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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.

Another Example of Winning – Chicago Style

Have you ever had a meal ruined by a kid at the next table? Half of the time you’re wondering why the parent doesn’t do something to fix the situation. The other half you’re wondering why the parent brought the child to this particular restaurant in the first place. Some kids are too young for certain restaurants. Some parents are too inexperienced to bring their kids to restaurants.

Yet we do take our kids out to eat at inappropriate places all the time. Sometimes it is the only choice we have. It might be cheaper to take the kid than get a sitter. it might be a gift certificate you have to spend before it expires. It might be that you just don’t realize what a nuisance your kids are to others because you’re used to their antics (and/or find them cute).

Whatever the case, if you are a restaurant owner, you’re going to have children in your establishment who might potentially ruin the experience for other guests. Yet, you’re the one who gets ripped on Yelp.

Unless you’re proactive and have planned for this contingency.

I was in Chicago yesterday doing presentations for the Independent Garden Center Show (#IGCShow) at Navy Pier. After my last class I headed out to meet a fellow toy store owner and dear friend for lunch. She directed me to Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market in the Lakeview area. It is both a Fish Market and a Seafood Restaurant. It is apparently run by a smart person who is either a parent or someone who has been annoyed by children in restaurants too often.

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market, Chicago, IL

Seafood restaurants are typically the kind of restaurant you don’t take young children. They often haven’t developed the palate. While some seafood restaurants offer kiddy meals and other options, this restaurant took it to a whole new level.

You see the picture with all the cereal boxes. That’s only about 35-40% of their wall of cereal. Yes, you can quiet your children with a bowl of cereal. (You can even have one, yourself. They offer a substantial breakfast menu—not all seafood.)

I want you to look more closely at the bottom of the picture, though. Yes, those are children’s books. Books you can read to your children while you wait for your meal. Books your children can look through while you eat your meal. Books that keep kids quiet and occupied.

Kiddy meals are expected at restaurants, but a Wall of Cereal and Books to keep the kids occupied is certainly Surprise and Delight.

My hat is off to you, Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market, for taking it a step above your competitors. My guess is that the children LOVE to go to the fish market with their parents which means they are more willing to behave in the first place. Plus, it increases the average ticket for the restaurant and just might get those kids to develop a taste for seafood at a younger age.

That’s winning times four!

What can you do to take it to the next level?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

Check out their Bloody Mary!

PS The New Orleans BBQ Shrimp was fabulous! I highly recommend it!

PPS There are little things we do to appease the reluctant tag-along to our primary customer such as the “man seat” near the dressing room in a women’s clothing store. How can you take that to the next level? (Magazines? TV? Beverages?)

How to Not Frustrate Your Customer

I don’t fit in this world very well. My body wasn’t made for standard sizing. I can’t fly certain airlines without being completely miserable, cramped, and in pain. There are some cars I just don’t like to drive because not only does the seat not adjust to my size, the blindspots hit in all the wrong places. And clothing shopping, while nowhere near as crazy as it is for women, is often a struggle for a long-torsoed, long-armed, small-but-wide-footed, heavyset guy like me.

(There’s an opportunity for a women’s clothing manufacturer to start making more custom-fitted clothing instead of the archaic even-numbered-fits-no-one sizing they currently use, but that’s another post for another day.)

I currently own shirts that are XL-Tall, 2XL, 2XL-Tall, 3XL, and 3XL-Tall. Yet my pants and shorts are typically XL. My head is XL, too (I don’t think that’s what people mean when they tell me I have a big head, though.), but gloves and socks are either medium or large. I keep telling myself I will know when I’ve “made it” because I’ll be buying custom-tailored shirts.

One frustration is going to a store, finding a style I like, yet they don’t have it in stock in my size. Either that or the department is such a chaotic mess that I wasn’t going to find the one item left in my size without an army of hunters. That happens often.

Another frustration is not finding a style I like. I’m not very picky, so that only happens occasionally, but there are simple things too often missing in men’s clothing like pockets in the right ergonomic places. (I prefer function over fashion. Keep it simple, stupid.)

The third frustration is not finding someone to help me when either of the first two frustrations happen, or at the very least, not finding someone knowledgeable enough or willing enough to help me. This, more than Amazon or the Internet, is what is killing department stores these days.

Saturday I found a store free of frustration. I’ve talked about this store before because their advertising is a case study for how to advertise right. In fact, it was their advertising that got me into their store. (Sadly, there isn’t one in Jackson, so this trip took way longer than it should.)

The store was Duluth Trading Post. Their shirts have an extra 3″ in length so that they cover and prevent “cracking.” Their 2XL fit me better than any t-shirt I have tried in any size. They even had the same sized shirt in six different styles and dozens of colors.

In fact, for all of their clothing, they had several styles, all deeply stocked in several sizes. If you’re looking for casual men’s clothing, they eliminated the first two frustrations perfectly (plus, if you’ve looked at their ads, they are answering many of the style frustrations people like me who prefer function over fashion desire).

On top of that, they took pretty good care of that third frustration, too. The staff was friendly, helpful, and available. Not pushy, not bored, not preoccupied with other tasks that kept them away from helping me. They were all busy straightening and stocking, but ready to drop what they were doing to answer a question, find another size, or make a suggestion at a moment’s notice.

One major component of a successful advertising campaign is when the experience you have in the store matches the expectations set by the advertising.

In this case, they blew me away. I expected the product to be good based on the ads. I didn’t know the store would be this well staffed and trained, too.

Here is a sign I saw posted throughout the store. Even the way they advertise for help-wanted goes a step above the normal.

When I told the guy I wanted to take a picture of the sign, he said, “Oh, are you going to come work for me?” I told him I didn’t think I could help him much. The company seems to have figured out a lot of what I teach all on their own.

While it is easier to show you what not to do (because there are so many examples out there), it is fun to show you when a store gets something right. Want to do something fun with your staff? Take them on a staff-training field trip to a Duluth Trading Post (they have women’s clothing, and free coffee and water, too.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When I say the experience should match or exceed the expectations caused by the ads, just be cautioned that you shouldn’t go out bragging about your top-notch customer service. That’s a quick recipe for raising the bar of expectation too high to be able to meet it consistently. Instead of telling me you’re great, show me examples of what you do differently. Let me make the determination of how great you are. (And if I believe you are truly great, I’ll tell everyone about you like I just did for Duluth Trading Post.) Fair enough?

Having Fun, Helping Others, Eating Lunch

For the past three weeks I have been making several drives from my home in Jackson to the Oakland County area for lunch. For those of you not in Michigan, Oakland County is one of the three counties (including Wayne and Macomb) that makes up the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area. Oakland County is the northernmost of the three and includes several cities, villages, townships, and lakes.

Oakland County is home to twenty-one Main Street programs in the various cities, villages, and townships, and also home to one of the largest county-wide Main Street support programs. It was Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) that hired me to make these drives each week to do a “Lunch-and-Learn” series of workshops. The workshops are four-week-long tracks on one of three topics: Selling & Customer Service, Marketing & Advertising, or Retail Math.

We rolled this out to three different communities. Two of the communities chose Marketing & Advertising, one chose Selling & Customer Service. All three are reporting back with incredibly positive feedback. Other communities are already bugging MSOC to be included in the next round.

The fun part for me is that I like driving and I love doing these presentations, mostly because I know the difference one or two good tips or techniques can make for a small business.

The fun part for the attendees is that they get a free lunch (or breakfast) and four 45-minute presentations jammed with eye-opening ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and surprisingly simple techniques to improve their businesses.

The fun part for you is that there is still time to plan a Lunch-and-Learn in your neck of the woods (as long as you are within two hours driving time from Jackson which would include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, and Lansing areas).

Here are the three tracks with class titles and descriptions.

Option A: Marketing & Advertising

  • Week #1 Boosting Your Brand to Attract the Right Business – A quick lesson in branding to show you how a well-crafted brand makes a huge difference in attracting the right types of customers and business. You’ll learn how to uncover the true value in your brand and make your brand stand out in the crowd
  • Week #2 Marketing Your Business on a Shoestring Budget – Seven different ways you can get the word out about your business and draw traffic in without spending a fortune. You’ll learn how to leverage your talents and time to attract more customers to your business right away.
  • Week #3 Making Your Ads More Effective – We hate ads, not because there are too many, but because most ads suck. This presentation will show you the six principles that make the difference between your ad being remembered and acted upon or being simply ignored. You’ll learn techniques even the most highly paid professionals sometimes get wrong, and how you can apply them to your own advertising efforts
  • Week #4 Generating Word-of-Mouth Advertising – We all know Word-of-Mouth advertising is far more effective than traditional advertising, but do you know what it takes to actually get your customers to talk about you? This presentation shows you four proven ways you can generate word-of-mouth advertising. You’ll walk away with tips and techniques that get people talking the very next day.

Option B: Selling and Customer Service

  • Week #1 Selling in a Showrooming World – Online shopping is here to stay. So is the concept of Showrooming, where a customer uses your store to touch and feel the product before ordering it online cheaper. This presentation shows you the two types of customers, how to recognize them, and the very different ways you sell to them. Learn this and you’ll close far more sales than ever before.
  • Week #2 Raising the Bar on Customer Service – Every store thinks they offer Great Customer Service, but every customer can regale several stories where the customer service fell far short. This presentation gives you a different perspective on customer service and shows you how to up your game so that Great Customer Service is only the minimum. You’ll learn how to surprise and delight customers at every turn.
  • Week #3 Building the Perfect Salesperson – Finding the right salesperson is the key for any organization. But how do you identify the perfect fit? This presentation will change the way you look at interviewing and hiring and even training. When you’re done you’ll have a better understanding of how the best companies find the best employees time and time again.
  • Week #4 Training and Motivating Your Team to Perform Their Best – The carrot and stick might be good for a donkey, but it won’t get the best out of your team. This presentation will show you what really motivates people to do their best work and how to get the kind of creativity from your team that sets you apart. You’ll also learn how to turn staff meetings and training times into something your staff looks forward to attending.

Option C: Retail Math

  • Week #1 Reading Your Financial Statements – Your accountant will be glad you attended. This presentation will show you in layman’s terms how to read the two most common financial statements – the Profit & Loss and the Balance Sheet. You’ll learn how they are calculated, what they show, and an intuitive way to use them to check the financial health of your company. It isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Week #2 Inventory Management – Cash is King. In retail, the biggest use of your cash is your inventory. This presentation will show you simple and smart ways to manage your inventory levels better including how Open-to-Buy programs work and easy ways to increase cash flow. You’ll learn how to turn slow moving merchandise into cash and make your inventory work for you.
  • Week #3 Pricing for Profit – Most businesses leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don’t understand the principles behind how to properly price their products or services. This presentation shows you how you can raise prices and increase unit sales by harnessing the power of perception. Learn these techniques and you’ll start making more money the very first day.
  • Week #4 Unlocking the Hidden Cash in Your Business – There is more to retail than just buying and selling product. This presentation will show you some different ways to measure your business and some simple ways to make a little extra cash that might just be the difference you need to pay yourself a bonus this year.

If you just read those and said, “Dang, I could use this!” pass this post along to your DDA Director, your Chamber of Commerce, your Main Street Director, your Economic Development Director, your Shop Local director, and tell them, “Dang, we could use this!”

(Heck, you don’t even need one of those organizations. Just get a few other small businesses together and give me a call.)

Then contact me. We’ll go over what it would cost, creative ways to finance it, how to get the food and venues, and what dates to schedule this fall to have some fun helping small businesses grow and thrive, all while having lunch.

Sound yummy to you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not within that two-hour drive? No worries. Instead of four lunches, we’ll do one big brunch and put all four lessons into a three-hour workshop. Call me.

PPS The beauty of what you’ll learn in these tracks is that the dividends are immediate. With many of the lessons you’ll see results right away. Having this information fresh in your mind leading into the busy holiday season will make a huge impact on your bottom line this year. Lets get some dates locked in now.

PPPS If you’re in Oakland County, MSOC is already working on the budget for 2019. Contact John Bry at MSOC and let him know you want in. If you want something this fall, however, check with the other organizations in your community to see if they will help you organize this.

You’re Killing the Sale Before it Even Starts

Next month I am unveiling some new presentations at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. One of those presentations is called “10 Mistakes that Sideline the Sale – Don’t Let Them Kill Your Mojo!” The blurb for the presentation starts with …

“You know not to say, ‘Can I help you?’ but do you know the other five Deal Killer Phrases?”

Apparently, if this past week was any indication, a lot of people still don’t know not to say, “Can I help you?” I heard this phrase not once, but three times at three different retail locations I visited in the past week.

When the third person asked me that question, I almost answered, “Yes, the first thing you can do to help me is never ask me or anyone else that question ever again.”

Instead I said, “No thanks. I’m just browsing.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to say something else. I wanted to break the habit, but it is so ingrained in our vernacular that I said the two worst possible things you can ever get a customer to say in your store.

I said I didn’t want any help and I said I didn’t want to buy anything.

I said it out loud. I said it for the whole world to hear including myself. I told you and myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything. Now I have to overcome that mentality to make the purchase I came in to make. Now the salesperson has to overcome that rejection to make a sale.

Yet, when the salesperson hears, “No thanks, just browsing,” they typically walk away and leave the customer alone.

You’re killing sales with those four words before they even have a chance to start. You need to work incredibly hard with your staff and yourself to eliminate that phrase (and the variations like, “HOW may I help you?”) from your vernacular and work on different greetings.

I once did an exercise with my staff to come up with different ways to greet a customer without asking them a question that turns off the sales process. We came up with thirty-one different greetings. The first four were …

  1. Say Hello
  2. Call the customer by name
  3. Ask, “How are you doing?”
  4. Say, “Thank you for coming in.”

You put those four together into one simple greeting and you have a far better opening with the customer than, “Can I help you?” Sure, asking, “How are you?” also gets a knee-jerk response, but wouldn’t you rather have a customer say “fine” than “no?”

Bob Phibbs, aka the Retail Doctor, adds one more element to that greeting. He teaches that you should walk by the customer with that greeting, preferably with a prop in your hand such as a clipboard or a product, something that signals to the customer that you are busy with something else. After thanking the customer for coming in, you add, “I’ll be back in a little bit to check on how you’re doing.”

Two parts of that approach are brilliant. First, you’ve given the customer space. Some customers, especially men and introverts (that’s 75% of the population for those of you keeping count), prefer a little space. They don’t want a salesperson to pounce on them the moment they walk through the door. Second, the fact that you’re “busy” with something else makes you more approachable. I have seen it several times on the sales floor. The customer would rather go talk to the busy person stocking shelves than the free salesperson looking to help them. The customer feels less threatened by the busy person because that person doesn’t have an agenda.

“Hey Phil, how are you doing? Thanks for coming in. I have to go put these boxes away. I’ll come back and check on you in a little bit. Okay?”

You’ll have to work hard to coax the bad habit of asking, “Can I help you?” out of your vocabulary. It is almost as knee-jerk of a reaction to say that as it is to respond, “No thanks.” But if you want to make more sales, the easiest place to start is by removing the phrases that kill the sale before it even has a chance to start.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ve talked about another bad phrase recently, one most often said at checkout. “Did you find everything?” This one isn’t a sale-killer, but it sure is a mood-killer. After the IGC Show, I’ll tell you the other five phrases to avoid.

PPS There are five new presentations—all on the sales process—that I will be rolling out at IGC. I’ll be talking more about them after the show and how they can help your sales team.

Reaching the Unreachable

I was asked an interesting question yesterday morning at a Breakfast Business Boot Camp I’m doing in Oxford, MI. “How do you get past the moniker of this being a ‘business’ program to reach people who could use what you’re teaching but don’t see themselves as a ‘business’?”

The question was asked by a minister who saw value in the marketing & advertising series I am doing in Oxford this month. She has found great value in the first two classes but hasn’t yet convinced other churches of the value of attending these “business” classes (even though they are free and you get fed).

Image result for out of reachThat is a universal problem with all of us. How do we convince people who we know would benefit from our products but don’t identify themselves as a typical customer of our business to become customers?

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” -Benjamin Franklin

There are two ways to reach those people who don’t identify as your typical customer and convince them to shop with you.

The first is through your Core Values. When your business is transparently consistent with your Core Values through your actions, products, and services, and your website, advertising, marketing, social media, etc. reflect those values as well, people who share those values will perk up and take notice.

They still might not believe you have a product or service they need, but they will think of you first when the time arrives that they might need something you offer.

This is the backbone of all branding and relation-building advertising.

Just understand that not everyone will relate to your core values, whether they could use your services or not. That’s okay. You couldn’t service 100% of the population even if you wanted to. Your best customers will be the ones who share your values. Speak to them. Don’t worry about the rest. There are plenty of people in your market who share your values. If you can convince that crowd, you’ll have plenty of customers to keep you busy.

The second way is through Word-of-Mouth. Only when their friends tell them about your business might they even consider becoming a customer of yours.

To answer the minister’s question, first, there will always be people who need what I’m offering but won’t ever see themselves as my “customer.” Second, part of my business model (and yours, too) is to understand that you can’t reach everyone, but if you surprise and delight your current customers, they will help you reach the unreachable. Some of those unreachable will become customers. I am hoping I have done that with this minister and that she will bring some friends to next Wednesday’s presentation.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you are in the Holly, MI area and would love to get some free ideas, tips, and techniques to drive traffic through your door, into your store, onto your site, or sitting in your pews, I am doing the same presentation at noon today at the Holly Village offices (Marketing and Advertising on a Shoestring Budget) I did yesterday morning in Oxford. Next week I’ll show you how to Make Your Ads More Effective (Oxford on Wednesday at 8am, Holly on Thursday at noon.)

PPS Yes, this post is as much about Market Share and Customer Service as it is about Advertising. You got that, right?