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Is Collaboration Really the Problem?

I read an article that caught my eye in Inc. Magazine with the title “Collaboration Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science”. You read that title and you will believe that grand studies have now been done to prove that collaboration is a bad thing. Then you read the article and find out there is no science. There really isn’t even a good definition of “collaboration”.

Image result for inc magazine

Here is how the article defines collaboration…

“1) plenty of ad-hoc meetings and 2) open-plan offices that increase the likelihood that that such meetings take place.”

Really? That’s what passes for collaboration in corporate America? Floor plans that are conducive to more meetings?

I read the article, especially the “science” part of it and instead of seeing a problem with collaboration I saw a serious lack of good management. Here is what the science part had to say…

The problem is that rather than seeing a top performer as a role models, mediocre employees tend to see them as threats, either to their own position in the company or to their own feelings of self-worth.

Rather than improving their own performance, mediocre employees socially isolate top performers, spread nasty rumors about them, and either sabotage, or attempt to steal credit for, the top performers’ work. As the study put it: “Cooperative contexts proved socially disadvantageous for high performers.”

A good manager would have nipped that in the bud a long time ago. A good manager would have found ways to keep top performers at their peak while raising the level of mediocre employees. A good manager would have found ways to utilize the individual strengths of everyone on the team so that everyone felt like a valued contributor. A good manager would have created a team where everyone was working toward the success of the collective rather than individual success (while celebrating the individual accomplishments along the way).

I read that article (and the subsequent link to the study that used hair salons?? as their subject material) and came to a different conclusion.

Open floor plans do not lead to great collaboration. Then again neither do closed floor plans. And collaboration by itself without strong management and solid team building doesn’t work either. None of those address the true issue.

Collaboration works incredibly well. But only when you have the right manager in place, someone trained to build teamwork and communication and trust. 

How do I know? I’ve worked for managers like that. I’ve led teams of high productivity and high levels of collaboration. It all comes down to the skills of the manager.

That’s why I’m offering the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop next Wednesday, April 26th.  You’ll learn how to lead your team to their peak performance. You’ll learn how to create a culture that has everyone working on the same page for the same goals. You’ll learn how to motivate your team to do their best. You’ll learn how to set up training programs that turn everyone into top performers. You’ll learn all that in one incredibly fun day.

The class is limited to the first 18 people to sign up. Follow this link to sign up today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Do you wish you could attend but can’t make the trip to Jackson? Contact me and we’ll figure out a plan to bring this workshop to you.

How to Teach a Class in Your Store

You know why you need to teach classes in your store. Here are the six steps you take to create a class that draws traffic, builds excitement, gains you followers, sets you up as the expert, and makes people want to buy from you.

  1. Determine which product(s) you sell that takes the longest to explain or takes the most trips before the customer pulls the trigger. These are the items to build your class around because these are the items that require an expert. The more questions a customer asks about a product, the more likely you’ll find people wanting to attend a class to learn more.
  2. Write down all the questions a customer typically asks about the product. Then add in two more questions you think they should be asking. This will become the outline of your presentation. (You can brainstorm this list with your sales staff.)
  3. List all the benefits of the products (remember, a feature is what the product does, a benefit is why that helps the user).
  4. List all the downsides of the product. Everything has a downside. If you don’t tell your customer up front, she will think you’re hiding something. Being honest about the downsides wins you trust.
  5. Get the customer to visualize using the product in her home or in her life. Ask questions like, “How would you use this?” Where would you use this?” “Do you see yourself using this?” “How would this affect your life right now?” This moves the customer from being in analytical mode to being in ownership mode. We only do in real life what we have already visualized in our minds. Get your customer to visualize owning the product and you will be more likely to win the sale.
  6. List all the reasons why someone should buy this product from you. If you offer services like layaway or financing or delivery or assembly, this is when you share that information. If you truly have answered all the most important questions including the ones they forgot to ask, and you have helped them visualize owning and using the product, then you have their permission to sell them. Just remember that you aren’t selling a product, you are selling a solution.

That’s the class. It is no different than selling to one person while a bunch of other people sit in and listen. You can decorate with comfortable seating, snacks & prizes (ask your vendors for giveaways), cool signs, etc. Just make sure you follow the steps above so that you offer a true benefit to your customers. They’ll thank you for the effort with their pocketbooks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t worry about attendance. You might get 30 people, you might get 3. Make them feel special. Go above and beyond what they expect. Not only will you get the sale, you’ll get the referral, which is often a more powerful sales tool than the class, itself.

PPS Just a reminder that it doesn’t have to be that expensive to advertise. Social media, email, your website, some in-store signage, and a few online community calendars will draw a crowd. Make it worth their while and they’ll help you draw the next crowd.

Stories From Toy Fair

The big show for the toy industry starts this weekend. It feels weird not gearing up for the trip to NYC. So instead of a trip to New York, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite stories…

Toy Fair LEGO Booth 2010

This first story goes back to my grandfather, Mayor Phil Conley’s first trip back in 1950. Munn Furman (Furman’s Clothing) pulled him aside and told him the vendors there did their “credit check” by the thread count of his jacket. Munn gave my grandfather a new suit to wear and told Phil to pay him for it after the trip. Sure enough, the first showroom my grandfather entered, the guy vigorously shook his right hand saying hello and welcome, all the while rubbing the shoulders and back of the suit coat with his left hand. My grandfather knew immediately he would be paying Munn for that suit (and that suit was already paying for itself!)

Lesson? Appearances do matter. They did back then and they do today. Make a good first impression if you want to be taken seriously.

My dad had an interesting story of being in a showroom once back in the early 80’s when the Toys R Us buyer entered the room. The man talking to my dad left him in mid-sentence – yes, with half a word still dangling in the air – to go meet the TRU guy. Another gentleman came and escorted my parents from the showroom as they closed shutters and locked doors behind them. I had a similar experience in a booth two decades later when a salesperson actually said, “You’re not as important to me as the Toys R Us buyer. You can find your way out.” In both cases, those companies lost our business. In both cases those companies were out of business long before we were. In both cases, politeness would have gone a long way.

Lesson? Sure, your best customers deserve top-level attention. But then again, so do all your other customers. If either company had been polite and apologetic toward my dad or me, they wouldn’t have lost any customers that day.

One of my favorite booths was Education Outdoors. They had a hunting lodge feel to their booth. Tim and Jesse were always welcoming and friendly. They had two camp chairs in the booth. Usually I would see them late in the day. After two days walking the concrete floors lugging a few hundred pounds of catalogs, those camp chairs felt like Lazy Boy recliners. One year I got to their booth and my phone battery was dead. They had paid extra to have electricity in their booth and let me plug in my phone and pick it up an hour later. I can count on one hand the number of booths I trusted enough to even ask such a request, let alone trust them to leave my phone behind. Yes, they were always one of my favorite vendors. Probably one of yours, too, if you ever played the game “Camp”.

Lesson? Relationships matter. Trust matters. Helping each other out matters. Little acts of kindness matter. Get those things right and the rest will follow.

My favorite part of attending Toy Fair had to be the basement booths. The basement was filled with a lot of smaller companies. A lot of game inventors were downstairs. Education Outdoors was always downstairs. A lot of single-item toy inventors were downstairs. A lot of treasures to be discovered were downstairs. You had to walk some of the aisles with blinders on. This is where the real salesmanship was happening. Everyone was trying to catch your eye. Everyone had their pitch ready. If you so much as slowed down or glanced in their direction, they pounced.

“This will be bigger than Tickle Me Elmo!”
“Come on, give a small guy a chance…”
“Boo! Made you look. Now you have to stop in the booth!”

Or my favorite line I heard once, “Hey Phil, my friend bet me I couldn’t get you to stop in my booth.”

There were people sitting on chairs in the back of their booths waiting to be discovered. (They never were.) There were people jumping out in front of you as you walked the aisle. It was dog-eat-dog selling. The line that worked best was simply, “Phil, can I show you something new?”

Lesson? Honest, sincere pitches always work best. Gimmicks might get my attention, but never got me to buy. (Same thing with your advertising.)

I don’t miss travel to NYC in mid-February (been there for several feet of snow over the years) but I do miss the trade show, especially the after-hour sessions talking shop with my peers over a few beers. A lot of lessons to be learned for anyone paying attention.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I stopped. But only after he agreed to split his winnings with me. Funny thing is that I don’t remember the booth or the product, only the gimmick.

How Do I Make My Emails More Interesting?

I said earlier that you should send out an email newsletter only when you have something new and interesting to say. Coming up with something new is easy. As a retailer you have more new products and new events and stories than you could ever find time to write them up – especially since it takes so much of your energy to write them up in an interesting way.

Here are some easy easy-to-follow templates to make your emails more interesting. (Think of it as Mad Libs for retailers.)

NEW PRODUCTS

Simply finish these three statements.

  1. I bought this product for the store because…
  2. You should buy this product because…
  3. When you use this product you will get…

You can give them all the facts, but what people really want to know is how will this product impact their lives. The first question reminds them you are the expert. The next two questions help them understand why they need this product and what life will be like when they own it. Get them to visualize owning it. People only do in real life what they have already seen in their own mind. Use phrases like, “When you use this…”

NEW EVENTS

Yes people need to know when and where and if there is a charge. That is a single line below the title of the event.

Disney Princess Dance
Saturday, February 17 at 6pm – FREE

After that you follow a similar template as above to get your potential crowd to visualize attending. Use phrases like these…

  1. [Expected Audience] will love coming to…
  2. You will… [talk about what they will do]
  3. You’ll walk away with… [benefits of attending]

STORIES

Telling stories about your staff or your vendors or how you got where you are today help you build relationships and set yourself up as the expert they can trust. Stories make you real. Stories give your fans something to share with their friends.

Here are some easy ways to start your stories…

  • “You know [staff name], but did you know…?” (Then tell them something interesting, cool, weird, unknown.)
  • “You bought many things from [vendor] but did you know they…?” (Then tell them something interesting, cool, weird, unknown.)
  • “You know us as [current reputation] but there was a time when…” (Then tell them something interesting about your history that led you to here.)

Stories don’t have to be long. They just have to capture someone’s interest. In fact, the shorter the story, the more memorable and easier to share.

You don’t have to be a great writer to write interesting emails. Just use these simple templates to keep the focus on what is in it for your customers. Make it about them, not about you, and your engagement will go way up.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Go back through this email and see how many times I used the word “you” versus “me” or “I”. The easiest way to make your emails more about your customer is liberal use of the words “you” and “your”.

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

(Note: this post has been edited)
Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.

Pretty high, isn’t it?

If you aren’t using videos – Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. – then you might not be reaching all the people you want to reach.

There are two new video services – Periscope and Blab – that might have some benefit to indie retailers. Here is a look at the two and how you can use them…

PERISCOPE

Periscope was launched by Twitter and is live, streaming video you do that allows for people to comment on your video as you’re streaming and send you love through the form of little hearts that float up your screen. The video can then be replayed for up to 24 hours before it disappears.

The upside… This is an easy way for you to do timely videos of things happening in your store in an interactive way. Simply send out a notice through your other social media channels (especially Twitter) that you’ll be doing a Periscope in a few minutes, then grab your phone and go live. Anyone watching you can post comments and questions that show up on your screen. It is kinda like having a FaceTime call with dozens of people at once.

One of the best applications I can see for this medium is behind-the-scenes looks at your business. People love to go behind the curtain. They love to see what is happening there. Best of all, they feel more attached to your store and more likely to share what they know when they feel like they got a peek into something not everyone else gets to see.

You could do Periscopes on products that have just come in.
You could do Periscopes on staff meetings.
You could do Periscopes on the process you go through to ship out an item.
You could do Periscopes on the prep work you put into having a big event at your store.

The downside… The videos are only up for a day. You might do some great footage, but you have to keep doing great footage to grow your presence. In fact, best practices in the early stages of this medium show that you should post something daily, even if it is only a 30-second post each day that says you’ll be back on Friday with a longer video. (Note: they do have ways for you to save the videos, but you do have to jump through a few extra hoops.)

BLAB

Unlike Periscope where only you talk and everyone else comments by typing, Blab is another live streaming video that allows for four people to be in the conversation at once. It kinda looks like Hollywood Squares with four boxes on the screen showing you and the three people you invited to sit in the conversation.

The upside… First, by having a true conversation, you can now invite experts into your social media world. Maybe you might interview a sales rep or one of your favorite vendors. Maybe you might use it to introduce new staff. Maybe you might use it to talk to someone who can talk more about your industry. For instance, since I sell toys, I could talk to a therapist about the value of play in a child’s life. Even better, you could invite your own fans to join in and talk about their experiences in your store.

Just like Periscope, people can type in comments and show you real-time love by tapping the icon on the screen. You can respond to those comments and have a real, live conversation about your store with other people watching. The videos stay up longer than Periscope, too, and can even be uploaded to your YouTube channel.

The downside… This medium is more of a sitting-at-your-laptop-chatting medium than a wander-around-the-store-with-a-smartphone medium, which makes it more difficult to show off products, etc. It is more of a two-way conversation than a one-way talk with you picking and choosing which questions or comments to answer. It becomes less scripted, which can make it more fun and original (and less sales/preachy), but can also go in directions you never intended.

Both Periscope and Blab have some interesting applications. Whether they are right for your business is up to you. Just remember the most important thing about all social media – it is about connecting and creating networks more than it is about selling or pushing your message across.

If used right, both of these channels can grow your network and strengthen your relationships.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am looking at both of them as ways to grow both Toy House and Phil’s Forum. Right now I currently use my Twitter handle @philtoyhouse purely for sharing this blog and Toy House newsletters. Since you use your Twitter account to sign in to both of these services, I am considering setting up separate Twitter accounts and using @philtoyhouse for just Toy House activity going forward. I’ll let you know soon what my new Twitter handle for this blog will be.

Mrs. Hinkley Brought Me Doughnuts

I was unloading our delivery van when a car pulled up to side of the store. A window rolled down and a familiar face said, “Hey Phil, I brought you a little something.”

It wasn’t a “little something”. It was Hinkley Doughnuts!! The number one rated doughnut in Michigan!!! Mrs. Hinkley herself was hand-delivering a few leftovers as she called them (a box of my favorites as I called them).

Jackson isn’t a small town. We’re a city of over 30,000 people and a community of over 150,000 people. It is easy to be an anonymous business owner here. But it pays better to not be so anonymous.

Sure, I’m a regular customer at Hinkley’s Bakery. In fact, I never plan big morning events unless it is a day Hinkley’s is open (they are only open Wed-Sat). I regularly buy a box for the break room at work. But I’m just one of hundreds of their regulars.

So why a box filled with all my favorites for free?

It is the relationship we have built over the years. I am crazy about shopping local and building relationships with my fellow local business owners. We talk and laugh and share stories and ideas. We get to know each other and each other’s families. We help each other out. We send business each other’s ways.

If you want to market yourself, the best place to start is to build a network among your fellow local independents. Introduce yourself every time you visit (and visit them often). Get to know them and they will get to know it you. Be generous with your time and resources. Send them business and they will send some your way, too.

It pays. (Excuse me while I go finish my doughnut.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am getting really chummy with the owner of the downtown brewery right now, too. Yeah, that’s how I roll (pun intended).

Media Versus Network?

Social media is where it is at!
Social media is DEAD!
Social media is FREE!
Social media has NO ROI!
Businesses are expanding because of social media!
Businesses are wasting their money on social media!

SOCIAL MEDIA, social media, social media, BLAH blah blah.

Everyone has an opinion on whether Social Media is helping businesses grow or is just a waste of money. And everyone is wrong.

Why? They have the word wrong. Chances are, you do, too.

MEDIA VERSUS NETWORK

What happens if we changed the word media to the word network?

Media = an avenue through which you broadcast content and advertising
Network = a connection of people who can help each other out

Which word more accurately describes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, et al? A network of connected people sharing with each other or a medium with people waiting to be told what to do or think?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a networking avenue instead of a medium onto which you broadcast your message?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to connect to people and connect them to resources and other people instead of just telling your story?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a way to have two-way conversations and see how others could help you, rather than just a platform to tell them what you’re going to do?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to help instead of just trying to sell?

Change the word and you’ll change your focus. Change your focus and you’ll change your effectiveness.

Social Media is DEAD. But the Social Network is alive and kicking!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The best way to grow your Network is TRUST. When you engage without selling, when you help and share without financial gain, when you ask more than you tell, when you show that you are listening, when you are real and genuine and not always “on message” then you will gain the trust of your network.

How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Products

Dr. Ross Honeywill says there are two types of customers – NEO’s and Traditionals. Traditionals are all about the Price. NEO’s, however, care more about Design, Authenticity, and Provenance than Price. Get the NEO to fall in love with the product and you’ll make the sale.

Roy H. Williams says there are two types of customers – Relational and Transactional. Transactional customers are all about the Price. Relational Customers, however, are looking for someone they can Trust who will lead them to the right products they can fall in love with.

The Diffusion of Innovation says there is a big chasm between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. The Early Majority want the tried and true commodities that have a proven track record. They will go wherever they can find the best deal. The Early Adopters love the new and unique and have to have the latest, greatest, regardless of price.

You can discuss the nuance between the three theories until the end of the earth and never fully reconcile them into one theory.

Or you can pull out the one thing all three agree on and run with it all the way to the bank.

The money is in getting your customers to fall in love with your products and your store.



FALLING IN LOVE

Remember falling in love? You don’t analyze it. You don’t weigh out pros and cons. You don’t look at the features and benefits.

You draw smiley faces. You doodle his name on the worksheet you were supposed to turn in. You imagine what it will be like to be together. You visualize walking hand in hand. You picture the two of you on a date, at the park, in the movie theater. You see the future of you with this other person.

Bob Phibbs says that customers who are shopping are in a different mode than customers who are buying. Customers who are shopping are in analytical mode. They are gathering info, measuring and weighing options. Customers who are buying, however, have to get out of that mode and into wonder and love. They have to see themselves already owning and using the product.

In other words, they have to fall in love with the idea of owning the product.

You have been wrongly taught for years that your job is to give your customers information. Features and benefits, features and benefits, features and benefits. In today’s online world, they already have most of the information they need before they set foot in the store. Your real job is to get them out of analyzing the product and into visualizing already owning the product.

You can do that two ways…

Ask Visualization Questions:

  • How do you see yourself using this product? 
  • What are your plans for this product? 
  • How will this look in your home? 
  • Where do you see yourself using this? 
  • What is your ultimate goal for this item?

Use Assumptive Statements and Questions:

  • Most everyone who buys one of these gets a second as a backup. Do you want to get two today or just the one?
  • Would you like me to giftwrap these items while you finish shopping for the rest of the list?
  • You’re going to be really happy with your choice of that product.
  • When you get this home, to make sure you get the full use out of it, be sure to…

Before you start thinking those sound snarky or sneaky or gimmicky, remember that your customer came into your store looking to solve a problem or fill a need. Your job, therefore, is to help her solve a problem or fill a need. If you leave her in analytical mode, you won’t solve her problem or fill her need. She’ll leave in search of more information and most likely have someone else solve her problem or fill her need.

If you make her fall in love with the product, you’ll make the sale, whether she is a NEO, a Relational Customer, an Early Adopter, or any other label you want to give her.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You still need to know all the information. In part, so that if she has faulty information, you can correct it. In part, because she may need one or two more pieces of information to help her visualize the product properly. In part, so that she will trust you as the expert.

Avoiding the Discount Mentality

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. Everyone wants a coupon. Or so you might be led to believe.

One of my employees went to a fast food restaurant and said, “I’d like a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

The employee answered, “The drink isn’t included with that.”

She responded, “That’s okay, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

He replied, “But the drink isn’t included.”

She said, “I don’t care if it is included or not, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

He replied, “But the drink isn’t included. You’ll have to pay extra for the drink.”

This went on for several more exchanges until the clerk finally got her what she wanted. He had no concept of how to take care of a customer if it didn’t fit into his special value meal buttons.

Unfortunately, his actions aren’t far from his experiences. There are many customers out there who would have not gotten the drink because it wasn’t part of the bargain. They would have ended with the strips and biscuit or chosen something else that included a drink.

That is the Discount Mentality that has taken over much of America. And it is reinforced and fueled by retailers all across the country who only offer customers the bundles, deals and specials. 

Don’t be that store.

There are also a large swath of shoppers who are more like my employee, who know exactly what they want and how they want it. They are willing to pay extra for the drink, because to get it any other way is to not get what they want.

While the rest of the world caters to the Discount Mentality…

  • You need to find and hire employees who don’t think that way. 
  • You need to train your team to first give the customer exactly what she wants (and then worry about any specials or deals). 
  • You need to create a store where falling in love with the product is more important than fitting a budget or a price. 

You do that and you’ll have plenty of customers willingly paying extra for the drink. They’re thirsty for a store that gives them exactly what they want and how they want it.

Be that store.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS For those of you who have read Dr. Ross Honeywill’s book One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One, you’ll know that I am talking about selling to NEO’s. I’ll show you how to get customers to fall in love with your products in the next post.

The One Loyalty Program You Need to Grow Your Business

Your brain has a gatekeeper. His name is Broca. He protects your brain from all the boring, mundane and predictable in the world.

Roy H. Williams, aka, The Wizard of Ads, was the first person to introduce me to Broca. Most advertisements fail because Broca saw them coming a mile away. But it isn’t just ads that Broca blocks.

Tell me all the mundane things you did yesterday. Bet you can’t remember them all.

Tell me all the surprising things that happened yesterday. Bet you nailed that list.

According to Roy, “Surprise is the foundation of delight.”

If you want to delight your customers, you have to do something surprising. If you want to make your customers’ experience memorable, you can’t be boring, mundane or predictable.

Strativity Group Inc. in a new survey, found that people who had been “delighted” by their favorite brand were more than twice as likely to be brand-loyal than those who weren’t delighted.

Another Royism… “If a person expected something to happen, and it happened, there can be no delight.”

  • If you give your customer less than she expects, she’s going to shred you.
  • If you give a customer exactly what she expects, at least she won’t shred you, but she won’t be loyal, either.
  • If you surprise a customer with more than what she expects, you’ll be memorable and she’ll be loyal.

Go ahead and surprise her. That’s the loyalty program you really should be offering.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The easiest way to surprise and delight her is to evaluate all the interaction points a customer has with your store from the front door to the checkout and figure out exactly what she expects during each encounter. Then figure out what you can do that is a little bit more than she expects. It is far cheaper to you and more effective on her than any discount you might offer her.

PPS Need a head start on evaluating what she expects? Download the FREE e-book – Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!