I was in the office this day seventeen years ago. My dad was there talking on the phone with my sister. It was in the morning just after 9am. She had called to wish him a happy 58th birthday. She had CNN on in the background and asked my dad if he had heard about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. No, he hadn’t.
While still on the phone, he turned and asked me if I had heard about it. No, I hadn’t.
I immediately got on my computer.
By early afternoon we had seen the last of our customers for the day. I had sent home most of the staff by then, too. I’ll never forget that day.
The next few days, however, were a blur. We had customers, but even they were somewhat in shock and not sure how to react or what to do. It took about a week before business came back to normal levels. Surprisingly, it still ended up being the second busiest September in the history of the store.
One fascinating memory I have from that month was how the relationships seemed to change. It felt like we were closer with our customers than we had been before. Whether that was a result of all of us going through a shared tragic moment, or if it was because it was our core customers who were the first to return, or simply because we put a premium on relationships after those attacks, I’ll never fully know.
It just felt different.
I felt a similar difference in 2014. My overall training goal that year was on Relationship-Building and Selling.
We started in January talking about Repeat and Referral business. Repeat business comes from giving great customer service (doing what the customer expects). Referral business comes from doing more than the customer expects, so much more that she has to tell her friends.
In February the topic was the greeting, how to say Hi and welcome the customer to the store. In March we worked on listening skills. In April we worked on how to decipher what was in our customer’s mind. What were her fears and objections? What problem was she trying to solve and how could we help her solve it? What questions should we be asking and what answers should we be listening for?
The next three months were about closing the sale including Features & Benefits, Visualization, and Assumptive Selling.
Those six months of training were the basis for the presentations I did last August and the five new eBooks posted on the Free Resources Page. Those six months of training are now an integral part of the new presentation—The Ultimate Selling Workshop.*
I think the feelings we had with our customers in the fall of 2001 were a combination of the relationships we were building naturally and the common tragedy we all had experienced. That year was the biggest year in sales in our 68-year history.
In 2014, however, the relationship-building was intentional. Even as our market was in serious decline, 2014 was our second most profitable year and one of the more rewarding years I’ve ever experienced. It was the closest we felt to our customers since 2001.
The best stores build relationships with customers all the time. It starts by hiring friendly people who love to meet and help others. If you only do that, you’ll still be doing more than most of your competitors. The true excitement, however, happens when you teach those friendly employees how to intentionally create the lasting relationships that keep your Repeat and Referral rates at all-time highs, while, more importantly, making life better for both you and them. That’s when you’re no longer compared to your competitors because you’re on a level all your own.
It is all about the relationships you build. That’s the retail lesson from this day.
*PS The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a three-hour, hands-on session that takes the best elements from the breakout presentations The Meet-and-Greet, Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling, and How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy) and wraps them up into one power-packed event that includes training activities for your staff, hands-on activities that drive home each point, and a map to guide you to better selling. You’ll learn how to build long-term relationships, get the most out of every transaction, and even how to attract the best, most profitable customers to your store. If you sign up now through the end of September to do this workshop this fall, you’ll get the special introductory rate of $2,000. (Call me October 1st and you might be able to talk me down to $3,000 for the same workshop—and it will still be more than worth it!)