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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!

Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling

Our realtor turned to us and said, “Now, where would you put your couch in this room?”

Immediately we started mentally arranging the furniture in the house she was showing. By the time we had visualized the family room, kitchen, and office we were ready to write the offer.

Visualization is the key to getting a shopper to move from gathering information to making the purchase. Realtors know this technique. You should, too.

I have just posted a new FREE eBook on the Free Resources page of my website titled Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling based on the presentation I did for the Independent Garden Center Show a couple weeks ago. The eBook shows you how to get customers into Visualization Mode and also shows you other smart things you need to do at the close of each sale to help your customer solve the problem that brought her into your store.

Today’s post talks about how to teach these concepts and techniques to your front line and sales staff.

(Hint: you should read the eBook Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling before reading the rest of this blog. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

FINDING THE BENEFITS

If you have ever been involved in sales training you have heard about Features and Benefits. You have to show the customer the Features and Benefits to make the sale. While I agree wholeheartedly with that approach, the real problem is that most sales people spend all their time on the Features without showing the true Benefits. Why? Because Features are easy to explain. The packaging often tells you everything a product does. Benefits are a lot harder to determine, especially because the Benefit for one person might be completely different than the Benefit for someone else.

DUTCH AUCTION

The best game I ever played with my staff to get them to think about Benefits was a “Dutch Auction.” I broke the staff into teams and asked each person to pick three items off the shelf. Each team ended up with a dozen items. Then I would call out a Benefit. The team had to bring me one item from their collection and explain to me how that item offered the prescribed Benefit. If they were successful with their explanation, they got a point.

Some Benefits you can use are:

Show me an item that …

  • Saves a customer time
  • Makes a customer healthier
  • Keeps a customer from having to bend over
  • Helps a customer feel smarter
  • Helps a customer feel stronger
  • Will make all of her friends jealous

This game gets your staff into a different mindset away from just what an item does, but how that will help a customer.

A Feature is what an item does. The Benefit is why that is important.

Another quick way to get your team up to speed on the Benefits is to bring your top ten new items to the next meeting and have the staff brainstorm all the possible Benefits of each item. Write up the list after the meeting and give a copy to everyone.

COMPLETING THE SALE

Have a contest at your next meeting. Have each person pick one item off the shelf. When they bring that item back to the group, explain the importance of Completing the Sale. Then send them out to collect every possible item related to the original item that a customer might need. Once they return, tally up the prices and reward the person who had the highest total. (Note: if no one has Completed the Sale to your satisfaction, send them back out with a total amount they have to reach. This will stir their creative juices.)

Follow up: Have each person create a checklist for their item of the complimentary items you’ll want to ask the customer to see if she has. Do that with your top ten items in your store. Those checklists will bring you gold.

TIPS AND HACKS

There are certain items you sell that people often misuse. There are certain items you sell that have a downside to them that sometimes kills the sale. There are certain items you sell that get the most negative feedback post-sale. Identify these items and bring them all to the next meeting.

Assign a different product to each person and have them research how and why each item is misused, mistrusted, or complained about. At the next meeting have them do a quick presentation with two points:

  • Here is the issue
  • Here is the tip you can give to make the customer enjoy the product and get the best use out of it

Nipping objections and complaints in the bud before they even happen makes happier, smarter customers who will return more often and bring their friends with them.

Now you know how to get your team to Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One Assumption I am making is that you have read and followed the steps in The Meet and Greet eBook I published yesterday. If you Meet and Greet properly at the beginning it is far easier to Close the Sale at the end.

PPS Yes, you can hire me to do these presentations for your organization. You can even hire me to do a workshop with your sales staff using some of the activities I have shown above and in yesterday’s post. A training workshop like the latter takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and will transform the way your staff works with your customers. When you’re ready to make your customers happier to buy more, contact me.

The Meet and Greet: Starting the Relationship Off Properly

“Always Be Closing.”

Alec Baldwin said it back in 1992 in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross and we’ve all been following lock-step behind him ever since.

If your business is one-and-done like Halloween USA, or you’re running a huge clearance, or you’re going out of business, that might be a sound strategy. But if you’re hoping to be in business for the next several years or even decades, you’re missing an important element when you only focus on the end of a transaction.

You’re missing the critical relationship-building at the beginning that not only makes the close easier, but makes the repeat and referral visits much more likely.

I have just posted a new FREE eBook on the Free Resources page of my website called The Meet and Greet (follow the link to download the pdf). It is based on the new presentation I did for the Independent Garden Center Show a couple weeks ago. The download tells you what to do and why to do it.

One of my favorite staff trainings was the Dollars on the Table Game

The purpose of today’s blog is to give you some ways to implement these ideas and teach this to your front line sales staff.

(Hint: before you read any further, you might want to download and read The Meet and Greet first.)

TAKE A PICTURE

You might walk through your front door every day. If you do, you’ve become blind to what first-time customers see. (If you walk through the back door, then you are really blind to what they see.) The best thing to do is take a high resolution picture of the front entryway. Then blow it up onto the largest screen you can and start evaluating it. The photo is unforgiving and reveals the blemishes that have faded into the background for you. You’ll immediately see what needs sprucing up and what needs some TLC. Get your staff involved, too. Have them look at the picture with a critical eye.

ROLE PLAY

Telling someone how to meet a customer and actually doing it are two different things. Since I have given you a script to use, the best way to teach your staff is to have them grab a clipboard (or other prop) and do the walk-by. They can walk by you or another staff person or even a mannequin. I once had my staff grab a clipboard and time themselves doing a slow crawl around the store. The timing was not to see who could do it the fastest, but to measure how long a typical stroll would last, and then see how long it lasted with live customers. It was an eye-opener for them.

BEST SOLUTION GAME

Have each person on your team select a basic product off the shelf. Have them present the product with a focus on what problems it solves. Once you’ve figured out the problem it solves, then brainstorm as a team what product would “best” solve that same problem. It might be the same product. It might be something different. This game gets the staff into a mindset of always looking for the best solution to whatever problem a customer has.

POINT OF CONTACT

Take random photos off the internet of customers shopping. Put them up on a big screen and ask your team to find a point of contact, some kind of conversation starter that has nothing to do with shopping. Practice this several times until it becomes so natural they are shouting out answers as soon as the photos appear.

THE NAME GAME

Make it a game to see how many customer names each person can remember between staff trainings. Give out prizes. Share what people are doing to learn and then remember those names.

QUESTIONS GAME

Have two sales people square off, each with a product they would like to sell. Have them try to sell each other their product with one rule. They can only ask questions. No statements (even as answers to the other person’s question). At first this game seems simple and stupid. But eventually they start to get that asking question that have nothing to do with the product, but that have to do with the customer, are much more effective. Advanced Level: They can only ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with yes or no.

DOLLARS ON THE TABLE

I played a memory matching game where I put forty dollar bills on a table with forty different statements on the back of the dollar bills (email me for a list of the statements). The statements either said, “I earned this dollar …” or “I left this dollar on the table …” The game was a simple. Turn over two dollars. Read them out loud. If they are both “earned” dollars, you get to keep them. If one or both is a “left on table” leave them both on the table. We played until all the bills were read. Some people got money, others did not. The lessons were two-fold. One, life is not fair. Two, our job is to not leave money on the table—and now you know what to do.

There you go. Six ways to get the most out of The Meet and Greet.

By the way, if you are reading this list of training ideas and thinking to yourself, “but we don’t do trainings like this,” you might want to think again. Check out the Free Resource Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend. It will open your eyes to ways to make your meetings and trainings more fun, more effective, and better attended.

Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those were quick and easy descriptions of games and activities I have done with my staff with much success. If you have questions or want to know more about each activity, simply shoot me an email.

PPS Today is about Opening the Sale. Tomorrow I’ll post on Closing the Sale (I have my own take on that, too.)

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.

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.

Reaching the People Who “Think” They Know You

I’ve been out at YMCA Storer Camps the last couple days teaching sailing again. This time, instead of teaching the kids, I’m just working with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page for teaching the kids. While walking to the waterfront, one of the new instructors asked me where I sail when I’m not at camp.

“Nowhere,” I replied

They called me Admiral Graybeard!

I have sailed other places in the past. I sailed for the University of Michigan Sailing Club. I sailed on the Great Lakes with a different, larger boat that the camp used to own. I’ve even sailed in races hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club (no, not The America’s Cup) a long time ago. But for now, my only chance to sail is out on Stoney Lake in camp boats.

Sailing is not my true heart’s desire. Teaching is.

At the camp I have taught Archery, Riflery (bb guns and pellet guns), Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Snorkeling, Wilderness Survival, Ropes Course Climbing, Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Biking, Team Building, Cross-Country Skiing, and Nature. Out in California I taught Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Geology, and Ecology. At Toy House I taught Car Seat Installations, How to Buy Toys, How to Buy Baby Products, How to Sell, and How to Work With Children of Special Needs. At Henry Ford Allegiance Health I teach new and expectant fathers how to be better dads. On the speaking circuit, I teach Marketing & Advertising, Customer Service, Hiring & Training, Inventory Management, Retail Math, Team Building, and Management Skills.

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt

(Forgive me if it sounds like boasting. I’ve just said, “Certainly I can!” several times.)  What I’m really trying to do is find new and better ways to Help You (one of my Core Values) so that I can convince you that I can help you even more. Therefore, I teach.

Teaching is not only a love, it is a means to an end. If I can teach you one thing, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to want me to teach you other things. That’s one way I generate new business.

Last weekend I taught a group of toy store owners looking to capitalize on the disenfranchised Toys R Us shoppers that there are two reasons those people didn’t shop with independent specialty toy stores like theirs.

  • They don’t know you
  • They “think” they know you

That first group is fairly easy to reach. Any extra marketing or advertising you do will find them because they will be looking. That second group will be a lot harder. They have opinions about you (usually wrong) that won’t be swayed by a fancy radio or TV ad.

The best way to reach that second group is through Word-of-Mouth. Do something big to get your current customers to talk to them about you.

I told the toy retailers last week that was the only way to reach them. I was wrong. 

While I was walking down the trail to the waterfront with these soon-to-be sailing instructors I realized there is a second way … Teach!

Seriously. Just like me, you have some crazy, cool knowledge you could share. You have some wisdom and understanding of the products you sell that they won’t find just surfing the Internet. You have some tips and techniques for using and maintaining those products that might be a lifesaver for those customers.

The people who “think” they know you can be enticed to attend a free training program about the products they don’t know.

That was our Shopping for Baby 101 class. Free information about how to buy certain baby products including what to look for, what questions to ask, and what criteria to use when making buying decisions. The class was never a sales pitch, just useful information.

We picked up a lot of new customers that way who only thought we were a toy store.

We also began changing the way they thought about toys. Many of those same people who bought into our teachings about baby products also bought into how to buy toys, and became lifelong customers.

What do you include in the class? Answer these questions …

  • What info do most customers either misunderstand or not know about our products?
  • What info separates the smart customers from the average customers?
  • What questions does your staff have to answer over and over and over about the products?
  • What info would be fun and shareworthy?

Have a free class. Serve refreshments. Give out vendor-donated prizes. Make it fun and informative. You’ll sway a bunch of skeptics in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Teaching is a lot like leading. Think of your lesson plan as a path. You want to guide your audience by starting with what they know and building onto their knowledge and assumptions until it is time to break those assumptions. Then lead them back to safety with new knowledge that shows them why their assumptions were false in the first place. This template works time and time again.

PPS Teaching leads to word-of-mouth, especially when you weave in a lot of stories for your audience to share.

PPPS If you didn’t see a topic up there that might work with your group, follow this link. That list above was already way too long.

Give Them Something to Talk About (Part 1)

My eyes always glazed over. Didn’t matter if it was Toy Fair, ASTRA, the All Baby & Child Expo (ABC), the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) Trade Show, or SuperZoo. By the end of the day my eyes were glassy, my pupils were dilated, and my senses were overloaded. One booth after another melded into the landscape until none of them stood out.

” … until none of them stood out.”

Last Monday I walked the tradeshow floor at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. The day before, I did a presentation about how to get people to talk about your business. One of the ways is to have Over-the-Top Design.

Have some element of your store (or booth)be it the design of your building (like Estes Ark in Estes Park, CO), an element of your store like the chalkboards or directional signs we had in front and on the side of our building, an element inside your store such as our Circus Mirrors, Electric Train Display, or LEGO building/racing ramp, or even through the products you might sell such as the 32,000 piece puzzle we had that weighed 42 pounds and was almost 18 feet long when finished—be so crazy and unexpected that customers have to tell their friends about it.

Eighteen rows of vendor booths later and only two stood out.

Lenny and Mark from Marky Sparky

The first was Marky Sparky. Mark Rappaport and his company Marky Sparky had been honored earlier that morning as the ASTRA Vendor of the Year, an honor well-deserved. The day before, he and his sales manager Lenny Breeden sat through my presentation on word-of-mouth. Lenny came up afterwards and said, “Wait until you see our booth tomorrow.” He was right.

What they did was simple. It didn’t cost much either. But it was innovative, unexpected, interactive, and fun. Mark created a “target” for their Faux Bow out of straws jammed into a box. Now you could shoot their indestructible foam/plastic arrows into the target and they would stick just like real arrows into a bale of hay. People were lining up to take turns shooting the bow.

At the end of the day, when I asked retailers what they saw that looked cool, the most common answer was, “Did you see the target at Marky Sparky? That was cool!”

Marky Sparky was winning the battle of word-of-mouth.

The second most common booth I heard about was selling jumbo hula hoops. Yes, jumbo! Hoops that were close to six feet in diameter! Apparently the larger the hoop, the easier it is to hula. These were designed to help adults get into hula-hooping (and the fabulous core exercises it offers). The booth stood out, not only because of the number of old people like me trying to hoop for the first time in thirty years, but because they had over-sized a product we all knew and loved. Interactive, unexpected, and larger-than-life fun.

In a trade show filled with 18 aisles of booths and over 500 vendors, only two booths had done something so over-the-top to stand out among the rest. I saw booths without decorations. I saw booths simply filled with chrome or wood shelves and products displayed military-style on those shelves. Some booths had active people manning the booth jumping out in front of us to shove catalogs in our hands as we walked the aisles. Other booths had people sitting in chairs staring at their phones, wondering why no one was stopping. But only two had done something worth talking about.

You have to do something to stand out.

This applies to any business anywhere. Whether you are a booth at a trade show, a retailer in a crowded retail market, or even an advertiser during the Super Bowl, all that matters is at the end of the day, are people talking about you? If they are talking about you, you’re winning. If they aren’t, you’ve melded into the landscape and become invisible, forgettable.

Yesterday I talked about the importance of change. One thing you need to change right now is to add some design element that is so over-the-top that people say, “OMG! Did you see that??!!” 

It can be outside where people see it driving by. It can be inside that gets people into the store. It can be a display or demo. It can even be a product you “sell” (we never expected to sell our 32,000 piece puzzle, we just used it to get people to talk—and sold three of them!!)

For best effect, make it unexpected, interactive, and larger-than-life fun.

Nice job, Mark & Lenny!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There was one other booth with a WOW Factor. The folks at Spooner Boards had a ramp for their mini-surfboard type toys and were showing off their product by doing tricks and stunts on the ramp. The problem is, they’ve done that every year so it wasn’t unexpected. Change. Once you set the bar high, you need to keep raising it higher to get more word-of-mouth. That’s why we were constantly adding new elements of over-the-top design to Toy House over the years.

PPS This is Part 1. I’ll tell you some other ways to get people to talk about you in future posts.

Some Inventory Management is a Customer Service Issue, Too

My mom shops like a man. Get in, get what you need, and get out. Her lifetime of being raised in retail, her always efficient use of time, and her preference to spend her free time playing golf, playing bridge, reading books, or doing cross-stitch needlepoint all have led her to this shopping style. Oh, she’ll browse the dozens of catalogs she gets in the mail each week, but spending a day at the mall is not her idea of a great time.

Even in a book store, her favorite form of shopping, she’s a hunter more than a browser.

Last weekend, however, she took my boys on a shopping trip, hitting several stores in the Ann Arbor area. Of course, she hit those stores the way she always does, with purpose, focus, and an eye for efficiency. At one point in Macy’s, while my older son tried on some shorts, she asked my younger son to go find a cash register that was actually open. Her keen eye had not seen any employees at any registers yet, and she had to have her exit strategy mapped out.

She’s training my boys to shop like her, much in the way she trained me. When I’m in buying mode, I go in, get what I want, and get out. If I’m in a store to browse, I’m doing it to gather information for future blog posts, researching for my clients, or spending time with friends who love to shop (while I’m doing research.)

You might think from that description that my mom and I are mostly Transactional Shoppers who know what they want and are just on a hunt to get the best price. You would be wrong. Other than my bad habit of Diet Mountain Dew (I call it my “green tea”) that I’ll buy wherever it is on sale, I have my favorite stores where I’ll go first for all my needs. My mom is the same way.

If you consistently have the stuff we want, we’ll consistently shop at your store—even if someone else is selling it slightly cheaper.

The key phrase is “consistently.” If you are often out-of-stock of the items I regularly buy, I’ll stop shopping at your store, no matter how well you treat me.

Image result for empty shelvesIn a few days I’m going to give a new presentation at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy. The title is “Profit Margin is Not Your Only Money Maker”. The premise is about how and when to sell lower-margin goods. One of those times is when you are the store people “expect” to sell that product. You don’t want to disappoint those customers and drive them away.

Not all hunters are Transactional. Some like to hunt at your store because they always know they’ll find their prey. Listening to my mom regale the tales from shopping with the boys reminded me of that important distinction.

Ask yourself …

  • What products do you sell on a regular, consistent basis, day-in-and-day-out?
  • What products do you sell at the highest turn ratio?
  • What products do people walk in asking for directly the most because they expect you’ll have it?
  • What products do you know your customers will buy online if they can’t get it at your store right now?

Those are your Must-Haves. Those are the products that keep your Relational Customers like my mom and me happy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your buying. If you need to add to the order to reach a better deal, add some Must-Haves. Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your marketing and advertising. Being out-of-stock often is one way to get bad Word-of-Mouth circulating. Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your overall customer service. The more your staff can say, “Yes we do!” the better they feel and the better the customer feels.