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Looking Back at the “Top” Ten Blog Posts From 2018

Somewhere around the first of the year a lot of writers like to publish their “Top Ten” list of most viewed posts from the previous year. Wouldn’t it be smarter to post the least-viewed posts, the ones most people missed? Give people a second-chance to read your wisdom. As it is, just because a post is the most-viewed doesn’t make it the best.

This year I’m going to give you a variety pack of posts from 2018 and why you should read them (again).

The post you didn’t miss: Yes, I have Heard About Toys R Us. This was the post with the most views last year. I made a prediction in the PS of that post that has turned out to be right. Go read the post to see what I predicted.

The post you missed: Few Things Go as Planned. This was the post with the fewest views. I wrote this at the beginning of the year to remind you to plan, but to also understand that things don’t always work out the way you plan them and that you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Ask yourself, “Did 2018 happen the way you planned?” I’m betting right now your answer is No. Go read this post.

The milestone you didn’t know about: Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout. This was post #1000. To some people, those numbers are kinda cool. I didn’t make a big deal about it then because it was the busy holiday season and those posts were designed to be short and sweet. by the way, this isn’t just a Christmas time tip. It is a smart business practice.

My favorite post of 2018: Five Proven Recipes. In this post I give you Paul Harvey’s recipe for a backyard mosquito spray, an all-natural weed-killer that works (if you spray regularly), and simple, tech-free recipes for raising the bar on your Hiring, Advertising, and Customer Service. Sometimes the simple ways are the best.

The post that got the most social media interest: So You Got a Bad Review? This post had the most comments on social media and was the first post of mine that was “shared” on LinkedIn (a new feature they’ve added). Best of all, it had no negative reviews, lol. If you’ve had a negative review, you might want to read this.

The best question you will ask your staff all year: How to Learn From the Best. This was actually the second least viewed post, yet the most telling about where you stand in your local retail marketplace and what you need to work on the most. Ask your staff this question and listen to their replies.

The post I wished you had commented on: This “Free” is Really Free. The site stats counter tells me I get hundreds of downloads of the different Free Resources each year. I’d love to know how you’re using them and what success you might be seeing because of them. Go ahead and leave some comments there (or here).

That’s your lucky seven posts you should have read (and hopefully did). I’m going to leave three more links in the PS below for the adventurous souls among you to round out the “Top Ten”.

Happy New Year!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I triple dog dare you …

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

“Customer Service” is Dead

The Downside Builds Trust

I’ve been using a new auto shop for repairs for my vehicle. I met the owner a few months ago, liked him, and gave him some work. I was happy with the work and the price, so naturally, I called to get a quote on some new work.

My buddy wasn’t in, but I got his main front desk guy and told him what I needed. He said he would have to check it out and get back to me. Then he said something that totally blew my mind.

He said, “I am really bad at remembering to call people back and I don’t have a good reminder system here. If you haven’t heard from me by 11am tomorrow, call me.”

Now my first reaction could have been, “Are you kidding me? Between Google Alerts, Smart Phone Apps, and Post-It Notes, how could a business person be so bad at doing one of his primary jobs?” 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Instead my brain went to all the times I called a place and they never called me back. This guy warned me that him forgetting to call me back was a possibility and even gave me the deadline by which I would know to call him back.

It was refreshing.

Sure, Great Customer Service dictates that you always call a customer back at the soonest possible time. You never forget. Great Customer Service also dictates telling the customer the deadline by which you will be calling back. In this case, by 11am tomorrow.

Here is why what he did was the next best thing to “never forgetting.”

First, he recognized one of his flaws and wasn’t afraid to tell me about it. It takes guts to do that. It also builds trust when you admit what you cannot do. Second, he gave me the deadline. Third, he managed my expectations.

Imagine if he had only said, “I’ll get back to you.”

I might have called him four hours later only to find out he didn’t have the information yet, which would have either pissed me off, frustrated me, or destroyed some of the trust we were building, all because I didn’t know it was going to take him more than four hours to find the answer.

I might have called him back the next day to hear him say, “Oh, I forgot,” which would have blown all the trust right out of the water.

Instead he managed my expectations, which gave me an even higher sense of trust.

He knew two pieces of information I didn’t know—how long it might take him to get an answer and his own shortcoming of getting too busy and not always remembering to call everyone back in a timely fashion. While one of those might seem like a negative piece of information, letting me know both of those things turned it into a positive.

Don’t be afraid of sharing your downside and your shortcomings. Sometimes that is the information the customer needs to more fully trust you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS He called me back in ten minutes with a full explanation of everything they would have to do and why. He not only set the expectations, he blew them out of the water them by a wide margin. That’s Great Customer Service!

Invest in Your Education

Yesterday I gave you seven things you could do with your money when you have a windfall because of a better-than-expected season. Here is one more thing to do with that extra cash …

Invest in Your Education.

Invest in making yourself and your team smarter and better. Invest in training to equip your team with better tools for selling. Invest in classes that teach you more about advertising and marketing. Invest in programs that help you better manage your money.

“Always invest in this thing (your brain).” Darius Foroux

If I were to put “Invest in Your Education” in the priority list from yesterday it would solidly be #3 right behind Cash Reserves and Pay Down Your Debt.

My real recommendation, though, is that this should be a fixed part of your yearly budget. You and your staff are simultaneously your largest asset and your biggest expense. Whether you look at this as the former or the latter will make the difference whether you are truly a customer-first business winning the race to the top or not.

If I were to prioritize where to spend the time and money on training, the list would look like this …

  1. Selling/Customer Service: You’ll reap the benefits of this right away because your staff starts converting more of your current traffic into sales.
  2. Hiring/Training: You’ll see quickly who is cut out to be a retail sales clerk and isn’t when you up their game. Next it is time to up your game and find better people.
  3. Marketing & Advertising: I’ve heard many business owners lament, “If only I had more traffic …” First learn how to better take care of the traffic you have. Then, when you spend your money to learn how to get more traffic, you’ll reap twice the rewards.
  4. Managing Your Money: Good sales and a growing market cover a lot of sins. Those sins get exposed at the first downturn. Make sure you are measuring and managing the right numbers to protect yourself for the long run.

In a few days the dust will settle on 2018. As you set your priorities for 2019, keep this list in mind. I’m sure you can probably think of a few retailers (cough, Sears) that didn’t (cough, Toys R Us) invest in (cough, Kmart) becoming better at (cough, Bon Ton) what they do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I will be rolling out some new training programs based on the list above. Last fall, if you recall, I launched The Ultimate Selling Workshop designed for working directly with you and your team. Next month I will have newly revised programs, some designed specifically for working with business owners, some to work with managers and assistant managers, and some to work with your whole team. The priorities you set for 2019 will dictate much of the success you reap this time next year.

Christmas Quick Tip #19 – Pull it Forward

This is it. Your final quick tip of what I sincerely hope was/is a wonderful holiday selling season. I will not be posting again until after Christmas, so Merry, Merry to you. Thank you for reading these posts and sharing your success stories with me.

Here is tip #19 … (here is a link back to tip #1)

PULL IT FORWARD

Except for next day shipments, FedEx and UPS are done. You likely won’t be getting any major shipments of products in after today. Yet you still have three wonderfully busy days to sell, sell, sell.

But your shelves are looking a little bare and there is nothing left in back to bring out.

I call stocking the shelves this time of year “smoke and mirrors.”

Your job is to make your store look as full of merchandise as possible.

Here are some things you can do …

  • Pull everything forward to the front edge of the display/shelf
  • Remove shelves from the display. Three full shelves with gaps above and below looks better than four partially filled shelves.
  • Put excess merchandise in empty areas. We often would use large plush to fill major holes. Some of it sold from there, too!
  • Wrap large boxes to put on high shelves to advertise that you offer gift wrap services.
  • Remove free-standing displays and move items to shelves to keep fixed shelving full

If you make the store look “full”, your customers will have more confidence to buy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Merry Christmas my friends! May Santa be as generous to you as you have been to your customers and staff.

Christmas Quick Tip #18 – Cut Them Some Slack

We’re almost to the end of your very busy season. These posts have been short and sweet to keep you moving. Hope you have found them helpful.

Here is tip #18 …

CUT THEM SOME SLACK

I’m talking about your customers. You’re going to get some really rude customers over the next few days.

Some of them are rude people in general. You can ignore them and just be grateful you aren’t living their life. It must be miserable as hell.

Some of them are generally nice people feeling the stress and pressure of the season. You never know what is going on inside someone’s head and heart. They may be worried about the budget and bills they need to pay. They may be mourning a loved one who isn’t with them through the holidays for the first time. They may have problems at work or problems at home. They may be running late or just received bad news. They may have had an Alexander-and-the-Terrible-Horrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-Day kind of day.  More often than not, you’re just the straw on that camel’s back. Heck, it might not even be about you at all.

Cut them some slack.

In fact, the best thing you can do is kill ’em with kindness. Go over-the-top out-of-your way to be friendly, nice, and helpful to them.

To the first group who is always miserable, that’s the best way to annoy them, anyway.

To the second group, you just might turn someone’s day around for the better.

That’s called The Christmas Spirit! Spread it far and wide!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Have a pep rally with your staff and make the next three days all about killing them with kindness. Be the Joy you want people to have this holiday season.

PPS The rudeness tends to go away on the 24th. I’ve always said Christmas Eve was my favorite day to work retail. On the 23rd it was “my” fault for ruining their Christmas because I didn’t have the one toy little Johnny wanted that he put on his wish list in October. On the 24th they were just happy we were open, that we had lots of toys still in stock, and we gift-wrapped everything for free.

Christmas Quick Tip #16 – Plan for the Weather

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple.

Here is tip #16 …

PLAN FOR THE WEATHER

You’re going to get some bad weather. I don’t know what day, but it always seems to happen at least once in the last week. Be proactive about it.

If you’re in the northern climates where it freezes, go buy a few extra bags of salt. Make sure your shovels and snowblowers are in working order. Hire a couple college kids home on break and make it their sole priority to keep your sidewalks and parking areas clean on a snowy day.

If you’re in the southern climates where rain is the big concern, get a few large golf umbrellas and hire a couple college kids home on break to escort your customers to their cars.

Word will spread quickly enough that you were not only prepared for the weather, but knew exactly how to keep the weather from ruining their shopping experience.

An ounce of planning can earn you a ton in sales.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We had a torrential downpour one Christmas Eve. My son made ten dollars in tips escorting customers out to the parking lot with an umbrella. We had an ice storm one Christmas Eve and used our four-wheel drive vehicles to deliver several layaways that day. We had a hard snow on the Saturday before Christmas and I had two guys alternate shoveling and icing the front all day. We didn’t need one of those fans for drying out the front mats because no one was tracking in any snow. Get the picture?

Christmas Quick Tip #15 – Play With It

You’re in the home stretch. The jolly old elf hits the skies one week from tonight.

Here’s your quick tip #15 …

PLAY WITH IT

We’ve known this in the toy industry for decades. If you get a toy out to play, you’ll sell more of it. The clothing industry knows you’re more likely to buy it if you try it on. The perfume industry is just waiting to pounce on you with a puff. The makeup counter with the most sales is the one where they have the most samples.

This same principle applies in any industry.

No matter what you sell, the more you demo, the more you sell.

This is especially true this week – Man Week – the week where the procrastinators and the men start their shopping. Men are visual and tactile. We want to see it and touch it.

Let us play and we’ll open our wallets.

  • Got a slow seller? Play with it!
  • Got a unique product no one else carries? Play with it!
  • Got something brand new to market? Play with it!

Have fun this week! That’s what it is all about.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, safety is an issue and should always be top-of-mind. Get a rolling cart for demo stations for items that need supervision (i.e. tools and knives) and wheel it out during peak hours. There is always someone on your staff who wants the spotlight job of demonstrating the product. (Yes, you can be as cheesy as the infomercials when you do it – the cheesier the better. Your customers will get a chuckle out of it before they buy.)

Christmas Quick Tip #9 – Empty Her Hands

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

Here is tip #9

EMPTY HER HANDS

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

Offer to take her items up to the checkout station.

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

Christmas Quick Tip #8 – Change Your Shoes and Socks

Keeping it short and simple for the busy holiday season, this next tip may seem minor, but at the end of the day you’ll thank me.

Here is tip #8

CHANGE YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS

This time of year retailers spend for more time on their feet and far more time running back and forth than any other time of the year. By the end of the day your feet are killing you.

Two things you can do to help your feet get through this busy season are:

  • Change your socks midday
  • Alternate the shoes you wear

I used to keep a pair of socks in my office. During the Christmas season when I was working 7am to 9pm I would often change my socks in the late afternoon. Just that one act alone made my feet feel refreshed and gave me a little more spring in my step.

Not only was that good for me, it was good for my customers. It is hard to hide foot pain when interacting with other people. Like I said before, your last customer deserves the same level of enthusiasm as your first customer.

Alternating shoes is another way to keep your feet fresh. It gives your foot a different feel because different shoes work the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in different ways.

Encourage your employees working those long shifts to do the same. They will thank you. Their feet will thank you.

Your customers will thank you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My routine was to buy quality shoes with, comfy, supportive inserts, change my socks frequently, and switch between my dress shoes and my tennis shoes regularly. At night I would sprinkle baby powder into my shoes to help them dry up and smell fresh by morning. This tip won’t show up in any book on customer service, but it will affect your bottom line when you have more energy to work with those late-in-the-day customers.

Christmas Quick Tip #7 – Lead with the Best

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

Here is tip #7

LEAD WITH THE BEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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