Home » Staff Training

Category: Staff Training

Change Your Viewpoint to See Your Business Better

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

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

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

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

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

The point Rick was trying to make was …

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

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

The truth is …

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

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

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

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

PRODUCT SELECTION

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

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

CUSTOMER SERVICE

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

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

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

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

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

PRICE

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

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

How would that change things for you?

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

Is it the Best Place to Spend Your Money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOING THE MATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ROI is there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

Price is the Default – Change Your Settings

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

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

Price drives all retail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

Connecting Through Stories (Part 2)

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

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

The stories also make you more personable and human. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go make some friends today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

Connecting Through Stories (Part 1)

When people ask me what was my favorite Christmas gift, I often answer my first guitar. I still have it—an Eterna EF-15 six-string acoustic guitar by Yamaha—hanging on the wall with my other guitars. I get a lot of joy from playing guitar.

When I first got the guitar I wasn’t very good at playing it, nor was I as motivated to learn how to play as I thought I would be. It was harder than I thought. Then I met Tim Murnen.

The Eterna is the second from the right.

Tim and I worked together at YMCA Storer Camps. Tim didn’t teach me to play guitar, he inspired me. You see, Tim wrote his own songs, powerful, emotional, poetic visions. I wanted to do that too. So I started learning how to play guitar. Tim had ignited a passion in me.

Recently I found an old notebook that had several of my early songs in it. I pulled a guitar down from the wall and began picking at a few of the tunes. It was amazing how quickly they all came back into my memory. They weren’t good. In fact, all but two of them would probably fall under the Geneva Convention rules for cruel and unusual forms of punishment. But it was fun to see the progress I have made from those early days.

The other Christmas gift that stands out in my mind was given to me by my radio advertising sales rep. Most years the radio station would give me a mug filled with candy or a clock with the station logo on it or some other tchotchke gift that collected dust on a shelf for a year or two. Linda, however, gave me a copy of Roy H. Williams book, Wizard of Ads.

That book ignited another passion in me. I was only halfway through the book when I found out there were two sequels. I ordered the trilogy the next day and started my journey into the world of advertising and marketing. The books spoke to me in powerful ways.

I was thinking about these two gifts recently, and the connection between them.

Both were about storytelling. Songs tell stories. The best ads tell stories. Tim told stories. Roy told stories.

Both were about emotions. Songs speak to the heart. The best ads speak to the heart. Tim spoke to the heart. Roy spoke to the heart. (My early songwriting didn’t really tell stories or speak to the heart. Hmmm … I’m sensing a pattern.)

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is the late Harry Chapin who wrote such fantastic, heartfelt songs like Cats in the Cradle, Taxi, and A Better Place to Be. He was the ultimate storyteller. His live album is even called “Greatest Stories Live.” It is an album I can never grow tired of hearing.

I’ve always loved stories. Love reading them. Love telling them. Every night when my boys were younger I would tell them a story. Often they would challenge me to make one up on the spot. I would ask them, “Real or made-up?” If they said made-up I would ask, “Funny or scary?” Then we’d get into the story. Those nights are some of my most favorite nights of all.

Where is the lesson in this for retailers? It is understanding the connections we make through storytelling.

Linda gave ten businesses the same book for Christmas. I was the only one who took it and ran with it. The other nine set the book on a shelf with the other tchotchkes and never went down that path. For them, Linda worked the same way she always had, with professionalism to a tee. But our relationship grew by leaps and bounds until I became one of her biggest fans and cheerleaders.

You’re going to tell a story. Not everyone is going to connect with it. But those that do connect will become the spark that sets your business ablaze. Don’t worry about the other nine. Focus on the connections you make, not the ones you miss. Those connections will always be deeper and more profound (and more profitable).

Speak to the heart and the hearts that respond will speak of you the way I speak of guitars and wizards.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My son wrote his college application essay on how he remembers facts and data better when they are in a story than just through plain old rote memorization. There is a lesson in that story for all of you teachers out there, too.

PPS This is the “why” stories work. Tomorrow we’ll discuss “how” to make them work. How to use stories is a big part of my workshops on advertising, but there is also an element of storytelling in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Make sure you sign up soon.

A Retail Lesson From 9/11

I was in the office this day seventeen years ago. My dad was there talking on the phone with my sister. It was in the morning just after 9am. She had called to wish him a happy 58th birthday. She had CNN on in the background and asked my dad if he had heard about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. No, he hadn’t.

While still on the phone, he turned and asked me if I had heard about it. No, I hadn’t.

I immediately got on my computer.

By early afternoon we had seen the last of our customers for the day. I had sent home most of the staff by then, too. I’ll never forget that day.

The next few days, however, were a blur. We had customers, but even they were somewhat in shock and not sure how to react or what to do. It took about a week before business came back to normal levels. Surprisingly, it still ended up being the second busiest September in the history of the store.

One fascinating memory I have from that month was how the relationships seemed to change. It felt like we were closer with our customers than we had been before. Whether that was a result of all of us going through a shared tragic moment, or if it was because it was our core customers who were the first to return, or simply because we put a premium on relationships after those attacks, I’ll never fully know.

It just felt different.

I felt a similar difference in 2014. My overall training goal that year was on Relationship-Building and Selling.

We started in January talking about Repeat and Referral business. Repeat business comes from giving great customer service (doing what the customer expects). Referral business comes from doing more than the customer expects, so much more that she has to tell her friends.

In February the topic was the greeting, how to say Hi and welcome the customer to the store. In March we worked on listening skills. In April we worked on how to decipher what was in our customer’s mind. What were her fears and objections? What problem was she trying to solve and how could we help her solve it? What questions should we be asking and what answers should we be listening for?

The next three months were about closing the sale including Features & Benefits, Visualization, and Assumptive Selling.

Those six months of training were the basis for the presentations I did last August and the five new eBooks posted on the Free Resources Page. Those six months of training are now an integral part of the new presentation—The Ultimate Selling Workshop.*

I think the feelings we had with our customers in the fall of 2001 were a combination of the relationships we were building naturally and the common tragedy we all had experienced. That year was the biggest year in sales in our 68-year history.

In 2014, however, the relationship-building was intentional. Even as our market was in serious decline, 2014 was our second most profitable year and one of the more rewarding years I’ve ever experienced. It was the closest we felt to our customers since 2001.

The best stores build relationships with customers all the time. It starts by hiring friendly people who love to meet and help others. If you only do that, you’ll still be doing more than most of your competitors. The true excitement, however, happens when you teach those friendly employees how to intentionally create the lasting relationships that keep your Repeat and Referral rates at all-time highs, while, more importantly, making life better for both you and them. That’s when you’re no longer compared to your competitors because you’re on a level all your own.

It is all about the relationships you build. That’s the retail lesson from this day.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a three-hour, hands-on session that takes the best elements from the breakout presentations The Meet-and-Greet, Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling, and How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy) and wraps them up into one power-packed event that includes training activities for your staff, hands-on activities that drive home each point, and a map to guide you to better selling. You’ll learn how to build long-term relationships, get the most out of every transaction, and even how to attract the best, most profitable customers to your store. If you sign up now through the end of September to do this workshop this fall, you’ll get the special introductory rate of $2,000. (Call me October 1st and you might be able to talk me down to $3,000 for the same workshop—and it will still be more than worth it!)

Two Completely Different Ways to Build Your Team

I love thought-provoking questions. Here is one I was asked recently …

How do we bridge the gap between employees and corporate America?

The question makes two assumptions; first that there is a gap, and second that the gap must be bridged.

The first assumption, that there is a gap, is not hard to understand. Corporate profits and C-Level wages seem to be growing astronomically while front line worker salaries seem to be stagnant at best, and possibly in decline. Bernie Sanders just introduced the BEZOS Bill that will tax employers with 500 or more employees an amount equal to any public assistance benefits the employees qualify for because of their low income.

Many companies in corporate America are hyper-focused on Shareholder Value. Through that lens, employees are seen as expenses that must be cut, trimmed, managed, and kept under control. As long as the guys at the top keep the shareholders happy, the stock values keep rising and they keep making their money. They ask the question of their employees, “How can I cut costs more without cutting productivity?” This approach leads to that huge salary gap between the top and bottom levels of the pyramid. It also leads to the adversarial gap between employees and “corporate America.”

Image result for steve jobs hiring quoteMany companies, however, take a different approach. They look at employees as assets, not expenses. They ask a different question …

“How much more can this person add to the bottom line and what is that worth to me?”

Both are legitimate approaches and both have found their successes at the corporate level. Understanding the differences will give you a leg up in deciding which approach will work best for you.

EMPLOYEES AS EXPENSES

No company will actually admit this is their practice, but for the most part, this is what they do. Their pay is low compared to others in their industry. Their pay is low compared to other measures such as “living wages.” They hire primarily for skills, invest very little into training, and look for ways to replace employees with systems, technologies, automation, and streamlining of the process. They put an emphasis on their managers to demand more and pay less.

Turnover is high at businesses like these. You might have the skills but not the “fit.” They don’t care about the fit. They hired you for your skills. Do the job or move on.

When unemployment is high, these businesses thrive because there are plenty of workers out there they can chew through and spit out. As long as the top guys keep the stockholders happy, they’ll have all the cash they need to keep the machine humming.

The downside to businesses like this is that they have to cycle through several employees to find ones that have both the skills to do the job and the personality to fit into the culture. When unemployment is low, workers have the opportunity to move on to better jobs, better pay, and/or a better atmosphere. These companies spend a lot more money hiring than they do training and are willing to discard employees at a moment’s notice in their quest to find the right people.

EMPLOYEES AS ASSETS

Most companies pay lip service to this ideal. They claim this is their practice, but unless they are actually “investing” in their employees, it is merely lip service. Investing in your employees means you are spending time, energy, and money on your people with the belief that they will pay off with better productivity over the long run. In fact, it is the long run that drives these businesses.

Companies looking to appease shareholders take a short-term view, looking to beat expectations each quarter. Companies who look long-term are willing to invest more for payoffs down the road.

These companies are slower to hire, looking for corporate fit more than just for skills. These companies spend more time and energy training their employees to do things their way. These companies make sure the work atmosphere is attractive as much as productive, knowing that employee turnover can often be more expensive than paying for quality training programs and niceties for the team.

When unemployment is low and workers have the power, these companies will have the better pick of the litter because employees want to go where they are compensated and appreciated. Plus, since they spend more time and energy on the fit, they have less turnover and are looking for fewer people, and can therefore be more picky.

YOUR CHOICE

While I am obviously biased toward the latter, both methods work. Amazon has been making a killing, becoming a trillion-dollar company, while being known for notoriously horrible treatment of their warehouse employees. Turnover at their fulfillment centers is high, and Bernie Sanders wants to tax them for not paying those people a living wage.

Apple is another trillion-dollar company where people are lining up out the door trying to get an interview. As Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

The key for you is to make a conscious choice about the approach you are going to use. Then take those steps necessary to fully embrace that approach.

If you wish to view your employees as expenses, find better ways to streamline your processes to make them more efficient. Automate everything that you can. Build systems that eliminate too much choice. Spend your money on hiring, and hire specifically for the skills you need so that you can spend less money on training. Be quick to fire and move on when an employee is costing you too much. Don’t get attached to your team, either. Keep the gap firmly between you and the worker-bees.

If you wish to view your employees as assets, find ways in which they can bring you value to your company. Hire people who fit your culture and have the character traits you desire, then train them up to have the skills they need to be successful. When you evaluate them, look at the value they bring to the table both monetarily and otherwise. Give them the free rein to do their job at their highest level. Make them feel valued and appreciated.

Both ways work. The more fully you embrace your approach, the better.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My grandfather definitely fell into the Employees as Assets category. He always believed you could never overpay for great help, and that when you find the right person, invest heavily into that person and pay that person enough to keep him or her.

PPS If you’re going to take the Employees as Assets approach, here is one investment sure to pay dividends—The Ultimate Selling Workshop. No matter what you sell, this three-hour training workshop will lay the foundation for creating long-term relationships with customers that lead to higher conversion rates, higher tickets, and higher customer loyalty. You’ll get your customers to buy more and brag more about you at the same time. I am offering a one-time special. If you book before the end of September to do a training before Thanksgiving, you’ll get the special low price of only $2,000. You’ll get the theory, practice, tools, and techniques to turn your staff into rock stars.

PPPS To answer the second assumption from the original question … If you take the Employees as Expenses approach, you don’t ever want to close the gap because you’ll be too emotionally invested in your team to be able to fire quickly and move on. If you take the Employees as Assets approach, there won’t be much of a gap at all because both you and your team will be fully invested in your success. The gap only exists where corporate America favors profits over people.

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.