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Change Your Viewpoint to See Your Business Better

I was sitting in a conference center in Louisville, Kentucky for a presentation by Rick Segel in May 2009.

Rick asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if your product selection sucks, if you just don’t have the goods people want.” No hands went up.

Rick then said, “Raise your hand if your store has lousy customer service, if you’re treating customers poorly.” Again, no hands went up.

One more time Rick said, “Raise your hands if you are gouging the heck out of your customers with your prices.”

Since two surveys I had done showed customers already believed that about us, I raised my hand. “Ooh, me! I do!” Rick tossed me a free copy of one of his books and said thanks for being honest.

The point Rick was trying to make was …

Every business thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices.

Most of us are wrong. We have either wrongly convinced ourselves of our greatness or justified away our flaws. We think, “If only more people would come through the door they would see how great we are.”

The truth is …

If you were truly Great, more people would come through your door.

Our problem is one of perception. We see the business through our own perception, from inside the bottle. Our customers have a completely different frame of reference. We compare ourselves to our mass market competitors and say, “See? We are soooo much better than them.”

Our customers compare us to every store they’ve ever visited and say with a sigh, “I wish [your store] was more like [my favorite store].”

If you want to find your blind spots, you have to look at things differently. You have to look at your business from your customers’ perspectives.

PRODUCT SELECTION

To improve your product selection, create a “No List”. This is a list of all the items customers come in asking for that you have to say, “No, I’m sorry we don’t. Can I show you an alternative?” (By the way, that or “Can I suggest a store that would have that item.” are the only two acceptable answers when you don’t have a certain product.)

If a customer walks through your doors or calls you on the phone asking for a certain product it is because the customer perceives you to be the kind of store that would carry that product. If you’re constantly saying no and not showing the alternatives you would rather carry, you’re flying directly in the face of customer perception. If there are one or two products on that No List every week, you need to look into either carrying those products or the next best alternative to those products. Otherwise your product selection will not be considered “Great” in your customers’ eyes.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

What percentage of your business is repeat business? Make an educated guess. Your repeat business is a direct reflection of your Customer Service. If your Customer Service is Great, meaning you’ve met her every expectation, she will be back.

What percentage of your business is referral business, people who have never been in your store but came in because a friend told them (or better yet, dragged them in)? This is a direct reflection of how often you did more than a customer expected.

“Surprise is the foundation of delight. If you expected something to happen and it happened, there is no delight.” -Roy H. Williams

If all you do is meet expectations (Great Customer Service), you’ll get some repeat business. To get referral business, however, you have to raise the bar even higher. If you aren’t getting a lot of repeat and referral business, then you don’t have Great Customer Service in your customers’ eyes.

One last thing to consider … If your store isn’t the store everyone points to in town for having the best customer service, your service isn’t good enough, yet. (And if it is, then the bullseye is on your back so you better be doing something to keep raising the bar.)

PRICE

This is one area where you’ll have a hard time changing perception. When we did our surveys we were regularly considered “Over-Priced” and “Expensive” compared to Walmart, Toys R Us, Meijer, and Target. All four of those stores talk about low prices and saving money in every ad they run. There is a built-in perceptual bias that all indie stores are more expensive than their mass competitors. The interesting part of the survey for me was that we also owned the word “Value.” That’s when I knew my prices were okay. Yes we were Expensive because we carried more expensive items. But the customers saw the Value in those items.

Remember, too, that not everyone shops on Price. Make your prices competitive and sharp, but more importantly, hone up on the Product Selection and Customer Service elements, and people will see the value you offer.

Every store thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices. Most stores are wrong. You can’t measure whether you have Great Selection, Great Service or Great Prices from any of your spreadsheets. You can’t see it from behind your cashwrap. You have to look at it from the customers’ eyes. That’s the only point of view that counts.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can win over some of the perceptual bias on Pricing. The blueprint is in the Free eBook Pricing for Profit. Most stores who have followed this pricing have reported back how customers perceive their pricing to be much more competitive. All of the stores who have followed this pricing have reported back increases in profit margin because of it. What do you have to lose?

PPS Even if you think your Customer Service is Great, ask yourself …

  • What would happen if your staff was better at building relationships with your customers?
  • What would happen if your staff was able to close more sales?
  • What would happen if your staff was able to increase the average sale?
  • What would happen if your staff learned to work together better as a team?

How would that change things for you?

One downside is that you would be busier. You’d have to write more orders (increasing your turn ratio and your cashflow). You’d have to look into hiring more people to handle the increased traffic. You might even have to consider a new location to expand your business. If you’re okay with those hassles, contact me to run The Ultimate Selling Workshop with your team.

The Fallacy of Foot Traffic

I was at Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall in Auburn Hills, MI the other day. It is one of the few malls I truly enjoy, partly because it has an aquarium (I have an oceanography degree), a LEGOLand (I used to sell toys for a living), and a Bass Pro Shop (I used to lead wilderness trips and still love to go camping). With Haggar, Levi, and Bose stores, and tons of seating in the walkways in front of the ladies clothing stores it is definitely a man-friendly mall.

The place was hopping. Whoever said malls are dead hasn’t been to this mall. The main aisles were jammed with people on a lazy Sunday afternoon in late August. It wasn’t a back-to-school crowd. It was just people out shopping and having a good time.

The food court was especially crowded. The line at Starbucks snaked all the way around their kiosk. Almost every restaurant in that food court had a line four or five people deep.

The key phrase there is “almost.”

Two restaurants in particular had no lines at all. As I sat eating my pizza, I watched both restaurants with interest. Three young girls approached one restaurant, stared at the menu, and walked away. A mom with a kid in a stroller stopped at the other restaurant and ordered her meal. In the time it took me to eat my pizza, that was the only paying customer at either of those two restaurants.

All the other restaurants had lines of people.

It wasn’t like these restaurants were serving fried crickets on a stick or something else not on the American palate. In a busy mall they weren’t getting the benefit of any of that foot traffic. Somehow, either through previous reputation, the signage in their restaurants, their pricing, their selection, or their attitude, they were idle—even with plenty of customers all around them.

All the foot traffic in the world won’t help you if there is a flaw somewhere in the business. It might hide the flaw for a little bit, but until you find and fix that flaw, you’ll never grow.

The reverse is also true. If you have a fabulous business, your location may hold you back a little, but not nearly as much as you think.

Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop
1104 E. Ganson St.
Jackson, MI 49201

One of my favorite burger joints has been in the same location since 1927. The road was a dirt road back then and the location is still well off the beaten path. The only foot traffic they get is the traffic they generate themselves. The restaurant is just a counter with limited seating. Yet the business is still going and growing after 91 years.

Just last week new owners took over. Yes it was a viable enough business to sell (something very few restaurants can say). The big change the new owners are planning? They are thinking about adding a drive-thru to handle all the takeout traffic.

My point is that too often we think, “If only I had a better location with more traffic …” or “If only I could find that silver bullet in my advertising that would draw more traffic …”

Neither of those thoughts is the true path to success. I predict those restaurants at Great Lakes Crossing will be replaced by next summer. They had all the traffic they could stand but weren’t able to convert it into customers.

I also predict that when Schlenker’s builds their drive-thru it will be filled with cars every day without them having to spend a dime on advertising.

If you have ever heard yourself saying, “If only we had more foot traffic …” the better question to ask is …

“What do I need to do to make my business better so that people want to come here?”

You are a destination store. When you act like one, you’ll draw all the traffic you need without any silver bullets or malls to do it for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Even with a steady, solid, faithful customer base and a burger that was rated the seventh best in the entire state of Michigan, the other change the new owners of Schlenker’s are making is to switch suppliers to a higher grade and quality of the ground sirloin that makes their burgers so good. They have all the traffic they can handle, yet even they are answering that one question above. Are you?

Is it the Best Place to Spend Your Money?

“It’s only $400. What have you got to lose?”

If you’ve ever run a small business you’ve heard that question before, usually spoken by an advertising sales rep trying to sell you on some new marketing fad, or maybe an add-on to a package you’ve already bought. You fall for it, too. I know I did, several times.

You fall for it like I did for one of three reasons:

  • You didn’t have a marketing plan
  • You didn’t have a goal, or expected outcome you knew you wanted from your marketing plan
  • You didn’t do the ROI and truly answer that question
Close up of a pen and blank check

What have you got to lose? For starters, the $400 check you just wrote. Secondly, the chance to spend that $400 more wisely. The better question to ask is …

“Is this the best place to spend that money?”

When you have a plan, you have a better idea of where you want to spend your money, how that money will be used, what you hope to accomplish, and how you’ll measure the results. You’ll also have a budget that you’re checking regularly so that you’ll know if you even have that $400 to spend in the first place. When I started budgeting, I had set amounts to spend in certain places where I knew I would get the best bang for my buck. I also had some flexible money for opportunity buys.

When you have a goal or expected outcome, you have another measuring tool. When I finally got smart about my budget, the question I would always ask before spending that flex fund was, “Would this money be better spent on this new thing or just added to the money I’ve allocated elsewhere?”

The ROI is the hardest question to answer. One truth about marketing, advertising and even sales training is that there isn’t a simple plug-and-chug equation that says if you spend X your results will be Y. Anyone who tells you otherwise has a good ROI—for him, not necessarily you. At best you have generalizations based on previous experiences, trial-and-error, and hope. Yet being able to figure out the ROI, even in the most general sense, is the only way to really know what you have to lose.

DOING THE MATH

I’m going to do a math problem to give you an idea of how to calculate ROI. To do it, I will be using some basic assumptions. You can adjust your numbers accordingly.

  • Traffic = 200 people/day
  • Conversion rate = 20% (40 people/day)
  • Average Ticket = $50
  • Sales for 30 selling days = $60,000 (40 people x $50 x 30 days)
  • Profit Margin = 50% ($30,000 on that $60,000 in sales)

If we do the math backwards, it might look like this: I need to do $60,800 in sales just to break even on the $400 I’m going to spend. Realistically, though, to make it worthwhile, I’d like to make back at least an extra $400, so I need to do $61,600 to get any kind of return worthwhile. Therefore, at $50/per ticket, I now need an extra 32 paying customers over the 30 days. Since my conversion rate is only 20%, however, I need to attract an extra 160 customers over the month just to break even. So the real question becomes, “Will this $400 attract an extra 5-6 people a day or more (3%)?” Considering one of the most highly measured advertising models—direct mail—has only a 1-2% expected return, that might be asking a lot of any marketing effort, especially something new and untested.

Remember, too, that the effects of this advertising will likely end with the season. If it isn’t already in your budget, being able to do the math like this can save you from losing a lot.

You can play around with this basic formula to find out all kinds of cool things. For instance, if your Profit Margin was 52% instead of 50%, you’d have an extra $1,200 in your pocket. (To find out how to increase your profit margin through a better pricing strategy, download the FREE eBook Pricing for Profit.)

What if you raised your conversion rate from 20% to 22%? (By the way, that’s converting 4 out of the 160 people that didn’t convert before.) Now, instead of 40 people a day, you have 44 paying customers. Over 30 days that equals $66,000 in sales, or an extra $3,000 in profit.

What if you also raised the average ticket just 2% to $51? Now you have 44 people x $51 x 30 days = $67,320 in sales, or $3,660 in extra profit.

Wait. Did I just show you the ROI for The Ultimate Selling Workshop? Maybe I should add in a few other benefits.

Unlike most advertising that ends when the season ends, Sales Training keeps creating results long after the season ends. Your staff will learn new skills that they will use the rest of their lives. You’ll see your culture change for the better as your staff focuses more on relationship-building, not only with your customers, but with each other. They’ll also be more intrinsically motivated because you’ll be offering them Mastery and Purpose, two of the three elements (along with Autonomy) that Daniel H. Pink, in his book DRIVE, says motivates people to do their best.

Better Sales Training also leads to happier, more satisfied customers which leads to more Repeat business as your happy customers want to come back more often and Referral business as those happy customers tell all their friends about you. Yes, you can actually “buy” word-of-mouth by teaching your team to be better at selling. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s one last nugget for you to chew on …

If your customer service is substandard—and let’s face it, a lot more stores have lower levels of service than they’re willing to admit—then just increasing traffic through advertising will only help speed up your demise as more and more people will talk about you in a negative way. Shore up your Customer Service first. Teach your staff how to build relationships, how to surprise and delight, how to convert more of your traffic into paying customers, and how to make your customers happier. Then you’ll have all the money you need to attract more people through the door.

The ROI is there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If your business is going to do $60,000 or more this December, The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a really good deal for you. In fact, the higher your traffic count, the better the investment becomes. I’ve shown you how this pays for itself and then some with just a modest growth of 2-2.5% in conversions and average ticket. Now do that math over the whole year to see the true benefit.

PPS Yes, you can download the FREE eBooks on Selling that I’ve posted and you can read my blogs to do this yourself. You’ll save the $2,000 you would have spent on me. You’ll instead spend it on time and energy planning your own trainings and extrapolating all those idea to your industry. Or you can hire me and not only will I do all that work for you, there is something about bringing in an outside expert that gets your staff fired up even more. They might love you, but they’ve heard you speak before. I know when I brought in new people to my meetings the staff perked up and listened even better. The introductory price ends at midnight September 30th. Let’s make this your best December ever and kick start 2019 all at once.

Price is the Default – Change Your Settings

Do you feel beat up over price? Does the business news turn your stomach into knots as you read about department stores like Younker’s going out of business and Sears and Macy’s doing another round of closures? Does it make you cringe every time you hear that Dollar General has opened a new store? Do you want to curl up in the fetal position every time Amazon has a Prime Day?

The retail economists look at all that news and keep coming to the same conclusion …

Price drives all retail.

They are missing the true picture. Price is not the driver.

In the absence of everything else, Price is the Default.

At 3:01am EDST Apple opened up pre-orders of their new lineup of iPhones they introduced two days earlier. These phones cost more than the computer I use to write this blog. Yet the early adopters were up and ordering their new phones at full retail prices.

Apple gets what so many retailer do not. There are tons of customers out there willing to shop for some reason other than price. The reason they don’t is that too many stores have given up on giving them something else.

I just read a report that department stores, long mired in a slump, are spending more on television ads this coming fall. It also talked about their other strategies to turn their ships around that included supply chain and inventory management improvements.

Nowhere in the article did it say anything about investing in employees and employee training. Nowhere were the words (albeit overused) Customer Service, Customer Experience, or Sales Training. Nowhere was there a discussion of spending more to surprise and delight customers. The article went on to say that modest growth based on the already growing consumer spending in the US was about the best they could hope for.

Do you know why the traditional department stores are struggling? They have cut their staff and their training back so far that they are just over-priced versions of their competitors. Target, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and other stores like them now have pretty much all the same stuff with the exact same levels of non-existent service as the traditional department stores, but at lower prices.

According to the same article about their TV spending, the only department store mentioned that has a chance of truly thriving is Nordstrom’s. Yeah, the only store still focused on customer service.

There was a survey done by National Retailer Federation during the Great Recession. When asked what would drive people’s decisions where to shop, 41% said “deals and discounts” and another 12% said “everyday low pricing.” That only adds up to 53% of the population. Another 47%—almost half—said something other than price would drive them during a time where money was tight.

Today’s economy isn’t that tight. Although price has become default for more and more customers—mainly because of the lack of service out there—there are still well over 40% of the population that would choose a store for reasons other than price … if they were given that option.

That’s why I am pushing The Ultimate Selling Workshop so hard this fall. You could spend the $2,000 on advertising and maybe drive in a few more shoppers this season, especially if your prices are sharp enough. Or you could up the game of your sales staff, increase average tickets, increase loyalty (without just giving bounceback coupons or discounts), increase word-of-mouth advertising, increase repeat business, and increase referral business not only this season, but going forward into 2019.

Your holiday ads end with the holidays but Sales Training is the gift that keeps on giving.

Millennials are more open to shopping local than any generation before them. They also shop completely differently than any generation before them. Reaching them through advertising and marketing is only half the problem. You also have to know how to sell to them. You’ll learn how in The Ultimate Selling Workshop.

Don’t be a Default retailer. Change your settings to Surprise and Delight. There are a lot of customers who would choose you if given the chance. Call or email me today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Last year over 100 million people went to Toys R Us even though Walmart had consistently lower prices and Amazon had a much larger selection. Those 100 million customers went for some other reason. If they can draw that kind of business by offering a better “experience,” you have the opportunity to draw some amazing crowds, considering I am sure you can offer an even better experience than any chain store out there. (By the way, just for clarification, Toys R Us went under because of heavy debt load caused by their greedy venture capitalist owners borrowing money for themselves against the company. They were profitable, but not profitable enough to pay the massive interest on their debt.)

PPS If you aren’t convinced yet of the Value of The Ultimate Selling Workshop, next week we’ll do the math.

Connecting Through Stories (Part 2)

For twenty years my mom and I would meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. My dad joined us for several of those years. Occasionally my boys would get up early, too, especially since they loved the French Toast and pancakes at the restaurant where we ate.

For my mom it was a chance to tell me all the things going on in her life. She’d share all her stories from the past week, usually referencing previous stories, too. Some people believe that an event didn’t happen until you share it with someone else. It certainly wasn’t memorable until you shared it. In fact, the act of sharing your stories is what makes them more memorable.

The stories also make you more personable and human. 

When you are a faceless sales clerk, customers feel they have the right to treat you like a subhuman person. When you become more human, the relationship changes.

Image result for dale carnegie you can make more friends quoteOne way you become more human is by sharing your stories. Another way is by listening to the stories of your customers.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

The way we get to those stories is through a Point of Connection. Find one thing about a new customer through which you can connect. Find something you have in common, something you can comment on, something about which you can ask a question.

“I love your shoes! I used to have a pair just like them. Where did you find them?”

I did an exercise with my staff where I posted a series of pictures of different people and asked them to find a Point of Connection. If it was a parent with a child, the child is an easy connection. The two things we love to talk about the most are ourselves and our children.

“Oh what a cutie-pie. He reminds me of my son at that age. How old is he?”

If it is a person who has some shopping bags from another store, you can ask about her previous trip.

“I see you’ve been to Toy House. I love that store. What did you find?”

If it is someone wearing the colors of their college, you can use that as an opening.

“A Michigan fan. Go Blue! My son goes there now. Are you going to the game this weekend?”

There are several ways to find that Point of Connection and it is an easy staff training to do. In fact, you can start each meeting with a quick Point of Connection quiz by popping up some photos on the screen and having your staff blurt out the Point they see. Within a few meetings they will be doing this automatically.

Now let’s break down the actual phrases used above to see how they incorporate storytelling.

First, each greeting starts with the point of connection. I love your shoes. Oh what a cutie-pie. A Michigan fan.

Second, each greeting has a (very) short story from you. I used to have a pair just like them. He reminds me of my son at that age. I love that store. My son goes there now. Yes, those all qualify as stories.

Third, it asks a question to get to her story. What did you find? How old is he? Are you going to the game?

Those three elements in that order change your relationship from customer/clerk to customer/human. 

The first part makes the connection and gives you the opening. The second part, sharing your short story, makes you human. The third part, by asking her about her story, makes her more interested in you. The more of her story she shares, the more you will remember her, which makes her next visit even better. The more of her story she shares, the more you will know what she is trying to accomplish. The more of her story she shares, the more likely you will find the best solution for her.

Once you get her sharing, keep it going. Keep asking open-ended questions. You can share your own (very short) stories along the way as long as you end with a question about her.

By the way, this isn’t a gimmick or trick. Dale Carnegie taught us this technique decades ago. Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is a way to create relationships and friendships. (If you have children going off to college who struggle to make new friends, teach them this simple technique. It will change their world.)

When you get your customers to tell you their stories, the connection becomes real. The event happened. (And it is going to happen again and again and again.) That’s how you connect through stories.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from American Author Alfred A. Montapert … “All lasting business is built on friendship.”

Go make some friends today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Do you know people who seem to make friends easily? Watch them. They employ this technique effortlessly, subconsciously, likely without any understanding of it and why it works so well. I am one who has to work very hard on this technique because I know I have a tendency to dominate conversations. Because of this character flaw, however, I can testify how well this technique works.

PPS The more you get your customer to talk about something not business-related, the more likely she’ll tell you her business-related problem she came in to solve, without you ever having to ask those deal-killing questions like, “Can I help you?” You’ll learn this technique plus a whole lot more in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Sign up by the end of the month for the best price on this intensive, power-packed, hands-on presentation. It will be the most profitable three hours you spend with your team.

New Technology Versus Old School: Where is Your Money Going?

She lived in Jackson, MI, but her folks, family, and friends were all still back on Long Island. After visiting our store, she knew exactly what she wanted for her new baby. With a clipboard in hand, we helped her choose her furniture, bedding, car seat, stroller, and all of the accouterments to go with it. The baby shower, however, was back on Long Island.

No worries. We had a phone. So did all of her guests. One by one they called and bought the items off her baby registry. We wrapped each gift and mailed a receipt and picture to the shower guest. She went to Long Island, had a party to remember, got almost everything on her list, and the gifts were all waiting for her back at her house when she got home.

Now that’s really old school!

We did it all by voice via the phone. Old school.

Earlier today I took a survey about which emerging technologies would have the largest impact on retail for 2019. One of those emerging technologies caught me by surprise …

Voice commerce. New technology.

What is voice commerce? The ability to order something by voice. Gee, haven’t we had that for a few centuries now?

Actually it is a fascinating new technology. At one end there is using voice through Siri or Alexa to order something. “Hey Siri, order my usual takeout from China House.” At the other end is you sitting on your exercise bike realizing your favorite water bottle has a crack, so you call Amazon and speak to a computer to order a new one because it is easier than trying to type while biking.

As I was pondering this new technology, however, several thoughts quickly popped into my head …

  • What if the computer doesn’t understand what you want?
  • What if you don’t know exactly what you want?
  • Will it make suggestions?
  • How much trust and bonding and relationship-building will it do for your business?

I can see on that last question, while many people have bonded with Siri and Alexa, they have the relationship with their device, not your store. Siri doesn’t work for you. Siri won’t curate a selection and “complete” a sale.

That’s my big fear with all of the emerging technologies. They decrease the interaction customers have with employees and decrease the relationships customers have with retailers.

The big chains probably love the idea of fewer interactions with employees, though. That removes any responsibility they might have to actually train their employees. Their don’t-care employees, poorly micromanaged by don’t-care managers, don’t know how to curate a selection or complete a sale anyway.

What if instead of spending money chasing these new technologies you spent your money training your staff? What if you taught them better ways to meet and greet customers that made lasting first impressions? What if you taught them better listening skills so that they could understand exactly what your customers were trying to accomplish? What if you taught them how to better solve problems and help your customers accomplish their goals? What if you taught them techniques that helped them make your customers’ days?

Here’s a better way to put it …

Would you rather go after the market that wants one specific item quickly and efficiently, and if you don’t have the specific item, they’re ordering it somewhere else? Or would you rather go after the market that has a specific problem, has an idea of the solution she thinks she needs, but isn’t quite sure, wants to find a trustworthy source that helps her understand her options, helps her make the best choice to solve her problem, and then brags to her friends about how wonderful you are?

If you want the first one, go after those emerging technologies. If you want the second one, train your staff.

One of the survey questions asked how I would measure the results of emerging technologies. Among the answers were things like Cost and Efficiency. I could choose two answers. I chose “Increased Customer Retention” and “Increased Customer Loyalty.” Those are the ones that truly matter.

Our shower gal not only became a lifelong customer, she bragged about us to all of her friends and brought them in to register for their baby showers. Two of her Long Island aunts continued to call us for Hanukkah gifts for several years after.

When Siri and Alexa can do that, the investment will be worth it. Until then there are smarter ways to spend your time, energy, and money.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Looking for a way to train your team to make the kind of connections that bring you more repeat and referral business? Call me today to schedule the Ultimate Selling Workshop, a power-packed three-hour workshop that teaches you and your team the best way to build those relationships and get those sales. I’ve discounted this workshop heavily this fall so that you can turn this holiday season into your best one ever.

PPS The most mind-boggling thing to me is how so many major retailers are spending huge dollars chasing all of the emerging technologies in this survey from AI to Augmented Reality to 3D Printing to Voice Commerce, when none of them have yet mastered the Customer Service Training they should be offering to their managers and front line employees. At the end of the day, no matter what fancy new technology you have, if your store sucks and treats customers like crap, you’re in the race to the bottom whether you want to be or not.

Do You Want Great or Life-Changing?

What is the difference between Free and $4,500?

Give a business those options for training and most often they’ll choose Free, figuring, “at that price I ought to be able to make something work, and if it doesn’t, no biggie.” You aren’t going to spend $4,500 without knowing for sure what you’ll get in return.

That was the dilemma I had back in 2005.

I had received a book as a gift—The Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams. It blew me away! I was learning new stuff with every page. But now I had a chance to fly to Austin, TX to attend one of his workshops. It was going to cost me about $4,500 for the trip including $3,000 in tuition. Was I going to get enough out of that trip to justify the cost?

I believed I would. My mom believed I would. My grandfather believed I would. The three of us convinced my dad and I went. It was the best money I have ever spent! The returns have been exponential. It made me a better retailer. It made me a better teacher.

That trip also helped me realize my true mission in life. I’m here to Have Fun Helping Others. That trip, in essence, launched PhilsForum.com.

Free was great, but $4,500 was life-changing!

I want you to succeed. That’s why I write you these blogs. That’s why I write and publish all the eBooks for you in the Free Resources section of my website. It is all about you.

Today, however, I am giving you a similar choice—Free or $2,000.

FREE: You can download all five of these new eBooks from the Free Resources page of my website:

  • The Meet-and-Greet: Building the Relationship
  • Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling
  • How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy)
  • Ten Mistakes That Sideline the Sale
  • Attracting and Selling to Millennials

You can also check out the three posts with ideas for training your staff on these principles here, here, and here.

None of that costs you anything other than time. You’ll find it helpful and it will make a difference.

*$2,000: You can hire me to come to your organization or business and present The Ultimate Selling Workshop—a three-hour, power-packed presentation that includes the best, most important principles found in the five new eBooks, along with the training activities and exercises to best teach this to your team. It will be a transformational experience that not only opens your eyes to new and better ways to do what you do, but shows you how simple tweaks make gigantic differences. You’ll see changes right away.

Key Takeaways include:

  • The best way to greet a customer
  • How to ask better questions to find better solutions
  • How to transition a customer from “Shopping” to “Buying”
  • Three ways to Close a Sale for Good
  • What to do when she says, “No.”
  • How to attract Millennial shoppers
  • Three things you cannot say at the checkout

… and a whole bunch of other stuff above and beyond the basics in the eBooks.

More importantly, if you are an organization, I will teach you how to teach this to your team. If you are a retailer, I will do those exercises with your team (while showing you how to plan similar exercises to teach any principle you choose) and leave you with a plan to follow-up on those lessons down the road.

I learned my lesson back in May 2005 on a trip to Austin, TX.

Free is Great, so the Presentation has to be Transformational.

Thanksgiving is eleven weeks from today. What are you doing to get your sales team ready?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS The $2,000 fee is a flat rate for the workshop, not a rate per person. It is also a special offer well below my usual rate for workshops of this kind. It also has a deadline. You must book by October 1, 2018 to get this special rate, and you must hold the workshop by November 21, 2018. I want you to succeed this year! Call or email me ASAP to lock in your date. (Note: depending on where you are, we’ll discuss travel expenses when you call.)

“Attracting Millennials” and “Ten Mistakes:” Two New Free eBooks for You

I have a file on my computer named SCHEDULE. It has every schedule I ever created for the Toy House staff dating back to the fall of 1996. That was the year my dad turned the hiring, training, and scheduling of the staff over to me. In 1997 I hired my first Millennial. Granted, the term was still in its infancy, and the defining characteristics of this new, emerging generation born between the years of 1981 and 1996 (according to The Pew Research Center) or 1982 to 2000 (according to the US Census Bureau) were yet to be labeled.

Regardless of the years (or labels) you use to define “Millennial,” in the twenty years from 1997 to 2016 I hired, trained, and worked alongside dozens of people from this generation. I even raised a son born in 1998 who falls under the US Census Bureau’s definition, and while I laughed at all the jokes and negative stereotypes given to this group of people, I knew many of the older guard were missing something.

I often run into people who hear the word Millennial and automatically think Lazy, Self-Absorbed, Selfish, Entitled, Snowflake.

Yet in 2005 when I was called for a job reference for the first Millennial I ever hired, I told the employer, “If you don’t hire this person, you will be making one of the biggest mistakes in your HR career.” She was one of the hardest, smartest, most intrinsically motivated people I have ever known. She just celebrated her thirteenth year with that organization.

What is funny to me is all those negative stereotypes assigned to Millennials were previously assigned to Gen X, and before that used to describe the Baby Boomers. I think we tend to look down on the younger generations and never believe they work as hard as we did. Do that at your own peril.

If you are looking to hire or sell to Millennials, instead of looking down your nose at them, I suggest you look up to what they aspire and meet them there.

They don’t have all the answers, but they are asking some interesting questions that we all should be considering.

Questions like …

  • How do I live more Eco-Friendly?
  • How do I create a more Sustainable world?
  • How do I stay out of Debt?
  • How do I avoid falling for the Hype?
  • How do I help the Collective to grow?

If you want to attract this generation and all their spending power to your store, you need to help them answer those questions and more. You’ll find plenty of ways to do that in my new Free eBook Attracting and Selling to Millennials on the Free Resources page of my website.

(PS The eBook is great, but this is one presentation where the live version is so much more mind-blowing than the print version. Contact me to schedule a time to talk to your team or organization.)

 

The other new Free eBook is called Ten Mistakes That Sideline the Sale. This is strictly a Customer Service book that focuses on some easily correctable mistakes we all make. Some of them are mistakes we make thinking we are offering Great Customer Service, when really we’re killing the mood. Some of them are mistakes that happened to me just this past weekend.

If you’re looking for simple things your team can correct that will immediately affect your bottom line, you might want to start with this list. Pick one or two to work on each month and you will be pleasantly surprised at how many more repeat and referral customers you’ll get this holiday season.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You might be wondering why I give these away for Free. Heck, I don’t even make you subscribe to my blog to get them. One reason is that I have subscribed to several blogs myself just to get information, and while I get some information, mostly I get email after email trying to sell me something to the point that I am afraid to subscribe to anything new.

I don’t want to be that person to you.

Another reason is that I want you to succeed. If the point of writing this blog is simply for me to make money selling stuff, then it doesn’t fit with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. The point of this blog, my website, and my purpose for Phil’s Forum is to help as many small businesses as possible. The money will take care of itself.

Finally, while I know you can bypass the whole concept of paying me to be a speaker or coach and just download all this content, I also know by hiring me you get an experience and information that goes far beyond these three to six page eBooks. In the live presentation you get this information tailored to your specific industry. You get context and relevancy and tips and ideas directly related to what you do day in and day out. You get the chance to ask questions, get clarity, and expand the topics to fit your needs. These eBooks are simply the notes from presentations, written generically to fit the most possible industries. They are reminders for those who have sat through a live presentation, minus some of the stories you’ll never forget that drive home the point but take too much ink.

PPS One last thing … I also know not every independent retailer has the budget to hire a coach or go to a big retail conference. If you’re in this category, you deserve to have access to this kind of information as much as the next person. Consider me a library. Borrow as often as you’d like.

How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy)

I remember being in a presentation where the speaker told us that the average retail store only closes two out of every seven customers, and that five out of seven walk away without buying. As I was researching for a new presentation I did a couple weeks ago at the Independent Garden Center, I came across some numbers that were disheartening.

That conversion rate is getting worse.

According to ShopVisible, LLC conversion rates for typical brick & mortar stores are now only 20%, two out of ten instead of two out of seven. (Online is less than 2%.) Eight out of ten customers are walking out of your store having said, “No.”

The scary thing is that at least eight out of ten walked through your door hoping to say, “Yes,” yet somehow you let them down. Why do I believe that many wanted to say Yes? Most independent retailers are destination stores. You don’t sell milk, eggs, and bread. You don’t sell diapers and formula. No one had to walk through your doors. They chose to walk through your doors, hoping to find a solution to a problem or be enticed to buy something they didn’t yet know they needed.

You let them down.

You let them say No and didn’t take the steps necessary to turn it into the Yes they wanted to say.

I have just published another FREE eBook in the Free Resources section of my website called How to Push for Yes (Without Being Pushy). If you want to see your conversion rate and sales go up, you’ll want to download and read this eBook several times. If you want to see more happy, satisfied customers walking out your door, you’ll want to download and read this eBook several times.

If you want to teach these principles and ideas to your front line sales staff, you’ll want to read the rest of today’s blog post.

(Hint: download and read How to Push for Yes (Without Being Pushy) first. It will help the rest of this post make sense.)

NO, I DON’T WANT IT

To overcome this objection you have to go back to trying to solve the customer’s problem. You need to ask more questions and get to the heart of the matter. The QUESTION GAME from The Meet and Greet is a great place to start.

Another game is the PARROT GAME. The goal of this game is to work on listening skills. Pair off your team and have them each tell a fun story about themselves to the other person. Then get back together as a group and have the person who heard the story relate it back to the group. Do it a second time, but this time have the person hearing the story repeat it back line by line as it is being told. When they return to the group a second time, they find their memory of the story and their accuracy of retelling it both go up dramatically.

NO, I CAN’T AFFORD IT

Often the reason for this objection is the customer doesn’t see how the item will truly Benefit her. Playing the DUTCH AUCTION from Assumptive Selling is one way to get your staff more attuned to offering Benefits instead of Features.

Another activity is to have the staff identify the items that cause customers to balk at the price the most. Then work as a team to find ways to raise the Perceived Worth of the item either through better signage, better displays, or simply coming up with better Benefits.

NO, I CAN’T MAKE THE CALL

Since Analysis Paralysis is often the culprit for this particular No, play the BEST SOLUTION GAME from The Meet and Greet. The better you solve the problem, the more likely she will justify the purchase (and ask for forgiveness instead of permission).

NO, NOT RIGHT NOW

Once again, the customer is not seeing the Benefit of owning the product. Work with your staff to find the Benefits that truly speak to the customer for all of your top products. (Read the post Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling.)

NO, NOT FROM YOU

One big reason for this No is the fear a customer has of paying too much. She is going to check it out in your store and buy it cheaper online (in theory). We call this Showrooming. If this is the No you are facing, you’ll want to download the FREE eBook Selling in a Showrooming World that talks about the two types of customers, their motivations, and how to appeal to each one based on their needs and desires.

THE SILENCE GAME

Here is a simple activity you can do with your staff that serves double-duty. While discussing any of the topics from the past three blogs, ask your staff an open-ended question. Let them answer it freely without having to raise their hands. When they have answered it, don’t say anything. Just sit intently quiet, staring at them for one minute. Count to sixty in your head if you need to. At some point within that minute someone will start to talk again and the discussion will continue. Afterward explain the concept of White Space and show them how easily it worked. You’ll not only get a deeper discussion from the second go-around, you’ll be able to make the point about letting the customer talk to really get to the heart of the matter.

GENEROSITY

What can you give away for free without expectation of return? Show them the Johnny the Bagger video and then ask them for ideas. This might take two meetings before you get really good ideas worth implementing.

Recognizing and embracing the No is the path to Yes. When you empower your front line sales staff to push for that Yes in the ways described in the eBook How to Push for Yes (Without Being Pushy) you’ll see your conversion rate rise. Think what would happen if you consistently turned just one of those eight Nos into a Yes. Yeah, that’s growth we all could live with.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s a little food for thought … Most customers feel good when they walk out of a store having made a purchase. Most customers feel bad when they walk out of a store and haven’t made a purchase. Wouldn’t you rather have happy customers who feel good? That’s why you want to turn that No into a Yes. It is as much for them as it is for you.

PPS I have two more new FREE eBooks I’ll be publishing in the next few days. I’ll have the training idea blogs for you at some point next week. Happy Labor Day!

Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem

I was a little harsh last week on a radio station for playing eighteen commercials in a row. I said they were purely paying lip service to their advertisers (their customers) by putting them into a block that long where it would be hard to stand out and be memorable.

Yeah, part of that stand-out-and-be-memorable burden lands squarely on the shoulders of the advertiser, but the radio station did them no favors. From the outside it looked like the radio station was trying to decrease their customers’ chances of success and thus decrease their chances of being repeat customers by scheduling the ads in the least effective way.

What was really happening was the radio station was choosing between two distinct and different customers with distinct and different needs. They were choosing listeners over advertisers.

Image result for listening to the radioThe radio station needs listeners. Those are as critical to the station’s success as the advertisers. Without listeners there are no businesses lining up to pay to reach those listeners. Therefore, radio stations develop programming designed to attract the most possible listeners. Gimmicks like 25-minute rock blocks are designed to attract listeners and keep them from switching channels.

When you’re the only station in your market playing your genre of music, those gimmicks are unnecessary. But when you’re competing with other stations playing the same music, the fight for listeners is real. The winner gets to charge more for advertising. Unfortunately, if the winner, in the process of getting listeners, convinces the advertisers that radio doesn’t work,” they not only bring their own station down, they ruin it for other stations as well.

There is a parallel to indie retail.

If you fail to service a customer in your independent retail store, you jade the experience of shopping local for that customer, affecting her propensity to shop at other local stores.

Here is where the parallel gets interesting …

Most radio stations have no clue that scheduling eighteen ads in a row is hurting their paying customers. Most radio stations have no clue that writing boring, sounds-like-everyone-else commercials is hurting their paying customers. Most radio stations have no clue that scheduling ad campaigns that don’t reach the same listener at least 3x per week are hurting their paying customers. They get so focused on their listeners that they forget to take care of their customers.

The radio stations think that just by having their advertisers on the air those businesses will grow leaps and bounds thanks to the listeners they have attracted. (That’s the sales pitch they give you.)

Most indie retailers have had no training on customer service. Most indie retailers have invested no money into training programs or services to help increase the level of service they offer their customers. Most indie retailers have no formal training program for their front line staff to help them be better servants and salespeople.  We get so focused on the products, prices, and promotions we offer that we forget that our real goal is to service the customers.

Most indie retailers, however, believe they offer better customer service than their competitors and that if they just have the right products, their customers will be happy.

How? By accident? Just because they “care” more?

As an indie retailer you have a much easier opportunity to offer better service than your competitors. First, you have a better customer-to-sales-associate ratio. That allows for more one-to-one sales (assuming you have more than one person working at all times.) Second, you often have the owner—someone passionate and thoroughly knowledgeable on the products—on your sales floor. Third, you can take on the mindset of being awesome, compared to the corporate giants who are just trying not to be lousy.

Whether you take advantage of that opportunity or not, however, is a choice as clearcut as whether a radio station runs eighteen ads in a row.

Here is a place to start.

Two weeks ago I did five presentations at the Independent Garden Center Show on selling and customer service (which go hand in hand). Those presentations were:

  • The Meet & Greet: Working the First Step to the Sale
  • You’ll Score the Sale with Assumptive Selling
  • How to Push for the ‘Yes’—Without Being Pushy
  • Ten Mistakes that Sideline the Sale
  • Yes You Can Get Millennials to Shop in Your Store

Over the next two weeks I will be posting the notes to these presentations in the Free Resources section. Each time I post a new pdf, I will write a blog that focuses on different ways you can teach these concepts to your sales and front line staff. Knowing it yourself and teaching it to your staff are two different beasts.

(Note: those were the titles I used at the IGC Show. The bold words will be in the titles of the pdfs as I post them.)

Not only will you and your team raise your own bar of customer service while selling more at the same time, when your customers run into their friends who won’t shop local because of their experience somewhere else, your customers will be saying, “Oh, then you need to go to …”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Okay, maybe this time I am being a little harsh on the retailers. Here is the thing. If a retailer ever thinks he or she knows it all, that retailer is part of the problem, not the solution. I spent six months researching those five topics above and learned things in the process I wish I had known years ago. I also learned better, more efficient ways we could have done what we were already doing. Even if it is tweaks around the edges, when you take on the mindset of personal growth and individual growth, it will help your business growth.

PPS I understand the balance for radio stations between catering to the listeners and catering to the advertisers. It is a fine line every advertising-revenue-based entertainment venue must walk. But if radio stations would start by looking at how best to help their paying customers, they might just find a way to create programming that serves both needs. Imagine the radio station where you didn’t mind listening to the ads because they were interesting, heartfelt, memorable, fun, and helpful. Heck, a station like that might just get a few more listeners regardless of their musical genre. Likewise, if a retailer would start by looking at the best ways to service a customer, that retailer would know exactly what products, prices, and promotions make the most sense.