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Christmas Quick Tip #10 – Move Stuff Around

For the holiday season I am keeping these posts short and simple. You’re busy. I’m busy.

Here is tip #10 …

MOVE STUFF AROUND

By now you’ve had a pretty good taste of what people want. You already know the slow movers, the stuff you had high hopes for but haven’t seen the sales. Now is the time to move it.

Here is how you sell that merchandise without heavy discounts …

  • Move it around
  • Put it in a better location
  • Give it a spotlight and a sign
  • Treat it like it is special
  • Talk it up to your customers
  • Talk it up to your staff
  • Give your staff a spiff for selling it

It is better to mark it down a little and move it now while you have a lot of customers than try to move it in January at really deep discounts when you don’t have the traffic.

You have from now until Friday to identify those slow movers and relocate them in the store. (On Friday the men start their Christmas shopping.)

Go!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Remerchandising should already be the busiest thing on your schedule as you constantly shift inventory to make the store look full.

Christmas Quick Tip #9 – Empty Her Hands

This month’s blog posts are short and simple because you’re busy. They are also reminders of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to increase sales, increase profits, and increase customer delight. This tip does all three.

Here is tip #9

EMPTY HER HANDS

If you don’t have shopping carts or baskets, your customers are limited to buy only what they can carry. Therefore, it should be a mission for all of your team to help unburden your customers whenever their hands are full.

Offer to take her items up to the checkout station.

This is good for two reasons. First, it frees up her hands to shop for more items. Second, it helps close the sale because when she agrees to your request to take the items up front she is giving her implicit acknowledgement that she has decided to buy those items.

When her hands are free she will shop longer, buy more, and be happier.

Don’t believe me? Believe Paco Underhill. He researched it for decades and chronicled it in his book Why We Buy. If you haven’t read it, ask Santa to bring you a copy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Come up with a system for your team when they bring items up front—put a sticky note with a name on the pile and/or have a designated place for piles—something that helps you keep piles organized so that the wrong items don’t go home with the wrong people.

Christmas Quick Tip #7 – Lead with the Best

Of all the Christmas Quick Tips I will give you, this one will be the hardest to master and quite possibly the most rewarding when you and your team do master it …

Here is tip #7

LEAD WITH THE BEST

Your customer is looking for solutions. Yes, at this time of year we call them gifts, but at the end of the day, they are really solutions to problems.

When you offer suggestions, unless the customer has given you a price range right up front, ignore price altogether and start by showing the best solution you have.

It doesn’t have to be the most expensive. It just has to make the most sense.

The tendency of most retail salespeople is to sell from your own pocketbook and start by offering the cheapest solution. That doesn’t win hearts (or build profits). You can use the cheapest solution as the fallback when they balk at the price of the best solution, but always lead with the best.

A customer will expand his or her budget if the product offered truly fits her needs.

You are a solution provider. Your job is to provide the best possible solution first. Then the customer can decide what she’s willing to compromise to fit her budget.

Teach your team that goal number one is to solve the problem in the best way possible. Always lead with the best.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Never open with the question, “What’s your budget?” First, they almost always lowball you well below what they would actually spend for the right product. Second, it pigeonholes you and often keeps you from showing her the right product. She’ll tell you when it’s out of her league, and you can adjust your offerings from there.

PPS Some of my favorite stores have successfully talked me into buying a more expensive item than I planned. I love those stores because in each case the solution was worth the expenditure. On the flip side, there are stores I won’t visit again because they tried to upsell me something that wasn’t the best solution to my problem. Always lead with the BEST.

Christmas Quick Tip #6 – Coins First!

Keeping it short and sweet, here is another simple, easy tip you and your team can do to make the holiday experience a better one for your customers.

Tip #6

GIVE THE COINS BACK FIRST

If you’re a regular, you know this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It shows both a lack of caring and a lack of training when the cashier hands me the bills first and then dumps the loose change onto my already occupied hand. The coins inevitably spill and now I’m wasting time on my hands a knees for a couple dimes.

Ugh!

The best thing you can do is teach your staff to “Count Back” the change.

The second best thing you can do is to at least have them place the coins in the customer’s hands first, followed by the bills.

Please, please, please teach and do this. Not only will you avoid those awkward hands-and-knees moments, you’ll subconsciously make your customer’s day (or in my case, you would consciously make my day and I would probably let out a rebel yell of joy!)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I do think it is a big deal. There are little things that have bigger meaning. This is one of training and caring. A cashier taught the right way instills far more confidence than one who is bumbling around and making you drop stuff.

Christmas Quick Tip #5 – Start Closing at Closing Time

Since your time is tight, now through December 21st I’m keeping these blog posts short and simple with tips, tools, and techniques that make a difference.

Here is tip #5

START CLOSING AT CLOSING TIME 

Not before.

Yes, you’re tired. Yes, these are long days and you want to go home. Yes, waiting until closing time to wash the counters, count the change, empty the wastebaskets, etc. will make you have to stay a few minutes later.

Yes, your last customer of the day deserves the same enthusiasm as your first customer of the day.

Make it taboo for anyone on your team to mention how tired they are. This is your moment to make hay. This is what your whole year has been built around. You’re supposed to be tired at the end of the day. Just don’t let it show.

Treat the last customers with the same enthusiasm as the first customers. Don’t go around the store closing things down and making them feel unwelcome. Instead think of them as the icing on your sales cake and give them the red carpet treatment.

Even if you have to fake it.

It not only pays now with bigger sales at the end of the day, it pays down the road as a customer treated well is more likely to come back than a customer treated like a nuisance.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I was guilty of this far too often. It is the one mistake I wish I could go back in time to fix. Yes, they are long days for you. Have you ever considered it has also been a long day for your customer? Treat her with kindness and enthusiasm and not only do you get the sale, you just might make her day.

Christmas Quick Tip #4 – Never Say No

For the rest of the Christmas season I am keeping these blogs short and simple with one tip, tool, or technique you and your team can use to make this season rock!

Here is tip #4 …

NEVER SAY NO

You are going to be asked quite often for products you don’t have. Either you’re out-of-stock or you don’t carry that product (or maybe you’ve never heard of it). 

When the store is busy and you have other customers waiting to be helped, it is easy to simply say No and move on to a customer you can help.

Resist the urge.

Train yourself and your staff to Never Say No. Try out these phrases instead …

  • I have some coming in soon. Can I arrange to have it sent to you as soon as it comes in?
  • Are you looking for that particular item, or can I show you something similar?
  • We prefer this brand instead (be direct)
  • What are you hoping to do with that item? (if you know this isn’t just meant to be a gift)
  • Can you show me what it is? (if you’ve never heard of the item)

All of these phrases are conversation starters. Often a customer is looking for a specific item because she doesn’t know alternatives exist or she has an idea in her head and can only think of one solution. When you start the conversation, sometimes you find better solutions than the one she asked for.

If all you do is say No, they often quit asking.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s another tool I stole from a fellow toy store owner. Create a “No List.” Put it on a clipboard up front. Every time an employee gets asked for a product you don’t have or a service you don’t offer, write it on the No List. If one thing ends up on that No List several times, you should consider selling that item or offering that service. Your customers already think you would.

Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout

You’re busy. I’m busy. Our customers are busy. So in the interest of time, I’m keeping all the posts from now through Christmas short and sweet.

Here is tip #3

SIGN THEM UP BEFORE CHECKOUT

If you have a loyalty program, birthday club, or email list that you normally ask customers to join, you need to get in the habit of doing that long before they get to check out.

By the time the customer gets to checkout, they are in a hurry to leave. Anything you do then to slow down the line is an aggravation and leaves a bad taste in their mouth. They are not in a sharing mood then.

The best time to sign someone up is during the sales process. Not only are they in a friendlier mood, they are in less of a hurry and more willing to say yes.

Once you get them to say yes to your program, you make closing the sale that much easier.

Now is a good time to farm for your lists. Hire a seasonal person to wander your store with a tablet and/or clipboard and sign people up for your loyalty/birthday/email list. You’ll get more takers, close more sales, and keep your registers humming at optimal speed.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you don’t have enough salespeople to have them all doing this job as part of their sales process, hiring a seasonal person for this will more than pay for itself down the road. Plus it gives you one more person on the floor to direct customers where to go and deter shoplifters.

Christmas Quick Tip #1 – Thank You

It’s the busy season. You don’t have time for a lengthy blog with stories and explanations. So to make your life easier, now through December 21st I’m going to post simple, quick tips you can use and share with your staff to raise the bar for your customers. (Don’t ask questions. Just do these things and it will make a difference.)

Here is tip #1 …

SAY THANK YOU

Remind yourself and your staff to always say, “Thank You,” to every customer. Never say “Here you go,” or “No problem.” 

Even when a customer says Thank you to you first, you respond with a thanks or use Chick-fil-A’s, “My pleasure.” Say it and mean it. Those customers have choices and they chose you. Be sincerely thankful.

One study showed that 68% of people switched loyalty in stores because of indifference. Be grateful and you’ll never have that problem.

You cannot say “Thank you!” enough!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Thank you for reading and sharing this blog.

Small Business Academy Homework – The Interviews

I’ve been taking an online class for startup businesses. Frances Schagen, my instructor, is allowing me to do my homework live on this blog. You can read the first two installments here and here.

In the last assignment I had to identify twenty potential customers. I identified customer profiles, but Frances wanted actual potential customers because part three of this business-building class is to interview these potential customers to see if they would even be interested in the product I am offering, and what advice they might give me to help me refine my offerings.

Panorama of Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a large crowd
Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a packed house in Grand Rapids, MI

If you read Part 2 you know that I identified two different groups of customers for my Phil’s Forum speaking business—Small Business Owners and DDA/Main Street/Trade Association Directors.

I spoke to several of the former and three of the latter group to ask them what they thought about what I was offering.

The insights I got from both groups, while not exactly eye-opening, were helpful.

SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

I spoke to several retailers, some who have seen my presentations and some who have not. They fell into three categories …

  1. Those who actively seek education
  2. Those who take advantage of it when it fits into their schedule
  3. Those who don’t see the value in it.

That last group was interesting because it included people who used to be in the first two groups but have become skeptical or disillusioned because of the lack of value in programming they have tried or speakers they have seen.

One person told me he stopped going to educational events like the presentations I offer because they always seem to include a sales pitch.

“They give you a nugget or two, but if you really want to learn anything of value you have to buy their package.”

Another person told me she was tired of seeing presentations where the speaker didn’t do his homework and knew nothing of her industry. I, myself, have seen speakers like that and know her frustration. Nothing worse than sitting in the audience knowing what you’re being taught won’t apply in your situation.

Group 2 was interesting. They only attend breakout sessions and workshops when they are already at an event for other reasons such as a trade show. When I asked if they would attend a workshop in their town or a special event that was solely focused on education, their responses included …

  • Don’t have the money
  • Don’t have the time
  • Don’t trust the speaker

Group 1 was the smallest, but also the most likely to attend workshops offered by the Chamber or DDA in their town. These people all followed my blog and had downloaded most of my Free Resources and were voracious readers. They still faced the time and money crunch of Group 2, but were able to see value that Group 3 couldn’t, so they made learning a priority.

Interestingly enough I saw successful business owners in all three categories. I also saw fluidity between the groups. Some of Group 3 had been in Group 1 in their early days. Some of Group 1 became that way after attending a presentation at a trade show as a Group 2 mentality.

DIRECTORS

I also spoke to three different directors, two of whom have hired me for leading workshops, one who hasn’t.

The two who have hired me before both run successful downtown merchant groups and are big believers in continuing education and see the value it offers their constituents, but both lamented the difficulty of finding enough Small Business Owners from Group 1 above to attend these programs. The directors both told me they had a lot of what I will call Group 2 constituents that complained about having time or money for such programming, so although the directors see the value, their difficulty is justifying the expense when only a few will benefit.

The one person I spoke to who hasn’t hired me, is similar to Group 3 above. He doesn’t see any value himself, doesn’t see anyone who would attend, and doesn’t believe the expense would benefit his organization enough to outweigh spending that money. In many ways he projects his own values onto his group in the way that your sales team often sells from their own pocket books.

I got four key takeaways from this exercise.

The first key takeaway for me is that the trade associations that have trade shows with educational speakers will be my best opportunities to find the largest audiences because there will be plenty of Group 1 and Group 2 type businesses there. The hard part is finding enough of these associations hosting this type of programming with a budget to hire outside presenters. Three industries I have approached in the past only hire from within because of Group 3 complaints that outsiders didn’t know their industry.

Other directors, especially downtown merchant groups, will be a harder sell, but still a strong possibility if they believe in continuing education for their members. I will really have to show them the value and help them show their members the value of workshops and presentations I offer. Past experience has shown me that Main Street programs are more likely to believe in continuing education.

The second key takeaway is to make sure I do my research into the industry for which I am presenting. When I spoke to the camera/photo industry I visited several stores before hand. When I spoke to the Garden Center industry the director of that show sent me tons of facts and info.

The third key takeaway is to make sure my presentations have value you can use right away. Fortunately, that has been my goal from the beginning. I’ve been in those audiences where the speaker holds back all the good stuff that you can have for three easy payments. I don’t want to be that guy. I’ve been in presentations where the speaker didn’t know the industry. I don’t want to be that guy, either.

My final key takeaway is to realize that not everyone will want my services, and that is okay.

It is not worth the time and energy to try to convert those people into customers. A quick no and I’ll put my resources elsewhere.

This was a fun exercise. I got to connect with some old friends. I got some valuable insight. I got some reaffirmations of what I am trying to do.

Your key takeaway should be that it is good to talk to your customers from time to time to see how you can make their shopping experience better. You should also talk to people who don’t shop with you to see why not. What obstacles are keeping them from shopping at your store? Those customers may not be worth your time and energy.

Then again, they might give you that one little nugget you need to change your business for the better.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One other thing I learned is that this blog is one of the ways I build trust before a presentation. I went back and noticed a slight bump in blog views every time a trade association named me as one of their speakers. You were checking me out to see if I walk the talk. That’s good info to know.

PPS Since time is a factor—especially this time of year—the next 19 blogs (every weekday through Dec. 21) will have a slightly different format. I will being purposefully making them short and simple with little things you can do that will make a difference. Think of it as your Advent Calendar for retail.

Change or Stay the Course?

I read a quote the other day and it has stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work it into a worthwhile post. The quote is from author William R. Inge. He says …

“There are two kinds of fools. One says, ‘This is old, therefore it is good,’; the other says, ‘This is new, therefore it is better.’ “

“This is old, therefore it is good,” is the trap we get into when we say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“This is new, therefore it is better,” is the trap we get into especially whenever a new form of advertising comes along. We think we need to be on the cutting edge or we will get left behind.

The problem with both of those statements is that they are completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Some old things are really good and shouldn’t be changed. Some new things are truly better and will disrupt your industry and kill your business if you don’t adopt them.

I was at a presentation a few years ago when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we had any employees that had been with us twenty or more years. I raised my hand.

He said the best thing we could do for our business is to fire those people the day we got back. They were the keepers of the flame of everything old. They were the standard bearers for, “We’ve always done it this way.”

I didn’t fire those people (I had two at the time), but I took to heart his meaning and paid close attention to who was willing to change and who wasn’t.

The other side of the coin was fascinating, too. Back in the early 90’s we had newsprint, radio, TV, billboard, yellow pages, and direct mail as our advertising options. There was no social media, email, or mobile marketing. The movie theaters weren’t running pre-show ads. Most of us didn’t even know the word Google, let alone have our own website with SEO optimization.

Yet each one of those was going to disrupt the advertising industry and change it forever (or so we were told).

The sales pitch from every rep was the same. “If you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re going to miss out on the biggest change the industry has ever seen, and you’ll be left in the dust by your competition.”

Some of those new things (like email and having your own website) really have changed the game for small businesses. Some, like closed-circuit TV, haven’t been quite as lucrative as promised.

How do you know when to change and when not to change? For many of us, that is the biggest question and hardest task. I wrote about it once before and came up with these three points of what to change …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

The best way avoid becoming one of the two fools above is to have a process for when and how to change.

WHEN TO CHANGE

When someone asks you to change something you’ve always done, you get defensive. That is a natural reaction. Here is a process to help you decide when to change the old (or chase after the new.)

First ask this question …

  • Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

If it is a tweak and the tweak makes the current process more efficient and/or more customer-friendly, you should do it.

In fact you should always be looking for tweaks, small changes that make things work better.

If it is a wholesale change—some shiny, new bauble—then you have to ask a few more questions …

  • Does the new process/system fit within our Core Values?
  • Is it customer-friendly?
  • Is it faster or more efficient than the old way?
  • Can it be easily taught to everyone on the team?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it is a good change.

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, you’re better off staying the course.

If you answered no to the third question, but a strong yes to the first two, it might be worth considering. sometimes it is worth giving up a little efficiency on your end if it helps delight more customers.

If you answered yes to the first three but not the last question, just understand there will be some growing pains to get the new system implemented, but it is still worth making the change.

If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can do what I did. I always liked to ask two more questions …

  • Is the old way no longer working?
  • What statistics were slain to make this bauble look enticing?

Change costs time, money, and other resources. Change is not always easy. In Seth Godin’s book THE DIP, he shows how change often causes a dip in productivity at first, followed by the gains you were hoping to get when you made the change.

Sometimes it is better to keep the old ways. Sometimes it is better to embrace the new.

The true fool, however, is the business owner who doesn’t have a process to evaluate when and how to change your business for the better.

Fortunately, you’re no fool.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll explore how to change later this week.

PPS I had one more technique I used for making decisions on the shiny, new baubles presented to me, especially in advertising. I slept on them. If something new is good, it will still be available tomorrow. In fact, if it is really good, tomorrow there will be two more people trying to sell you on it.

When it came to new advertising methods, I would also ask …