off the table.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you only feel like you can do one thing, do the first one listed above. Make every single individual on your team feel special and important and noticed. Praise them constantly both publicly and privately. You will change the culture almost instantly.

PPS I am a big believer in the ideal of “best players play”. Retail isn’t little league where everyone gets a medal for participation. But it also isn’t the Major Leagues where you better be ready when you get there. Your job as manager is to teach people up and get them all to play like all-stars. When Dana gave us activities to lead, he first made sure we had the skills to lead.

Busting a Scheduling Myth

There is a scheduling myth I have heard for many years, and although on the surface it seems to make sense, I don’t think it is in the best long-term interest of your store. The myth is that you should schedule your best sales people for your peak hours and your worst sales people for your off hours. Let me tell you where the flaw is in this thinking.

In November 1991 I moved to San Diego, CA. I immediately got two jobs there.  One was teaching Outdoor Education for the Orange County School District at Camp Edwards near Big Bear Lake. The other was selling sporting goods for Cal Stores – a ten-store chain of sporting goods and apparel stores in San Diego County (since bought out by Big 5 Sporting Goods).

Image result for big 5 sporting goodsI spent Monday morning through Friday morning in the mountains above San Bernardino teaching kids about geology and ecology. I spent Saturday and Sunday selling tennis rackets and weight sets.

At Cal Stores we were paid on commission. Each week they would post the top selling people across the chain in sales per hour. I was usually #2 for the entire chain, right behind the guy who sold all the ski packages. I wasn’t #2 because of my selling skills, but because I had the two best shifts—Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t have any mundane Mondays to drag my average down.

In the above myth, I would always get the peak times and best shifts because my numbers were top notch. And I would hold onto those shifts because those shifts would keep my numbers higher than the Tuesday and Wednesday slackers. It would self-perpetuate. I would stay on top and feel no need to improve. Plus it would drag down the morale of everyone not getting the prime times.

Do you see the flaw now?

Smart managers understand the importance of having top levels of sales and service at peak times, but they also look for ways to raise the level of all the staff so that everyone can perform at peak and off-peak. They look for ways to pair top sales people with learners to help both become better (the former by teaching, the latter by being with the former). They split up the hours, knowing that sometimes you need the busy hours for the learners to hone their skills, and sometimes you need the slower hours to know if your top sales people are truly good or just lucky.

Smart managers realize that raising the bar for everyone helps the business far more in the long run than just maximizing the peak hours. They realize that a properly trained staff maximizes sales at all hours (and there are some big sales you can do during the perceived off-hours.)

Smart managers realize when everyone performs at a high level they have more flexibility for scheduling around vacations and special requests for time off. They have more staff available for special events. They have more trust that the staff will perform no matter the situation.

If you have a few top performing sales people and a few that need some work, don’t just throw all the prime rib at the top people and leave the scraps for everyone else. Give them all a taste of the good stuff and teach them all how to rock your customers’ worlds every day of the week.

That’s what the smart managers do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I wasn’t a great salesperson back then. I was just lucky with my shifts. Fortunately I was (and still am) a competitive guy who is always looking for ways to improve. Not every salesperson thinks that way. Smart managers find ways to help everyone improve and raise the overall bar for the store.

PPS No, not everyone will perform at the same level. Your goal, however, is to help each person on your team get to the next level no matter where he or she is right now.

They Thought They Had Helped

I went into a sporting goods store looking for a walking stick. Unlike most guys, I’m not afraid to ask for help in a retail store. I approached the first clerk I saw and asked, “Do you have any walking sticks?”

“I don’t know. Let me ask someone …
She doesn’t know, either. If we did they would be in camping.”

Then the clerk walked away, thinking she had been incredibly helpful.

Fortunately for me, I had been in this store before and knew where the camping section was. Unfortunately for me, I was looking for a tall, skinny item, not thinking that walking sticks telescope down to almost nothing. A quick walk down the camping aisle proved fruitless, so I asked another clerk in the area about walking sticks.

“Did you see any in the camping aisle?”

“No.”

“Then we must be sold out. Sorry.”

Then the clerk walked away thinking he had been helpful.

Both clerks engaged with me. Both answered my questions. Both walked away thinking they had given me good customer service. I was about to walk out empty-handed, but on my return trip down the camping aisle, I happened to notice a small, skinny box down in the corner. Upon closer inspection, they had three different types of walking sticks in stock on their shelves, just not in the packaging I was expecting.

I got my walking stick, no help from the clerks who thought they were helping me.

I tell you this as a cautionary tale. If your staff training consists of teaching your staff to engage with customers and answer their questions, you are likely losing sales. The two clerks both did that for me, but neither solved my problem. If instead of answering questions, they were taught to solve my problem, the interaction would have been different.

“She doesn’t know either. If we had any, they would be in camping. Let me walk you over to camping and help you look.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me look it up on the computer and see what it says.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me ask the buyer for camping.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me call another store to see if they have any.”

Notice that neither of the clerks asked me any questions to clarify what I wanted or why I wanted it. Neither offered to walk over and look with me. Neither offered to take my name and call me when they got more walking sticks in. Neither suggested another store where I might find the item I needed. Neither offered to look in their system to see if they even sold walking sticks. Yet they both engaged with me and answered my questions. They walked away thinking they had helped.

Don’t assume your customers know what they are looking for. Don’t assume your customers know where to look. Don’t assume just because you answered a question, you’ve offered any level of service. It isn’t great customer service until the customer’s reason for coming in has been fully resolved.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We kept an Internet-wired computer up front because sometimes customers would ask for items by a different name than we knew or a different version of a product we carried. A quick search on Google showed us what the customer wanted and helped us either find it or offer an alternative solution.

PPS Every customer that walks through your door did so for a reason. Your staff’s job is to connect and engage with that customer well enough that they tell you their reason and ask for assistance. When you take on the mindset of solving their problems, resolving their issues, then you are on your way to great customer service.

How to Find a Master

(Note: this is a longer post than usual. Set yourself some time to give it a good read and bookmark it so that you can come back to it as necessary.)

You’re the Jack-of-all-Trades. You’re at least mildly competent at all aspects of your job. Like you, your store is mildly competent, too. But you want to take it to a higher level. To do that, you need to either become a Master at the aspect where you’re least competent (or the thing you least desire to do), or hire a Master at that aspect.

BECOMING A MASTER

Image result for masterBecoming a Master means training, taking classes, reading books, watching videos, studying other experts and Masters, practicing and experimenting, recording and measuring your progress. Becoming a master takes times. And in the process, you have to steal time from your other duties.

If you have lots of free time on your hands, take the aspect of your job where you are the worst and become a Master at it.

Chances are pretty good that you don’t have lots of free time, and where you’re the worst is usually what you also like to do the least.

FINDING A MASTER

Finding someone else better than you to do what you don’t want to do (or can’t do) is the faster way to get your business to the next level. First, you get that part of your business up and running at a higher level right away. Second, you free up more of your time to do what you do best. Third, the combination of those first two will make you enough money to pay for that Master.

Here is the recipe for finding that Master:

  • Define the Job clearly including tasks and how success will be measured
  • Define the skills necessary for doing the job well
  • Write a clear and concise hiring ad that spells out the skills you wish to hire
  • Post the ad in smart places
  • Offer to pay above-average wages
  • Create a training program to train the necessary skills that you want but weren’t part of the skills you wish to hire
  • Be clear and unwavering on how success will be measured

For instance, if you want to hire someone to take over your social media presence, you might do the following …

Social Media Manager: This person will be responsible for making sure the business has a social media presence that is updated daily, consistent with our Core Values, and in line with our in-store promotions and events. This person will engage customers, respond quickly and professionally to comments and questions, and grow our online presence by double digits every six months. This person will be able to handle complaints quickly and positively. This person will be able to work with the sales clerks and other staff to make sure posts are relevant to what is happening in the store. This person will answer directly to the owner. This person will be monitored weekly for postings and consistency of message, measured monthly for growth and engagement, and evaluated every six months for progress towards goals.

Skills: This person will be someone who is creative, loves to interact with others both in person and online, knows how to de-escalate a negative situation, has good spelling and grammar skills, knows how different social media work and how to use them best, is tech-savvy, is dependable and reliable, has a strong understanding about the needs and wants of our customers, understands the ins and outs of our industry, puts the needs of the company first, and understands how he or she will be measured.

Help Wanted Ad: Are you a social media marketing genius with a track record of success that loves to engage with customers and turn them into fans? Do you have a background in marketing and advertising? Do you love to be creative and different? Can you spin anything and everything positively? Do you like working in an environment where you know exactly how your success will be measured? Are you worth more than the average pay for this type of position? Please apply at:

Posting: Post on your own online page. Post in LinkedIn and Facebook groups for Social Marketing. Post on Twitter.

Salary: A quick Google search shows that social media managers make on average $15.22 per hour. Armed with that knowledge and the knowledge of your local economy (is it greater or less than the national average?), you might want to offer at least $17-$20/hour or more to attract a higher level of applicants. If you get a true Master, it will be money well spent. My grandfather always believed you cannot pay too much to a great employee.

SORTING THE APPLICANTS

Once you get applicants, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. The first round of weeding out is simply removing anyone who doesn’t meet the requirements you listed in your ad. If the person didn’t explain in their cover letter or their visit to your store why they fit the criteria you listed, they won’t be good at communicating with your customers. The second round for a position like this would be grammar and spelling. You don’t want poor grammar or spelling undoing your social presence. The third round is where you start to choose who you want to interview. You look for keywords in their cover letter and resume that signal their Core Values and see how those match up with yours. You also might look for things like longevity in a position, commitment to work, growth in job titles and responsibility. Most importantly, you’re looking for people who love to do this more than you do.

Once you have your interviewees, you need questions that will draw out the information you want. People in interviews are ready to tell you what they think you want to hear. The way to get around this is to ask questions about things they did rather than what they think. Actions speak louder than words and tell you more about their personality traits than philosophical questions. Some might embellish the facts a little, but for the most part they will be more brutally honest. The key phrase I like to use is, “Tell me about a time when …”

  • Tell me about your most (least) successful social media campaign. What did you do? How well did it work? What did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about the hardest customer/person you ever had to deal with online. How did it go? How was it resolved? What did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about the hardest thing you had to do at your last job. How did you accomplish it? What did you learn from it?

If you’re a long-time follower of my blog or read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel, you know that I preach hiring the unteachable skills and teaching all the rest. The same applies to hiring a Master. The only difference here is that the “unteachable skills” are actually teachable skills that are above your level to teach. In this situation, experience on the job carries more weight, depending on how much training and learning came from the experience. That’s why each of the previous “Tell me about …” questions concludes with, “What did you learn?” You might get answers where you wonder if the learning is happening before your eyes because they never thought about it before now. That’s okay as long as there is learning and it appears they are learning the right stuff.

The training program you set up in this situation is primarily to teach them the ins and outs about your particular business and products (note that knowing your industry was not in the ad because it is not a trait your applicants need to bring to the table). You will also teach them what you already know about your particular customers and how they like to be reached, and teach them about your Core Values and what you hold most dear.

The final step, however, is the most important. Once you find your Master and define the way they will be measured, you need to step back and let them work their mastery. Measure as planned. Ask for clarity as needed. As long as they are hitting their benchmarks, let them be the expert you hired.

You have the blueprint. Go take your business to the next level.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The example above is hastily written to give you the idea of the steps to follow. The more thoroughly you define the job and how you will measure success, the better you can create the definitive list of skills for the job. The better your list of skills, the better you can write a Helped Wanted Ad that identifies people with the skills you wish to hire. The better your list of skills you want to hire, the better the interview questions you can create. The better you know your Core Values, the better you can identify the kind of people who will fit in best.

PPS If you need a Human Resources person because hiring and training is the skill you lack the most and wish to give up, you have to at least become reasonably competent in the short run. The above blueprint will help.

Jack of All, Master of None

I bought a multi-tool the other day. Since I no longer have my own bike shop to fix up my bikes I bought a multi-tool designed specifically for fixing bikes. It even included spoke wrenches. Eighteen tools in one little package. I got my first chance to use it a couple days ago. You can probably guess what happened. Like most multi-tools, it did a competent job (except for the spoke wrenches that failed miserably), but it wasn’t all that easy to use. Having the individual tools for each job would have been a whole lot better. It leads me to ask this question …

My bike multi-tool. Love the wrenches and options, hate the spoke wrenches.

Is it better to be a Jack-of-all-trades-Master-of-none, or incredibly amazing at one skill?

If you’re an indie retail store owner, you’re probably going with Jack. You wear many hats. You have to know your Products well enough to be a competent buyer. You have to understand Retail Math to get your books balanced, keep your inventory in check, and keep the cash flowing. You have to know something about Marketing and Advertising and Public Relations to keep attracting new people. You have to know Human Resources so that you can hire and train a staff to help you run the store. You have to understand insurance and leasing laws and tax rules. You have to know how to manage people, products, and crises.

In fact, you’re so busy playing the role of Jack, you have a hard time getting really good at any single element of it.

That’s the life of an indie retailer. At least that’s what many indie retailers believe. But let’s look at the big picture.

If you play the role of Jack and do everything mildly competent, what do you have? A mildly competent retail store. If, however, you hired someone fantastic at one element, while you were mildly competent at the rest, how would your business look differently? How would that change if you found several people, each with a specific skill you lacked?

Sure, it is a risk to hire someone else and turn over parts of your baby, your business, to that person. At the same time, it is the only way  to grow past mildly competent (and that’s assuming you are mildly competent at all elements of running a store). 

Sure, it is an expense to hire someone else to do a job your’re already doing. At the same time, if they are truly a Master, they will more than pay for themselves by taking your store to the next level. Plus, they will free you up to spend more time getting better at the things you do.

Jack can get the job done, but only a Master will get you to the next level. 

Here’s my challenge to all of you multi-tool Jack retailers out there. Go find a spoke wrench that works incredibly well at truing a wheel. Go find a socket wrench, too. And maybe a fantastic screw driver with a solid head and a perfect grip. Hire someone better than you to do jobs you’re only mildly competent at doing. Then take your free time to become a master at the stuff you’re already pretty good at doing.

Not only will your store grow leaps and bounds, you’ll have a lot more fun running it.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ve been a Jack most of my life. It is hard to accept that you aren’t great at everything and that more often than not, you are better off getting help from someone better.  Fortunately you do not need a twelve-step plan to break free of this Jack habit. Just two steps will do.

  1. Pick one of your job duties or requirements that you either hate doing, or recognize that you aren’t that great at doing.
  2. Hire someone else that is incredible at doing that particular job or duty and let them do it.

It pays more than it costs.

PPS The key phrase in all of this is “someone better than you” at that particular skill or job. Next post I’ll talk about how to find that person.

The Sweetest Sound is Your Name

Have you ever had that “Cheers!” moment where you walked into a place and everyone shouted your name? I’ve been blessed to have it happen to me several times. It never gets old. Never. In fact, it is one of the better feelings on this planet. I know when I hear my name shouted like that, I’m among friends. I know when I hear my name shouted like that, I’m where I am wanted and where I belong. It is one of the sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear.

Heck, just being greeted by name by a single voice when I walk through a door is pretty darn good. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are creatures of habit and familiarity. If you know me by name, then we’ve reached a certain level of comfort and familiarity.

The same can be said of your customers.

Image result for name tagThere are many consultants out there with data-mining programs to find out as much information about your customers as possible so that you can fulfill their every need. While all that info is valuable, the one piece of info with the greatest amount of value is her name.

Without her name, you can’t create the kind of relationship that turns her from a customer into an evangelist for the store. Without her name, you can’t build the level of trust that turns her into a lifelong fan of your store. All the other data is useless if you don’t first know her name. (All the other data is useless if you can’t make an emotional connection with her, but that’s a post for another day.)

There are many ways to learn a customer’s name. You can sign her up for your email list. You can look at her credit card when she is paying (which you should be doing anyway). You can simply ask her.

The best way is through conversation. Here is a simple structure you can teach to your staff if they struggle to get conversations going with customers.

  • Compliment her.
  • Ask her questions related to the compliment.
  • Get her to talk about herself or her kids (her favorite subjects).
  • Share a little about yourself that relates to what she said.
  • Introduce yourself – more often than not she will reciprocate.
  • Use her name repeatedly throughout the rest of your interaction to help you remember it.

Not only do you get her name, you get her talking. You start building the relationship that leads to familiarity and trust. The best sales people do this instinctively. Fortunately, it can be taught to everyone else. Teach your staff and have them practice on each other. The other benefit is that as your staff gets better at learning names, their own confidence grows and they get better at serving your customers, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It might seem a little phony at first. Not everyone is a natural conversationalist. But if you want to be a good salesperson, it is a skill you need to learn. Plus, it isn’t as phony as you think. You’re trying to build a relationship in a short window of time. This is just speed dating in a retail setting.

Death by Typo

My buddy was at a conference recently and the presenter for his breakout session had a major typo in big bold letters at the top of one of his opening slides. My buddy couldn’t resist. He took a photo of this typo—and I’m talking not just a single letter but a major butchering—and posted it with the comment, “Why am I listening to this guy for advice?”

After we all agreed the comment was a bit snarky and we all agreed the speaker probably had some good content, I couldn’t quite let this speaker off the hook. After all, even PowerPoint has spellcheck.

The real problem was that a major blunder like this on something so easily proofread and corrected meant two things …

  1. The guy wasn’t prepared. He hadn’t given his presentation enough time to check for errors which sent the signal that the rest of his presentation was hastily slapped together, too.
  2. My buddy was so turned off and distracted by one little misstep, that he missed the message.

Your business sends similar signals to customers all the time. When you have typos or grammar mistakes in your signs and posters and emails and social media posts, you send the signal to many of your customers that you hastily slapped things together. You distract them with these errors and keep them from seeing what you want them to see.

It doesn’t have to be typos either. It can be a staff that is ill-prepared for an event or special offering. It can be contradicting terms from two different sales people. It can be trash by the front door. It can be poorly merchandised areas of your store. It can be dust. It can be a messy bathroom. It can be an answering machine with the wrong hours because the seasons have changed. It can be a website with the wrong hours. It can be a funny smell coming from the backroom staff area. It can be an old, faded, worn-out, been there since the 90’s sign that has a corner missing. It can be footprints of mud leading back to the model section from the work boots of one of your best customers. It can be disheveled clothing on your staff. It can be music that is too loud or too harsh for your shopping environment. It can be window and door glass with smudged finger and hand-prints. It can be products not matching the shelf signs.

It doesn’t have to be much to distract your customers from your awesome staff and fabulous product selection. That little typo can do more damage to your branding than the thousands of dollars you spend on advertising can do good. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

The band Van Halen used to put a clause in their contracts asking for M&M’s with all of a certain color removed. A lot of people thought they must be divas because of that. I was part of that crowd until I heard an interview with David Lee Roth, the acrobatic lead singer who used to fly around the stage. He said they had very intricate, detailed instructions for how to assemble the stage for his safety. If the show organizers were detailed enough to do the M&M’s right (something small and trivial in the grand scheme of things), he had more confidence the stage would be built right. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

You have a fabulous staff and wonderful products. Don’t do anything that signals the customer otherwise. Don’t do anything that distracts the customer from the prize. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There was another lesson from that presentation about bullet points, but I’ll save that for another day. You have enough to do looking for all those little distractions that mean a lot.