The Internet may have opened up small local companies to a global audience, but retail business owners still understand the value of growing a consumer base close to home. According to a survey conducted by local marketing automation provider Balihoo, 91 percent of businesses planned to increase location-based marketing in 2013. Proximity and convenience are still primary buying motivations for the average consumer, and businesses that target local shoppers can tap their neighboring areas as a source of recurring revenue—even as that organization's horizons expand regionally, nationally and beyond. Local marketing can be pursued through both digital and traditional mediums, making diversification easier to achieve. Here are four such strategies to help your business leverage your local area.
1. Form Strategic Alliances
Local businesses can increase exposure by aligning their marketing strategies with other companies. Identify complementary businesses that provide different products and services to the same customer base and approach them about creating a referral exchange. Even if it's as simple as agreeing to recommend one another when clients have related needs. Partnering companies can help you increase your customer base—and ultimately, the bottom line—over time.
2. Fund Geo-aware Digital Ads
Geo-aware and geo-fenced advertising campaigns are a new product created by the mushrooming mobile device market. With smartphones and tablets using GPS location services to help device owners navigate city streets and use on-the-go technology, advertisers can now tap into that when targeting consumers in their local area.
According to Business Insider, geo-aware and geo-fenced marketing allows businesses to display ads on websites and mobile apps only to consumers located within a certain geographical range. As part of your local marketing plan, you could choose to pay only for ads that display on mobile devices within a 10-mile radius of your store. By leveraging this new technology, you can ensure you're hitting potential customers within your local area while getting more bang for your advertising buck.
3. Go "Door-to-door" with Direct Mail
Direct mail is a traditional marketing medium that is just as effective now as it was 20 years ago—especially if your target consumer base is an older, less tech-savvy demographic. Direct mail marketing firms help businesses create and manage these marketing campaigns with ease. Consumer targeting is made easier because new direct mail campaign tools allow businesses to target specific areas and communities based on demographic details like average income, age, household makeup and so on. PrintingForLess offers an Every Door Direct Mail option that takes advantage of U.S. Postal Service carrier routes so that your print piece is delivered to specific neighborhoods. Specific addresses aren't needed to target those homes, cutting down on the workload for companies.
And because the U.S. Postal Service recently struck a deal that gives discounted postage rates to direct mail marketing, businesses can launch these campaigns at a lower cost than ever before—thus making it easy for those marketing campaigns to turn a profit.
4. Focus Your SEO on Local Search
Search engine optimization can sometimes feel like you're painting with a broad stroke, but you can take steps to refine your SEO efforts and focus on specific goals. If you're not currently investing in SEO strategies at the moment, it's worth your time to put some of your marketing budget toward local-search-specific SEO. Focusing on keywords that integrate your location and surrounding areas, setting up Google business listings, and making sure your location is featured on all of your social media pages, will help improve your local SEO score and lead to an increase in local Web traffic.
By Rick Segel
The following is an adaptation from an essay from my dear friend Robin Arbuthnot from Northern Ireland. I think it helps to define us and what we do. We are in the business of selling
We will meet every day people from all walks of life. We must be able to empathize with them all, communicate with them all and build a relationship with them all. We must aim to be less judgmental, try to control our emotions, try to decrease our aggression and above all learn to act. We must endeavour to be all things to all people and so our life becomes that of the actor playing a character role. We must learn how to adapt to each role as those roles unfold within the sales process.
We have a wonderful profession that allows us the freedom of expression, freedom to create, and the opportunity to meet and study some of the most wonderful characters on this earth. We have a responsibility to ourselves to take full advantage of these opportunities and use them to expand our own personality and character.
We are all in the business of selling. From selling our merchandise to selling our ideas to our people, YES we our selling to our employees as much as we sell to our Customers. Understand as we manage people who sell, we must walk through the selling process with them and discuss the skills and attitudes needed to succeed. We also should be assessing our skills in terms of managing our people and look for ways to improve our effectiveness. It is constant and never ending improvement.
Having said that, understand we are extremely self conscious, and extremely defensive about our appearance and our abilities. We hate criticism, and will aggressively argue with anyone who tries to educate us by pointing out our errors.
There are two perceptions to every situation in sales - “ours” and “the Customer’s.” The Customer will believe that his perception is the right one, so it is our job to ensure that our perception is the same as the Customer’s. We can achieve this in a number of ways:
- Clear communication - this involves stating clearly what you want from the client or a situation. Agendas are particularly useful in achieving this type of communication.
- Clear understanding of our ambitions - this makes us aware of the growth needed to achieve these ambitions and should make us more willing learners and listeners when it comes to criticism.
- Analysis - if we constructively analyse ourselves on paper, we will generally be amazed at how much negative analysis we perceive. Carry out an exercise focusing on the positives about yourself but being realistic about your limitations and it will increase your confidence and hopefully remove some of the introspective attitudes which we all exhibit.
There are many similarities between the acting profession and the selling profession. One of these is the ability that we have to take something very old and boring and present it as if it is brand new and exciting. Actors are called upon to do this frequently when portraying Hamlet or Macbeth or The Merchant of Venice, but a good actor or actress can bring new life to their part and make us feel and see things in the play that escaped us previously.
As salespeople we also must take a process which is ancient and which everyone is aware off and transform it with our presentation skills and creativity into an exciting new methodology for the Customer. However, we cannot change the process anymore than the actor can rewrite Shakespeare.
Practice being creative; sit with your colleagues and ask for inputs and ideas on specific problems and opportunities. You might be amazed at the extent to which you and your colleagues can be creative.
The Ability to Analyse Other People and Yourself.
Hopefully, by now you will be identifying the underlying factor in sales - people management. Selling is a process designed to get other people to do what you want them to do. In order for you to achieve your sales objectives you must be able to understand people, analyse their characters and personalities and adopt your approach to their “needs” and “wants”. Before we start analysing other people we must first learn to analyse ourselves.
This is not easy since much of the content of such an analysis is touching our emotions. Emotions such as anger and love can totally blind us to the facts, so we must practice our analysis until we can be reasonably objective, and see the positive as well as the negative trends that appear.
Any salesperson who can master the art of this type of personnel analysis will improve their success rate quickly.
How to Keep Your Customers: Customize Their Shopping Experience
When it comes to shopping for the products that they need and want, today's customers have many options at their fingertips. One of these options is simply purchasing goods online. But when you purchase goods online, there is a problem: You can’t touch the merchandise or physically see it until it arrives at your door. Many enterprising customers have found a way around this problem: “showrooming.” Showrooming is the practice of looking at products in stores, then ordering the products through online competitors. This practice can have a real impact on your bottom line. Any time that your associates spend fielding questions from these noncustomers takes their time away from serving your paying customers.
What is the solution? It’s doubtful that you can do anything to completely stop showrooming from happening, and any steps you take toward that end are likely to negatively impact your customers and staff. The only real solution to the problem is to keep your customers engaged and interested. One way to do this is by customizing the shopping experience.
Why is online winning? What is it about purchasing goods online that is attractive to customers? Price is one obvious answer. It is simply less expensive, in many cases, to buy products online. This is because online merchandisers serve many customers out of just a few locations. The smaller overhead of operating fewer locations is spread out over a large number of customers. The other reason is more complex. Even when they are not buying, online merchandisers are learning a lot about customers based on the items they look at. These companies use sophisticated algorithms to find items that complement purchases, and then upsell customers.
How can an in-store experience compete with the price and convenience of online buying? Brick-and-mortar retail stores usually cannot compete with online retailers on price, so you must beat them by offering a unique service or shopping experience. This starts by knowing your customers. Obviously, you cannot know every customer who walks through your doors, but you do have regular customers. Engage with these regular customers to find out what they like and do not like about your store. Then, put this information to work. If your customers want more assistance, offer it to them. If they would rather just be left alone to shop, you can do that as well. Encourage your sales staff to develop relationships with your loyal customers. When unfamiliar customers walk into your store, staff should immediately greet them in a polite, nonthreatening manner. If a customer spends more than a few minutes in your store, an associate should approach them and offer to help. If they have already chosen some items, you may offer them other products that could go with those items.
Online retailers have access to information and economies of scale that you do not. To compete effectively, you must customize your shopping experience to meet your customers’ desires.
Chris Allen is a leading authority on POS systems and delivering customized value to business through software. Chris serves as the BEPOZ Chief Executive Officer, a custom point of sale software provider. You can follow Chris on Google+
By Matthew Hudson
One of the more common questions we get is this one - "Is there really a benefit to following a unified sales process in our retail store?" First, let's all admit that the person asking this is not curious about positive impact - they are resistant to change and they are looking for any reason not to do things a new way. After all, he has been selling for many years and this is "not his first rodeo" as we say in Texas.
Yes. Yes. Many times Yes. There is definitely a positive impact from following the same sales model in the store. In fact, studies have shown that whether you are B2B or B2C (retail) the results are remarkably differnet when following a unified sales process - especially in retail. In fact, in a 2011 study the results were staggering. In this study, stores that had a unified sales process they practiced were compared with stores that did not follow one. And the survey says:
- 52% Higher Closing Rates
- 64% Higher Customer Satisfaction Scores
- 76% More Repeat Business and Referrals.
All of those stats mean one thing- more money, more money, more money. And who does not want that? Even you, non-first-rodeo-guy, would like some more money.
Let's examine the list. First 52% Higher Closing Rates. Can you imagine the impact on your business if you could get your closing rates up by 56%?! Talk about fun. There is an old adage 'sales cures all ills' and I think the guy with 52% higher closing rates coined it. Stop for a moment and do the math for your stores. Are you excited yet?
But why higher closing rates? Simple. The team followed proven sales techniques. The overwhelming majority of retail sales people today "make it up as they go." They shoot from the hip or worse yet, let the Customer do all the work and they just ring it up. If you follow a system of proven techniques, your chances of success HAVE to go up. Probably the most important technique here is the one we see missed most often - AFTO Ask For The Order.
Too many times we see salespeople go through their whole routine and then simply stand back and say "tada!" And wait for the Customer to pull out their wallet and buy. And you know the worst part - often times the Customer will. Many times when I am in a store, I want to go over to the Customer and tell them "make them ask you, it’s their job." But alas, I resist the temptation. My favorite is when I get asked at the cash wrap, "Was anyone helping you today?" Funny question. I guess the answer is yes, someone showed me where the merino wool sweaters were, but that was it. Imagine if they asked, "did anyone sell to you today?" There would never be an entry.
64% Higher Customer Satisfaction Scores. This one is easy to understand why. When you follow a structured sales process, you complete a full process every time. You Research well, you Experiment well, you AFTO, you Answer Objections, you Add-on to the sale and then you Tether the Customer (more on that last one in the next section.) In other words, the Customer gets the full experience of your brand from every person - every time.
It's funny that people disconnect Customer Satisfaction from the sales process. If you follow a process, everyone is Greeted professionally - every time. People can come to expect a certain level of experience from your store because its not based on who waits on you that day. Think of your favorite restaurant. Have you noticed the difference between the wait staff? Probably not, because they are your favorite and they got that way by being consistent. Same thing cannot be said for the other guys though.
I remember Customers coming in and asking for a certain Sales Professional in one of my stores. It was their day off, and I offered to help them, but they said, "No thanks, I will come back when GL is here." I was the owner and they preferred GL! But this story gets its start the first 3 weeks of GL's career with us, which included a ton of sales training on our process and role-plays to practice it. I knew to not be offended. In fact, what they were really saying was 'I love the fact that GL follows your sales model so well. He meets all of my needs. He takes his time. He listens. He anticipates. He suggest other items.' He's selling! They are not saying I love the way he sells, but that is what they are thinking. And the best part of this story - it happened to me all the time. And that is a good thing. Because it affirmed that our sales model was being followed to the letter and the Customer satisfaction and response proved it.
76% Higher Repeat Business and Referrals. Now, this one gets me the most excited as a business owner. It means one thing; I can spend less money on advertising, which means I can take more money to the bottom line! It also meant my margins were higher. Repeat Customers are easier to close and easier to step to better margin merchandise.
Think about the impact of people coming into your store because of your sales team and not your clever advertisement. Sure, some Customers are only motivated by a deal. But its the referrals that I get the most excited about.
Referrals are people advertising for you! Free of charge. They want too. Why? (By now you should see the chain reaction of how this works.) The experience they get in the store exceeds their expectations. They want to tell people about it. They want their friends to have that same experience. That experience is linked to the sales model and the people in your store following it.
Starting to click for you? You may be one of those people who say, “we are doing great without a sales process.” And you are. But hopefully, the statistics outlined above help you realize there is another level of GREAT you can achieve. One we like to call G.R.E.A.T. Selling (our sales model from the Retail Sales Bible online certification course.)
And no, you do not need to follow our model to achieve the results above. The emphasis here is that you have a sales model and that you hold your team accountable to it. Whether you use ours or another sales process, the point is that YOU USE A PROCESS!
I am sure that showrooming has been a topic on the minds of many retailers these days. For some it's a gloom and doomsday perspective, while others see an opportunity standpoint. But going back seven to 10 years ago, it is seen much in the way that online shopping was considered as the end of brick-and mortar retail.
Arguably yes, online shopping has certainly impacted brick-and-mortar retailing, and has created winners and losers in the process. However, to the extent that retail is dynamic, within these winners and losers the only thing that will change is the catalyst in the ability and the motivation of the retailer to embrace it and engage. Or will they run and hide against the always coming, but often unpredictable, changes at hand?
Less Impact than Big Box Stores
For many independent retailers, Showrooming has been much less impactful than the big box stores whose products, brands, and pricing are often highly transparent, comparable and at a ticket level that motivates aggressive shopping on the part of the consumer.
Last year we saw major online retailers offering incentives through local global positioning; if consumers would check a price inside the competitor's brick-and-mortar big box store, they were offered added incentives beyond their everyday low price to purchase online while inside the store with the competitor. These types of tactics are only the beginning. We also saw retailers test ways to defeat everything-from blocking signals, creating confusing codes and labeling on products-many of which only served to anger and confuse the customer, rather than to complete the sale.
In the gifts and decorative accessories industry, many of the most well-known products are already sold by the manufacturer either through direct online sales or the outlet environment. Yet in many cases with such a broad and diverse assortment at hand, the key "must have" product is less of an issue than if it were in a big box, electronics, toy or hard goods retailer.
I believe in the contrary-the opportunity is the biggest challenge, not the Show rooming itself. Here, the opportunity is: How does the independent gift retailer use the increasing pre-shop mentality of the consumer today to help direct, plan and possibly pre-conclude the shopping trip? How do you become a helpful advisor and friend of the consumer, rather than attempting to build the wall around the assortment, pricing and the availability of products in their stores?
Much of this begins by creating a strong social strategy, a vibrant email contact list of customers, and exciting, healthy and interesting content that keeps the consumer coming back for more. Find ways to encourage customers to Showroom on a regular basis to see what is new in the store. Make it possible to personalize that advice and content for a particular customer or consumer group's interest.
Today consumers often use stores as logistic points; places to pick up products; often pre-shopping during the day on their lunch hour (or to the ire of their bosses after lunch-it is the busiest ecommerce time of the day)! So to smooth the challenges of their busy day, when the consumer arrives at the store their hard work is already completed. Possibly the gift has already been personalized, gift wrapped, and the smart retailer has already pulled together an item or two that might complement the gift; be it a few cards, other items that the consumer might enjoy giving with the gift, or maybe even buying for themselves.
The phenomenon of "shop online, pick-up in stores" is one of the most dynamic changes in retail with the store not being the place to necessarily make the selection, but to conclude the purchase and increasingly to have a social interaction with the owner, the staff or even other shoppers. This dichotomy between "productive shopping versus social shopping" is even becoming more obvious during key shopping periods, holidays and pre-card giving days. The purchase behavior increasingly is happening nearer and nearer to the occasion. Even the best pure online retailers need to cut off their logistics a few days before and sometimes even a week before the holiday; giving the brick-and-mortar retailer a perfect chance to "swoop in" and be part of the customer's solution.
Connect with Showrooming Opportunities
Looking at ways to connect the Showrooming in-store with shopping online is also an opportunity. By mirroring the organization, product selection, and even the presentation of products, albeit with a realistic view of the differences of online versus in-store shopping behavior, the retailer can help the consumer see this as part of the "commercial conversation," rather than as a multi-channel series of choices and steps. Today the consumer is much more engaged in a dialogue than they are in navigating a series of channels. After all, one only has to watch the customer walk into the store with their smart phone in hand, while waving their phone at you and asking, "Where is this?" This illustrates how seamless this "conversation" between retailer and consumer is becoming. By focusing on the seamlessness, it particularly indicates that the independent retailer, who is most likely less interested and equipped to create a robust ecommerce business, is much more equipped and likely to benefit from "commercial conversation" than a multichannel experience.
Much of this is about finding unique and interesting ideas to awaken the customer to the idea that the independent is fully capable of engaging in this conversation. Sometimes this needs to be done in a more "guerilla" effect-low-tech, high touch as a few of these examples suggest.
Note the parked bike out front could just as easily be inviting me to visit the website as the store. Post a series of consumer comments in the window about how the customer found this item online, how the store brought together customization with the purchased product, or even how a friend might have responded to the product; all with the info added that the store helped find, wrap and send to a cross-country "bestie," with the friend's thrilling response about receiving it. Today, for many consumers the independent role in this "commercial conversation" is unfortunately out of sight and out of mind. Finding a way to raise the ability of the independent retailer, albeit different from the Amazons or big box retailers of the world, is part of your battle.
Guest Post from giftsanddec.com The article features work done by our friend, Ken Nisch, Founder of JGA Design in Michigan.
A few years ago, the IT industry coined the term BYOD. This was to explain the phenomenon facing companies where employees bring their own devices into work to use at work versus having to pay for devices for each employee. For example, for years companies supplied cell phones to their employees, but the employees could be their own device (which they loved) that could do everything they needed for work and the company could save the money on buying phones for them. Now with this practice, there are many security issues since these employees access company info on these devices. Thus, the all the excitement around BYOD.
But how does this impact retail? While not the exact same way, the impact of smartphones and their app-based technology will impact retail in HUGE ways. Here are just a few trends you should watch for.
1. PYOD. Think about it. There are already several apps that allow you to pay from your mobile device. I use my Square app at the local food truck all the time. This is not new, but what are the implications? First, retailers are going to have to learn how to integrate this ability into their POS system. There are several advantages for the Customer. First, we like to have all of the Customer info in our system to track their purchases. How many times has that let you down at a store? You lost your receipt and the store has no record either. Imagine being able to act as your own POS system where all of your transactions are stored in your cloud from your device versus being kept somewhere else. You have all the access and all the security.
Yes, security. In late 2013, Target was a victim of security breech that gave out millions of Customers personal information. Whenever an event like this happens, it causes Customers to stop wanting to give us their info. If they can pay from their device, then they have an extra layer of security for them. It’s coming, bet on it.
2. Digital Signage. In our book, Signs Sell, we talked about the use of a mobile device as a digital sign. It’s an awesome idea. A Customer can see a video about your products right on their phone. They simply scan a QR code (or in the future use RF) and they can learn about the key features and benefits of the product.
Or set the phone to receive messages and you will get an alert every time you get in the vicinity of an available video.
3. E-Learning. When we were creating our online learning platform, one of the key criteria was that you could view the content from any size screen. A common “barrier” we heard from retailers was that they could not do online or e-learning in the store because their PC was also their POS. I understand that, the same was true for my stores. But, every employee has a smartphone or tablet (most likely) and suddenly you can do online learning. They can use their own device to take the course.
We are also going to see e-learning companies start to sue social media applications to deliver their training as well. There is a lot of talk about “short attention spans” and therefore a 5-minute Vine might do a better job of training on the future. Again, this will require the employee to use their mobile device. (Side Note: We could not disagree more with this trend. It violates every adult learning principle and the “change in behavior” that is required for training to be effective will be dramatically affected by this trend.)
4. Couponing. Imagine this, a Customer is passing by your store and they get an alert that there is a coupon available for 25% of everything in your store that day. Or let’s say they are in your grocery store in the cracker aisle. There are dozens of choices, but your mobile device alerts you that there is a coupon the Ritz crackers. You tap to select and it adds it to your “wallet” to be used when you check out.
McCormick spices created an interactive display that will deploy a scent and you have to guess which spice it is. The more you get right, the better the coupon it prints out for you. But imagine instead of printing it out, it just sent it to your phone.
By the way, all of this is currently available technology.
5. Interactive. Now, lets take that McCormick kiosk to the next level. Instead of interacting with their screen, what if you played the game from your device? Or imagine using your device to play a game with the retail store itself. You enter the store, pull up its app and it gives you clues for a scavenger hunt game throughout the store. It talks to your device (thus talking to you.) Or it plays a trivia game with you. Get 100% and your purchase is free! Who would not want to shop their just for the chance to win?
6. Loyalty Programs. Okay, you knew this one had to be on the list. People are tired of heavy key chains with 20 loyalty tags hung on them. Apps are getting easier to build and use. Customers are going to want to be able to use their phone to keep up with your loyalty program.
7. Targeted Marketing. In addition to being a digital loyalty card, I think the bigger impact will be the data we can know about a Customer. Already in Japan, digital signs can sense if it is a male or female viewer and adjust the content accordingly. But with device data and cloud services, it will be possible for the sign to know a lot more about you. Your age, your favorites, your likes and dislikes. Targeted advertising will take on a whole new are. Couple this knowledge with your purchase history in the store and wow, what can we do?
The day is coming very soon where Customers will enter your store with a smartphone and a drivers license and nothing more. And probably soon after that day, they wont even need the actual ID card either. We better get ready if we want to stay alive.
Consider this common employee complaint...."I keep talking but no one is listening"..."I have said this to my supervisor over and over but I never feel heard". Too many of us find ourselves in communication loops - inefficient conversations about the same things over and over again. If you have been on the sending or receiving side of these circular dialogues, you may want to reconsider your greatest tool in effective leadership - your ears, not your mouth. Research shows that 80% of effective communication is attributed to listening.
Likely you have heard about this topic somewhere before, but turned inside out - how to talk so that people will listen. In today's take-charge, results-driven retail environment, we tend to focus our energies on areas we can actively control and will get us what we want as quickly as possible.
Most of us are motivated to solve problems, so we listen just long enough to determine the solution. Sometimes, others are asking for your advice, but just as often they simply want to think out loud, talk out options, or just be heard.
Watch for mixed messages. For instance, if you say, "Talking to you about this is important to me" but sit back in your chair, tap your pen and cross your arms, the employee hears that you are interested and available but sees that you are disinterested and rushed.
Match your facial expression to theirs as you are listening. Blank facial expressions increase anxiety. Expressions that reflect your understanding help the speaker connect with you.
Consider timing and location. Try to get out from behind your desk and move to a more collaborative setting like a conference room. Be cognizant not to rush the interaction even when you think you know what they are going to say.
A simple but powerful non-verbal affirmation is direct eye contact. Giving someone your undivided attention says, "I am here and fully present with you."
Reflect - by selecting certain emotions to reflect back ("I can see how that would be difficult for you", "It sounds like you felt left out of the team") you confirm you heard them, eliciting more information and specific details that may be helpful in your understanding.
Clarify -the most difficult things are often the things we dance around or dilute. If we can avoid saying them at all, we will. By saying "Tell me more about...," or "Help me understand that more," or "Can you give me an example?" it will help untangle the issue, clarify the root causes, and shed light on development opportunities. Clarifying helps both parties find meaning.
Ask - rather than using questions that can be answered with a yes or a no, use open-ended questions to encourage the person to provide details that will aid in your understanding of the issue. Rather than "Did this situation happen recently?" ask "Share with me how this situation came about." Also, be sure to ask specifically what support or involvement they want from you.
Retailers - remember, just because we can hear doesn't mean we can listen. The art of listening so people will talk is just that - an art. It is a learned skill that requires practice. Seek out listening mentors whose skills you have benefited from. Ask for their listening best practices. Take another look at your problem performers. Could poor listening on either side be a contributing factor? If the answer is yes, then try some follow-the-leader, where you get to set the example for active listening in your team.
Guest Post by Jennifer Shirkani, CEO Penumbra Group - author of Ego vs EQ
By Matthew Hudson
Probably one of the biggest questions I get asked around corporate culture is this - "Is it really worth all the hoopla or is it just the latest fad like mission statements and morning exercises?" To answer that question, let me quote from a good book (not THE good book, just one worth reading.)
Is corporate culture really worth it for you to invest your time and the company’s money in trying to create a service culture within your organization? Take this test.
(The answer is YES, by the way!)
If you are like most, the value given to Y varies from 5 to 25% depending on whom you’re asking. If a company has 3,000 employees (S) in it and the average salary is $20,000 annually (E) and the amount of time wasted is 10% (Y), then the amount of money lost to your culture is $6,000,000. Do we have your attention yet? Would it be all right with your CEO and stakeholders if you added an extra six million to the bottom line next year?
Even if you are a one store operation with 5 employees, the formula works the same. Granted, it may not cost you $6,000,000 annually, but we will bet the % of sales costs is about the same. Try it and see. Put in your answers to YxExS and see what you get.
What is the secret to capturing back this money? Your company’s corporate culture.
What is the definition of culture?
Here is where we dig out our friend Mr. American Heritage Dictionary to help us. This friend will be very useful to use throughout this book. There are multiple definitions for this word, as there are for all words in the dictionary. The interesting thing about each is how the latter ones grow from the former. See what we mean.
- The behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought expressed in a particular community or period.
- Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced.
- Development of the intellect through training or education.
NOTE: These definitions are for the word culture, not for the term corporate culture. Is there any difference? None whatsoever. In definition 1, you replace the word community or period with company and Walla! In definition 2, the works produced (results) of a company. And in definition 3, intellectual capital of a company. We are especially fond of definition 3. It holds the key to corporate culture and more importantly to corporate culture change.
John Parker Stewart, in his work “Team of Champions,” relates it this way; “with a paycheck you earn are the hands and feet of the employee. But in order for them to perform at a high service level, you must capture their hearts and their heads.” Truer words have never been spoken. How many times have you said to yourself after a poor performance, “My heart just wasn’t in it?” If you are like everyone else in the world, way too many. This supports Stewart’s and our point. You must have the hearts and heads of your employees if you ever expect them to perform like a Culturrific! service team.
It is a fact that a great percentage of your current employees come to work simply looking for the easiest route to a paycheck. These employees look to give the least amount of effort possible to get by. Truly this is their motto— “to get something for nothing.”
A group of scientists were performing an experiment with mice. (We know this is a shock and hard to believe, but it’s true.) They took a mouse and dropped him into a beaker full of water to see how he would react. The little mouse swam furiously trying to keep its head above the water so it could breathe. Eventually, the mouse’s legs tired and he stopped struggling and simply sank to the bottom. The scientists pulled the mouse out of the water, dried him off and put him back in his cage. The next day, they took the same mouse and placed him in the beaker of water again. This time the mouse swam and he swam trying to keep his head above water, but not as long today as he did yesterday before he finally gave up and sank to the bottom. It’s now the third day – same mouse, same scientists, and same beaker of water. They dropped the mouse into the water and guess what happened? Exactly! The mouse sank straight to the bottom. He had learned that there was no reason to go through the entire struggle and pain of trying to keep his head above water. In essence, the mouse had learned that if he would just sink to the bottom, they would take him out and it would all be over. If it takes a mouse three days to learn he can get something for nothing, how long does it take people?
Let’s face it. You probably have a workforce with lots of hands-and-feet clock punchers who are looking to get something for nothing. It the nature of retail. These are not the service providers you need. However, in most cases it’s simply because no one has ever tried to touch their hearts and heads. They have spent their adult lives “getting by” looking for the path of least resistance. But what about yourself? Have you always been a go-getter? Or is there some point in your life when someone got to your heart and head that made the difference in who you are today? Take a couple minutes to really think about this point. You could, in fact, be that person for the employees in your company.
We are not advocating that you will have to fire all of your employees and start over. This is a ludicrous proposition (although tried by some!). The stops in this book are designed with the above philosophy. Every action you take from now on will look to capture the hearts and heads of your employees so that they can make a difference in the lives of your customers.
Corporate culture is a living, breathing part of your company
There was a scorpion that happened onto a river on his journey home. Being a scorpion, he couldn’t swim across the river so he needed help. The scorpion spotted a frog sitting on the edge of the river. He approached the frog and asked him to let him climb on the frog’s back and ride across the river.
“I can’t do that,” said the frog. “You are a scorpion! You will sting me!” “I won’t sting you, “said the scorpion. “If I did, I would only be hurting myself because if you drown, so do I!” The frog thought it over and finally agreed. The scorpion climbed onto the frog’s back and they started across the river. Halfway across, the frog felt a painful sensation in his back. The scorpion had stung him! “I can’t believe you did that,” said the frog. “Why? Why did you do it?" asked the frog going down for the last time. “Because I am a scorpion,” he replied, “and that’s what scorpions do.”
What is the moral of this story? You must accept the fact that your corporate culture is a real entity, not just a buzzword. The definitions given above can be cold and well, “dictionary-like.” Once you have accepted the fact that your corporate culture is a living, breathing thing, then and only then can you initialize true change in your organization. You must realize that your culture has a heart and a head and that you must deal with both. The scorpion in this story is your current culture. Your warning is to not claim victory with your service culture change initiative too early. On the outside, the scorpion convinced the frog (management in this scenario) that he was all for change and would not practice old habits. But the further across the river (culture change) the frog and scorpion got, the harder it was for the scorpion to accept this “head” decision and he started to follow his heart and stung the frog.
You will get stung continually unless you accept the fact that true culture change is much deeper than a few rules and policy changes. It goes so much further than dressing casual and calling everyone by his or her first names. You must get to the heart of the culture and change its identity.
(this article is an excerpt from the book Culturrific!)
As a retailer, how aware are you of what matters to the front line? Is your "open door" policy something you say or do people really take you up on it? Even the best senior leaders can find themselves sealed off from the company's day-to-day realities, whether it's because employees need an appointment or a badge to visit the corporate offices, a receptionist defensively manages the calendar, or the leader's door really is always closed, literally or figuratively.
Whether it's the bank teller, factory worker, window washer, driller in the oil field, or the employee packaging products in the distribution center, there are frontline workers powering businesses around the globe. These individuals are touching your product or delivering your service every day, often interacting with your customers, shaping their opinions about your brand and securing their future buying choices. Leaders may also be disconnected from how their decisions and what they pay attention to impact the people on the front line.For example, what might seem like a simple decision to reduce costs by eliminating the perk of company cell phones for certain employees could have a big impact on operations and morale.
It's easy to lose touch when you are occupied with management meetings, commitments at the home office, orhave no process in place for a "day in the life" experience. The goal is to stay connected in a way that keeps you informed so you have a read on where you can make effective changes and how to deliver them. Like a chess game in which you become able to look into the future, staying connected to your front line helps you envision the consequences of your decisions before your next move so you can elicit what you hope for and avoid the baggage of unintended outcomes
When leaders fall out of touch with the frontline experience, and fail to check in with the troops on a regular basis, negative consequences can easily happen. For example:
Valuable information on how the company can improve and increase its competitive advantage may get missed because it's often the front line where these issues are most evident. This is also where the greatest ideas are typically born.
Poor decisions are made because leaders cannot adequately anticipate the ripple effect of their decisions or behavior.
Leaders lose credibility with the workforce. People lose confidence in their leaders and question whether to follow them because they believe they have no clue what is really going on in the company.
Losing touch with your front line, or even being perceived that way due to a lack of visibility, is a surefire way to lose both your credibility and your employee loyalty.
The Battle of Ego vs EQ
When it might be easy to say, "I'm too busy to spend time on the factory floor" or "I feel uncomfortable taking off my suit and making sandwiches next to my entry-level employees," EQ says "I want to spend time with the folks on the ground floor so I can get to know what they and the organization really need" or "It's okay to operate out of my element because in order to grow I need to do things that stretch my abilities and connect me to new areas of my business." You might be thinking, "They make sandwiches; how hard is that?", "I'm too busy," or "I've earned this," EQ says, "How can I make the lives of my employees better now that I finally have the influence and resources to make it happen?"
You can stay in touch by leveraging your emotional intelligence:
Recognize the perception of you with your employee base. Ask yourself how long it has been since you have spent time doing the jobs they do every day. While some distance is natural, and sometimes unavoidable, recognizing opportunities to get in touch is the first step toward bridging the gap.
Read what frontline employees really need through their spoken and unspoken cues, (use empathy). Frontline workers may not provide outright feedback, but by asking them questions that reflect sincere interest, a connection can be established and invaluable perspective will be shared with you. These grateful employees are more than likely to pass on word of this positive experience with you too, and many other similarly rewarding moments will follow.
Respond with appreciation for the efforts of your frontline workers and be as specific as possible. Even if you learn information that is difficult to hear, exercise self-control and keep your focus on their needs. When the stakes are high and employees dare to share with you, they deserve respect and appreciation. When you make others feel seen, heard, and valued you will unleash performance in them like you never thought possible.
Self-control gives you the discipline you need to shape your actions for the good of others; self-awareness and empathy give you the insight you need to make conscious decisions and to take sensitive actions. As a leader your role is to bring the front line closer to you, not to allow yourself to drift-or push-too far away from it.
Jennifer Shirkani is a good friend and author of Ego vs EQ. She is an expert in Emotional Intelligence.
Recently, I found myself dealing with a retail salesperson who was attempting to explain to me the benefits of the item I was looking to buy. As I stood there listening to him, I was struck not by what he was saying but how he was saying it. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the person with whom I was dealing was either a new salesperson or new to the department we were in. Needless to say, I wound up leaving the store without purchasing anything.
Later, I found myself reflecting on the salesperson and the struggle he had making a sale. He clearly knew what he was talking about, he was able to respond to my questions and, on a couple of occasions, he elaborated far more than he needed to. However, the reason he was unable to close the sale was because he didn’t have any confidence in what he was saying and he was very uncomfortable talking to someone who could have been twice his age.
Retail sales is all about providing the customer with an experience, and that experience must include having confidence in the salespeople with whom you are working. In my case, the salesperson had product knowledge but not sales knowledge. He didn’t need to be incredibly “sales savvy,” just confident in what he was explaining to me.
After thinking about it, I realized that every question I asked was to help me gain the confidence that he failed to initially convey. The problem was that he viewed my questions as my desire to know more about the item, when, in reality, I just wanted some assurance in the purchase I was thinking about making.
If he would have merely spoken to me using a full and firm tone of voice, avoided using “um” and “ah” frequently, and shared his thoughts regarding my potential purchase based on his knowledge of the product and my input as to what I was looking for, he probably would have been able to close the sale. In the end, we both ended up wasting our time. More importantly, the retail clerk’s self-esteem probably dropped because he wasn’t able to complete the sale.
This situation occurs frequently and it’s unfortunate because nothing good comes out of it: for the store, the employee, or the customer. Circumstances similar to what I’ve just described are one of the primary reasons retail has a high turnover rate.
Store managers need to take the time with every salesperson to teach beyond just product knowledge. All new salespeople can benefit from being walked through the entire sales process in a manner that allows them to build up their self-esteem. Store managers should challenge themselves to be committed to regularly instilling confidence in each of their employees.
In the end, I decided that I probably would have purchased the item if I had been dealing with a confident person, even if they weren’t quite as knowledgeable. Clerks — and all salespeople really — need to learn to be self-assured and proud in the service they provide to customers. Although product knowledge is important, it is not essential to “know it all.” They need to develop the ability to confidently engage the customer with the knowledge they do have.
I believe a confident salesperson will become a top performer, and it’s the top performer that shows up for work everyday.
Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is author of “High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.” He is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects and close more profitable sales.