This month’s shopping expedition is based on our desire to follow the government’s instruction of SIP (you know, Shopping In Place). With that in mind we decided to compare and contrast two terrific brands working in the same retail vertical, your kitchen. We spent time looking at both the long time industry leader Williams Sonoma and the more recent contender to the throne Sur La Table.
Both of these companies offer the consumer incredible selection. I don’t know who needs to look at 301 different Chef Knives (there were other things in this selection than just the knives like sharpeners and sleeves) but you can find that many on the Williams Sonoma site. There are many gift ideas on both of these sites as well.
So, when we shop a retail store, we look to see how the store is “working.” We want to know how it appears to the consumer, how it works for the sales-people and how it works for management.
When we are Shopping in Place (SIP), we want to ask some of those same questions.
As I said from the beginning, both sites are terrific. I would tell you I think Sur La Table is a bit easier to navigate than William Sonoma. Both have great product and pricing is similar. If there is a scale bender in my opinion it is Sur La Table being more in tune to what is going on in the world today. And taking their strength and presenting it to the customer with great relevancy.
It says here there is a significant change in the world of business that no one is talking about. We have read much about the temporary closing of restaurants and retail stores. We have read about the 90% + decline in hotel room nights and airplane travel. We have also read about the 200%+ increase in Zoom traffic. What we have not read much about and what the long-term consequences are is the Convention Business.
Businesses go to conventions because it is an efficient way to see lots of customers and potential customers at one time. They go there to show off new products, venues, developments, and ideas. The costs to attend these conventions have soared. It is so costly that some companies put a paper to pencil to weigh up the benefits of attending the conventions. There will be billions of dollars saved this year by not going to conventions. Billions that can be put back into the attendee’s and the exhibitor’s pockets.
These B2B companies are now having to put their thinking caps on to create other ways of getting in front of those very same customers. What is also interesting is that the decision makers in the retail and restaurant communities are attending fewer internal meetings and are taking a few more calls.
It is time to begin the selling process again. You have to be sensitive. You will hear “we are in the survival mode” a lot. But you won’t hear it everywhere. If your timing is good, and if your product or service is good, you have an opportunity to revive your business.
It will take old fashioned leverage of your relationships. If you don’t have relationships, find someone that does. (You might want to look at the tool https://6dos.co/. They are not associated with us but I think it is a pretty cool tool if you have some discipline in your organization.)
Did you know that AT&T said voice calls are up 200%? People are remembering that the first app for a smart phone was a …phone.
The question that conventions/exhibitions must ask is, “Will this last?” Will businesses decide they are better off spending their exhibit money on salespeople and hold them accountable? Or, would they rather spend the money at conventions?
My money says it will be a slow come back for Las Vegas. Until a vaccine is developed for Covid-19 people are going to be very cautious of huge gatherings. The lights will come back on after stadiums are allowed to be full again.
So, in the mean time start getting creative. And if you are stuck on how to get in front of Mr./Mrs. decision maker, contact Taylar Gomez (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Rich Hollander (email@example.com ) or just go and visit our web site and www.axcelora.com . We are both very creative in helping our clients.
In our never-ending effort to keep our readers on the cutting edge of retail, we made the sacrifice of going to New York City and shopping at Hudson’s Yard. And, before any of you ask the question many have already asked our team of shoppers, no, we did not climb up to the top of the Vessel. There was no line, because there was a massive heat wave in New York the three days we were there. But, the Vessel is impressive. If you plan on going, go earlier in the day as it won’t be as busy. You will have a great time.
In today’s modern shopping center there are two things that must be in place or you won’t have success. It is no longer sufficient to just have great retail; you have to have great entertainment and eatertainment as well. Hudson Yards hits the ball out of the park here.
All of the retailers you would expect to see in an affluent shopping area are here. Cartier, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rolex, and Tiffany in the jewelry category are all front and center and on the first floor. It is very impressive. If I were looking for something for Terri, I would have to make this a consideration stop. In clothing there are Chanel, Dior, Coach, Dunhill, Kate Spade and Athleta to name just a few. But there are surprises as well.
This is the first shopping center I have been in where H&M, Uniqlo, and Zara are so close to each other. And, I will tell you Zara is the clear winner here. Their merchandising of the store makes the other three look drab at best. They create the value with every aspect from their windows to their service. By having all three so close you can really tell who the big winner is in this category.
There are other outstanding surprises in this shopping center. Heidi Klein, Jo Malone, Milk & Honey Babies and Rhone are really well done stores, and stores you don’t see everywhere. Bring your friend’s credit card because this is high quality merchandise. But wait, there is more.
If you have not been in a B8TA yet you must go. This may be a new way to introduce products to the world. It helps this is a high traffic mall, but this was clearly the busiest shop in the center. They take new items a consumer might have seen on e-commerce sites and let them get their hands on the product. The manufacture pays a fee to have their product shown. If you want to buy it you can. For the most part they are then shipped to your home. I went by several times on different days and the shop was swamped each time.
My favorite shop of the trip was Love-Pop. This is a greeting card store, yes a greeting card store where I spent nearly $100. They are pop up cards that are so fun. Originally seen on Shark Tank, they now have this one store. (they have holiday pop up stores during the holiday’s). They have the exact correct formula for success…great merchandise, good location, and friendly, knowledgeable people. This is a home run, but I would not expect to see one in your neighborhood anytime soon. My sense is they got a deal on the rent.
Now food is always high on my list of importance. And Hudson has you covered. There are two markets (who could live with just one.) Citarilla Gourmet Market. It is perfect for New York. Great assortment, a butcher, a baker, no candle stick maker. And then, if you go to the basement you will find Mercado Little Spain. OMG this is a beautiful place and lots of tapas restaurants as well as a paella restaurant that will blow your mind. The paella pans they use are the largest pans I have ever seen. The theater they put into this effort takes the top spot in the mall.
As for sweets, there were two hits and one miss. Van Leeuwen Ice Cream has vegan ice cream. There was a line to get into the store so you could get in line. I am not kidding. They had a security guard managing the line. That is the type of store I want. (May I see your ID, so you can get in line, please to pay me 80% gross margin). If you want all of the traditional Jewish desserts, go a couple of doors down to William Greenberg Desserts. Not only do they have black and white cookies but strawberry and blueberry and white cookies. The one miss, Dylan Candy, may have been because of my expectations. I was really expecting a unique candy store. The store was not bad, but there was NOTHING special about the store. Knowledgeable people and happy to give me a taste, but nothing I HAD to take to my granddaughter.
This is how I see retail continuing to be successful. Make shopping an experience that happens to have merchandise. Make it a fun day with treasure hunts and surprises. If you are going to be ordinary, go spend 10 dollars and get a “Going out of business sign.”
While these are high-end shops, you can do it everywhere. Look at what Target is doing with Disney. And, they are getting special merchandise from Disney to do it. Your whole store doesn’t have to be unique, but some of it must be. At Warby Parker they have WIDE glasses, WIDE Glasses I say again. I have a fat head and this is the first time I have ever seen wide glasses. Unique, but not the entire store, just a couple of SKU’s. This is not technology, it is creativity and it is what your customers are demanding of you if you expect to stay in business. It is what you have to do to earn their business.
Retail is an exciting place today, and Hudson Yards is a great place to practice your profession.
In the past I have spoken about selling, after all, it is my passion. I was at a conference last month and a member of the group got up and said he was not a natural born sales person. I would like to debunk that myth right now. There are no natural born sales people. There might be some people more social, or outgoing than others, but they are not natural born sales people. There are some people that have better listening skills, but these people are also not natural born sales people. Because, sales is a profession, just like being an attorney, a doctor, and accounting, a hair dresser, an actor, or a baker.
Even without medical training, my mother and my wife have health care training. Can they do a heart transplant, odds are not in their favor for success. They may be able to try, but it would not be on my heart. David Glover reads all the legal agreements for his company, but if there was an agreement to sell the company, even though he could read the agreement, I am certain he would bring in a professional. When my children were small, their mother cut their hair. But they would not have thought for a moment she could do that for prom, their wedding, or an important meeting. And, I am a baker, but I would never attempt a wedding cake, I would certainly miss so many of the details that make wedding cakes special. And, therein lies the difference between a “natural born” sales person and a professional. I am certain that when Boeing is competing for business with Airbus, they want a professional sales person, one that does not skip any of the six essential steps for a sale. They want someone who is setting up the right scenario that will lead to the closing moments of a sale.
If you follow along, even if you are a professional, a reminder is always in order. With these six steps I am sure you will see an increase in your closing ratio. It is logical, and uncomplicated. You will need paper and pencil along the way, because that is your reinforcer. Here we go.
Step 1- Narrowly define your target customer.
Write down a description so you can have it in front of you when you are at a show, making calls, or sending communications. (By the way, have you noticed how little “snail” mail you are getting these days. Do you think you could get noticed if you sent a real letter to a prospect?) If you are in the commercial real estate business and you have space for rent how have you determined who you are going to rent it to. Consider the size available and who fits into that size as your first cut. Next, are they in the general market but not in your specific areas could be your next cut. Or, is there a dying center you could steal a customer from, or one that is overpriced. Work it down until you have 10 specific retailers that you would like to have in your center that would benefit from being there.
Step 2- How will the customer benefit from your product or service?
For each of the ten targets write down specifically how they each will benefit from your product or service. While many of your attributes will apply to all the targets, you should have a few which benefit each individual target. Going back to real estate, it could be co-tenancy, adjacency to business out side of your center, or foot traffic just to name a few. But, be specific and put yourself into the customers shoes. I cannot tell you have many clerks simply don’t understand the importance of this step. It is what makes the difference between a professional sales person and a clerk.
Step 3- Determine a time and place you are going to make the call.
Where are you most comfortable and can focus best on calling or communicating with the customer? I hope it is not a coffee shop, because the customer will not be able to hear you. My suggestion is to find a quiet place. Plan on one hour at a time. And for that hour just pick up the phone and call. It is really that simple. You have defined the target, you know why your product will help THEM so just pick up the phone and give them a call. I promise you this; you cannot break anything. You may fail, heck, you will fail more often that you will succeed, but while not the best outcome, it is much better than not picking up the phone. When you finally get the prospect on the phone, have a CONVERSATION with the prospect. Don’t talk at them talk with them. It is the first time they are hearing you so slow down and speak clearly. (Do the same thing when you are leaving a voice message. This is not a race to say as many words as you can in 25 seconds. Slow down and leave a professional message). Learn about their business, the functions of their responsibilities, and what is giving them pain. Then slowly give them an overview of your product or service and how you think it can help them. What you are looking to do here is gain an in-person appointment. There is no sense in going into great details here, you just must share enough information to gain the appointment. Make sure you walk away with a specific point of pain they would like to have go away. Because when you do show up in person you are going to show them how you can achieve their goal.
Step 4 Follow Up and Prepare.
Ok, now you have the appointment. You have set a specific time. Make your travel arrangements. Immediately prepare your presentation. Now, and this is another key, write down as many questions as you can think of that the prospect will have. WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t skip this part. A couple of days before your presentation send a reminder to the prospect of your up coming meeting. Practice your presentation. If you can get a friend to listen all the better. Bill S and I went to his first presentation and he was great. I asked him if he had practiced. He said he practiced so much with his wife he was sure she could give the presentation. (He earned the business). Get to the appointment at least 30 minutes early. It is OK if you must sit in your car but get there early. If you are going to give a power point, ask if you can get in the room early and set up. You are ready to go.
Step 5 The Presentation
First rule of any presentation, stand up during the presentation. It will give you much more energy. It will show your excitement. Second rule of any presentation listen more than you talk. When you start, you can set the rhythm of the presentation. Simply state you have done your homework on the company, but it is always better if you hear the state of the company from the prospect. And then actively listen. Don’t interrupt, just listen, take notes, and think about how you can best shape your presentation to what you just heard. Now during your presentation remember to tie everything you are saying to what you just spent the last 10 minutes listening to. They told you their points of pain, you now must shape your presentation to give them the medicine to make them better. Back to the real estate scenario you could demonstrate the advantages of your center being close to a hospital and all their well-paid employees which should deliver foot traffic, something they just told you they were missing. All you must do is listen and react.
Step 6- Ask For The Order.
People expect professional sales people to ask for the order. That is one of the roles of a professional sales person. It gives the customer an opportunity to explain any objections and ask for clarity in any areas that may be confusing. There are many ways of asking for the order, each situation will call for a different option, but you must ASK! It will be awkward at first, but practice makes perfect. And remember, the first no is the first step to you. The customer is simply sharing their problems in your presentation, the pricing, or the product. Here is your time to listen and respond to the customer. A professional sales person will have thought about the potential objections and be prepared to answer them, and then pose a closing question again. “What do you think of this for next steps?” “Does that answer your questions?” “When would you like to kick off the project?” All good closing questions. It is your responsibility and the client expects professionals’ sales people to AFTO.
If you think about the steps outlined above, you can see none of it is “natural born.” And the best sales people practice and then practice some more. When I started at Buxton, I took the time to observe the other sales people. There were two types of sales people. There was the slap you on the back type of folks that took all their clients out to dinner and drinks. Telling wild stores (mostly not true) about the prowess at one thing or another. And then there were the professional sales people, the ones with a plan and working the plan. I will let you determine which one you want to be.
If you want to join a great group of sales people look at www.axcelora.com because we would love to have you as part of our team.
In many of our past store shops we took you through large locations. At Home, Buc-ees’, and Ikea. For this months shop we thought we would take you to one of the hottest concepts in the country, Peloton exercise equipment.
For those of you sleeping under a rock and not watching television commercials, Peloton is the latest craze in exercise. You get to ride your Peloton exercise bike connected to a coach, others in the riding community or by yourself on rides they have filmed around the world.
The people I know that own Peloton exercycles all swear by them. All of them. Not one of them wants to trade it in. I was surprised by how many people I know that own this product. They love the coaching, they love, the competition, and the fitness they get from the machine.
So, I went to one of the top fashion malls in the country, Aventura Mall in Miami, to find a Peloton store. I was surprised by the store because it is not really a store, but a pop-up store that has been there about three years now. This store is in the middle of a courtyard area of the mall. There is no roof, but there are open walls around the kiosk, so it does look like a store…sort of.
When I got to the store, I asked the sales person how long they had been there, and he said three years. I asked if they were looking at a permanent location and he said they were. (Like most malls in America today there are several vacancies, so that was suspect to me). The store has three pieces of merchandise in it. Three, two exercycles and one treadmill. That is, it. No shirts, no clip-on shoes, no swag of any type. And remember, I told you that people that buy this product are fanatics.
Here is where things became interesting. I asked the salesperson (there were three people working in this 15 x 30 store) to explain the exercycle to me. He did a great job. He explained all the programs, he explained the pricing, he explained and demonstrated some of the different rides you could do, he even explained the studio they use in New York that you could go and see. Technically he demonstrated that he knew everything about the exercycle. He lauded the Peloton community and how you could use an exercycle in any of their stores to get your ride in if you were on the road. (not this one by the way because it was a kiosk). This sales person knew this product as well as any person I have ever encountered in the retail environment.
There were just two small things missing. 1-He never asked me to get up on the exercycle. I was wearing tennis shoes, a nice tee-shirt, and wind pants. No reason I could not have gotten up on the exercycle and gone on one of their easier rides to take “ownership” of the bike. I realize I am 70 years old, but I am pretty fit, and I have the where with all to be able to purchase this $2,200 piece of merchandise. But our well informed “sales” person never asked me to get up on the bike. 2-He never asked for the order, never. He asked for my contact information (which I gave him) we chatted after he told me about the bike, but he never AFTO. I even gave him another chance. I asked about the monthly subscription fee. Our friendly clerk (because he obviously is not a sales person) explained the program and the advantages of paying annually, but still no close.
And, he never asked to show me the treadmill. I wandered over there, but there was no excitement. None. And the other two clerks kept themselves busy talking to each other.
I tell you all of this to highlight the importance of teaching your sales team how to sell. The importance of practicing every day with your sales team.
Now for the good news. The Peloton team did follow up with me. They both sent email and called. They were professional, curious, and politely persistent. They asked for the order twice. I did not buy one as it would not fit where I live. But I can tell you, it is a first-class product. Too bad it is not for sale in Miami.
In my 46+ years in business I have had the fortunate opportunity to work for a great many leaders. At Tandy Corporation I worked for Jim Nichols, Ron Stegall, John Roach, Clint Thomas, and Vic Sholis. I also had the opportunity to work alongside Len Roberts, Lewis Kornfeld, and Alan Bush. At Cash America I got to work for Dan Feehan and at Buxton I got to work for Tom Buxton. Each one of these leaders had different strengths and weaknesses. Some were intellectually brilliant, some had great leadership skills, and some just simply had the strength to will things done. But each had their philosophy and had the unique ability to get their team to buy into that vision.
Here at Axcelora our vision is unique. There are many companies that have the ability to make an appointment for you with a retail or restaurant organization. They employ actors, cold callers, bots, and other types of impersonal touches. When I was President of Buxton we tried using these services for a couple of years so we could free our best sales people up to actually spend their time presenting to prospects. It was expensive and it did not work. We paid them if they did or did not make us an appointment. They had no idea what the retail/restaurant business was about, and it was the most impersonal type of contact you could get.
At Axcelora we sat as a group (that group of four had about 140 years of experience) before we made any attempt at a business, and determined what our philosophy of business was going to be. Because,we realized that, if we knew what we were going to be about as a group, then wherever the business was going to take us we would never lose sight of our vision.
Our first determination was that we were going to service retailers and restaurants. That is what we knew about even though one of us was a merchant, one from marketing, one from finance, and one from store operations. We all knew retail. We next agreed that we were going to leverage our knowledge from our careers. We knew retail/restaurants and how they worked. We also knew the B2B world from both an agency point of view and a selling point of view. We also knew about multi-unit management and all of pitfalls it could have. We then agreed that we were not going to make things complicated. We all knew, from previous excursions in business, that the more complicated things were, the lower the likelihood of success. And finally, the last thing we agreed (and we all knew from the beginning), the customer was always going to come first. If we could help our customers become successful, then we would have success. Or, as my Cuban friends in Miami used to tell me, “If we take a shower than you get wet.” (Maybe that is why it rains so much in Miami)
So our Philosophy was set. We were going to help people that wanted to work with retailers and we were only going to be happy when they were successful. That has led us to try things that work (our initial appointment setting program through our “Partners), and things that don’t work (our Temporary Executive program). And, it has encouraged us to continue to try new things like our Customer Advisory Boards where we have our first two clients up and working. And, while we are not bots, cold callers, or Oscar Award winner actors, we are always thinking about your business and how we can help you win. So, tell your friends about us and ask them to give us a call.
If you are in the business of selling to another business (in our case retailers and restaurants) you all know that the most difficult task in the entire sales cycle is getting in front of decision makers. It is the most difficult because decision makers get bombarded with ridiculous offers all of the time. My best personal example of this came when I was President of Incredible Universe for Tandy Corporation. We had a cultural norm of answering your own phone. It actually was a great practice because it gave you a pretty good view of what was in the market place.
One day I got a call from the Mayor of a small town in Texas. Let’s call him Mayor Burt. Mayor Burt called me at about 11 am and was very animated. He was sure he had the next great location for Incredible Universe. There were no other competitors in town and he had the best piece of property. I asked him if he had ever been to any of our stores (186,000 square feet and hard to miss). He told me he had not been to any of our stores but he just knew we could be a winner in his town. Well, the county his town was located in was in far west Texas and had less than 50,000 people. It could not support a store of our size. I politely thanked him for his time and explained it was not a good match. Mayor Burt tried a couple more times but eventually understood that this was not going to happen.
But this is why retail and restaurant executives don’t take and return phone calls. You see, they have a reason, but it causes them to miss out on tools and merchandise that will make their business more successful. They all have time for a call or a visit from a company that is not going to waste their time. A company that has studied their business and has a specific solution to solve one of their business problem.
So, how do we get over this “moat” of resistance. How do we get through the castle defense system. How do we slay the dragons and bring our new sword and catapults to the kings and queens of retail. Well, we just storm the castle with our knights and princess’s , but we do this in a modern 21st century manner, we do this through Axcelora.
Axcelora is the invention of a group of executives with both retail, restaurant, and B2B experience. They have both made the cold calls and received them. They have run retail business and know what it is to get a phone call from someone unprepared. But they also know the delight they get when they are approached by someone who really took the time to understand their business and only called when they had a product that was a good fit.
When these executives were in the selling part of their careers they learned the advantage of being introduced to a decision maker by mutual friend. They understood the barriers this advantage broke down. To keep it in the vernacular of our story, they understood that a proper introduction would allow them to scale the walls of the castle without being pummeled by arrows and fire.
The business problem for Axcelora is simple to understand and VERY difficult to execute. There are thousands of companies that would like to eventually avail themselves to the services Axcelora has to offer, but where are we going to find the Knights in Shining Armour (and the clever Lady’s of the Castle) to make these introductions.
Our goal is to build an army of Knights and Lady’s to help us storm the castle walls and create a new way of selling into the retail world. The barriers put up today will keep out lessor competitors, but not the force of Axcelora. We will only take the best vendors with us on our march through the retail world. We will always have confidence in introducing our clients to our friends because we will take the time to insure our clients are prepared. We will help them create a thoughtful target list. We will help them with a clear minded presentation, one suite for the retail and restaurant world. Because we want our retail partners to be successful, and use the tools our clients are presenting to them so they can build a bigger and more successful empire of their own.
Like ancient times the Kings would pay their royalty with some of the bounty of their efforts. Here at Axcelora we do the same thing. Our Knights and Lady’s (we call them modern day Partners) are paid each time they successfully storm the castle.
Axcelora would like you to be part of the team that breaks down the castle walls and allows our high quality clients to get in front of the Kings and Queens of the retail and restaurant businesses. Just give us a call at 817 909 4354 or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .
I have a good friend that loves to hunt. When he was younger and went hunting he would shoot at anything that moved. His dad called it “buck fever.” He did not care if it was a young buck with fuzz on the top of its head or a 6-year-old buck with a record set of antlers, he was shooting. Now of course he wanted to shoot the bigger buck, but more importantly, he just wanted to shoot anything and everything. So, at the end of the day he typically shot nothing.
Well, the same thing happens in sales. When I first got to my first B2B sales job there were six sales people. There were no assignments of accounts, territories, or verticals. We had three different people calling on Verizon, two of them calling on the exact same person. But, most importantly we simply did not have a plan, unless “go get ‘em” is a plan. Why would we need a plan? We had good sales, good sales increases, and unlimited opportunities because our competition was not any better. In fact, they actually only sold on a technical basis, not on a business needs basis, so perhaps they were even worse off, but that is a discussion for another day.
When I got a call from my friend at Verizon asking me why we were not any more organized than we were, I sat down with the owner of the company and explained how much of our resources were wasting and how much better we could do. So he said “all right, (cannot use those words here) if you are so smart show me a plan.”
The first question I asked myself is whether or not I would I would buy from our company back when I was with Tandy. While I was very fond of the company and the owner, when I was with Tandy this company was too small for me to consider. They were not doing business with companies my size yet. So here was my first rule of targeting: Target companies that are similar in size, or just slightly larger, than the companies I am currently doing business with. If you want to do business with the WalMart’s, Targets, and Kroger’s of the world you are going to have to build up to their size. While they may be polite and chat with you, unless you have a reasonable set of client references, you are just wasting your time. They should be on your marketing list, but not on your sales target list. Marketing will begin the awareness campaign for you, but you don’t have the time to waste chasing them.
My next question that I would ask is can I actually help this company become more successful. Businesses measure success much differently than governments, educational institutions, or non-profit organizations. Businesses are interested in only three things, increasing sales, lowering cost, and increasing profits. And, they are really only interested in increasing sales if it will increase profits. Only target companies where you can reasonably show that you can increase sales and profits and lower costs. If you cannot do that your target is not interested in speaking with you.
Next on my list of winnowing my targets adaptation within my business segment. For instance, if I am targeting the restaurant industry in particular, I would ask, “are more companies adapting my product or service in the Fine Dining, Casual, Fast Casual, or QSR segment.” Or as my dear friend Hank Allen would say, “Fish where the fish are running!” While being a pioneer in a particular segment has its rewards, the expense in time and energy does not normally have a good ROI.
Finally, you should limit your number of targets. If you have gone through the first three steps and you have 200 targets you have too many. I would recommend that you keep the number of targets around 100. Screen out where you know your competitors are (while you may be able to steal their customers there are normally lower hanging fruit). Only sight in the number of targets you can keep track of. Each prospect should have contact at least twice a month. A phone call, an email, a personal note in the mail (very impactful since not many are sent), should happen every other week.
Let’s take a moment to fully understand the positives of having a limited target list.
· It will force you to realize the value of each prospect that you have as it is a finite number as opposed to an infinite number. In this case, less is more valuable than more. Think about cars. A Bentley convertible is more valuable than a Bentley sedan because they have made fewer of them…and they are cooler looking.
· Having a limited target group will give you the time to fully understand the business of those targets. With that understanding you can develop the need of your prospect for your product or service, and develop that need from the client’s perspective. If you cannot help the client you should not be trying to sell them anything.
· Having a limited number of targets will also give you the time to professionally reach out to them on a regular basis. If they really are worth your time, they are worth your time at least twice a month. Remember, it is not their job to return your call or correspondence, it is YOUR job to get in front of them.
· Having a limited number of targets will also give you the time to work your contact list to determine who has the best access to your targets. It will also give you the time to reach out to your contacts and ask for their help to meet your prospect.
It continues to amaze me the number of companies that simply do not create a target list. Especially new companies. They want everyone and will take anyone. Here at Axcelora we have two sets of targets. One is for our Partner Group and the other is clients. Fortunately, we have not had to make any effort to find clients, they have found us either through our web site, these posts, or through friends. There is not lack of demand for quality appointments. But we have had to focus on who we want for Partners. We have a couple of criteria that we use as we hunt for the right people to join our journey. The first thing we ask our potential Partners is if they know what a Rolodex is, if they don’t than we realize that they have not been around long enough to build relationships with people that have decision making authority. Our second criteria for hunting Partners is how many different retail or restaurant companies they have worked for. It is our experience that people that have worked for 4-6 different companies make for the best partners. They typically have been around the company long enough to build significant relationships and have also gotten to meet lots of people.
Whatever you use to winnow your target list, just do it and you will have time to have the success you are looking for.
So sometimes I divide the world into two different groups. Now the groups change from time to time. Sometimes the groups are hot dog eaters and non-hot dog eaters (not sure why anyone would not want to have a hot dog for every meal). Sometimes is it people that eat ice cream versus people that don’t (yes, there are some people that are lactose intolerant, like me, but they should just suck it up and enjoy the pleasure before the pain). And sometimes it is creative people versus anti-creative people. Notice that I said anti- instead of non- because many people that can’t create put up road blocks for those that can.
Well, the other night my wife and I went to a meet and greet for a new baby in our community. It was a nice enough affair, all the appropriate food and drink (that means it was not meant for me but for nice ladies that tea), beautiful baby and wonderful parents and family. As one of the events of the get together there was a beautiful nursey rhyme book where you were supposed to write something for the baby and parents to see. I am pretty certain that the baby will not remember this event when they are old enough to read what was written in this beautiful book, but perhaps they will think of the people that did the actual writing.
When it became our turn to write in the book my wife looked at me and said “give me something creative for the book!” As a backdrop let me tell you that in our family we have divided responsibilities. My wife is the fix it person and the bookkeeper. I am the cook and the creative one. If you gave me the instructions to put together a wagon you might end up with a camel. If you gave my wife a blank sheet of paper and told her to write something there might be fungus growing on the paper before you calmly took her away. She colors within the lines and I don’t even see the lines or understand why anyone would want to have lines.
None the less, the timer had begun. She wanted something creative and she wanted it about five minutes ago. As she was telling me to be creative that voice in the back of my head was screaming to me “yeah dummy, just push the creative button and spit something out. Just do a Seinfeld riff on why they call them diapers instead of poop and pea catchers. Or why diapers should have designs on them when the babies cannot focus past their noses.” That voice was starting to scream at me when it struck me. Non-creative types simply don’t understand what creative people do. While Renoir and Monet were certainly creative and talented, their creativity was much different than mine. Every creative person goes about their creative process in a different manner. My creativity is simply taking things to the next progression. Sometimes that causes a problem but most of the time it does not. And our minds tend to wander a bit. Now what were we talking about again, oh yes, creating something for the book.
Well, I looked at the nursey rhymes that were in the book and settled on one that had not been chosen yet, Mary had a Little Lamb. We came up with a nice extension of the poem that was cute and memorable (at least we thought so) and my wife wrote it in the book (my hand writing I learned in Medical School and I am not even a doctor). Everyone was happy.
In the past two years I have often been asked (actually just yesterday, hence the writing of this piece) of how we came up with the idea of Axcelora. Well, for me, it is not creative at all, but merely an extension of a thought process. If you ever speak to a professional sales person, one that is good about their job, they will tell you the most difficult task they have in the sales cycle in getting in front of a decision maker. If that process could be shortened in any way they would be forever grateful. In thinking through my own B2B selling experience I knew that when I was introduced to a potential client by a friend that I was much more likely to get an appointment and my sales success increased as well. So all I had to do was bring a lot of friends together and then we could introduce the world. In my mind not creative at all, just a logical next extension. Well, two years later and it seems to be working. We have about 50 Partners, a dozen or so clients and orders for 250 appointments.
So in the extension of my initial thought that they world is divided in two different parts I think there are people that can make appointments and those that cannot. But withAxcelora people those that can’t make appointments don’t have to be in the same bucket as those that can’t make sales. And those that can make appointments but can’t sell, there is now a way for you to leverage your Rolodex, all brought to you by the friendly folks at Axcelora. For more information about creativity or appointments please check us out at www.axcelora.com.
I assume you are reading this and saying to yourself that the author is a complete idiot. But, if you listen to my logic I think you will realize that this is what is keeping Amazon’s outstanding management team awake at night.
Since the beginning of Amazon, they have been able to sell the future to outside investors. First in books, and then in all merchandise Amazon has been the leader in low prices. They could do this because their goal was not profitability, but gaining market share. They had the backing of the investment community. So, normal retailers had to compete with a company that had no true conviction (in this writer’s opinion) to make a profit. And they could do it because the Amazon management team was smart, open-minded, and resourceful.
Amazon started AWS (Amazon Web Services) to sell the excess capacity they had from their computer power. In their quest to optimize the use of their assets, they were smart enough to say they had excess capacity and wanted to monetize it. They also knew they had much more intellectual power than small startup businesses would have. So, as any Rising Star should, they went and built this business from nothing where no one else was playing. This business has significant more margins than Amazon retail and contributes meaningful profit to Amazon Corp today. This then gives Amazon’s retail business the ability to put pricing pressure on all other retail competitors. And they are.
But, now comes the problem area. AWS and its soaring profits is the drug that Amazon is hooked on. Because of the growing popularity of cloud computing and AWS’s strong position in this business Amazon is counting them into the future. But there are some real competitors entering the market. Competitors with pockets even deeper than Amazon’s. While AWS I have read, has a 33% market share today, second on the list is Microsoft. But there are more competitors on the horizon with Alphabet, Oracle, and WalMart working to stake strong claims to the cloud.
What could make the difference is the structure of the business. Neither, Microsoft, WalMart, Alphabet, or Oracle rely on the cloud for their current profit structure. They all have significant financial war chests available to them and none of them is shy about earning market share.
So, let’s say that one or more of the four of them determines that price could make a difference in gaining market share. (And yes, I realize that pricing is going down rapidly already because the cost of computing is dropping faster than ice melts in the Texas heat.) They could all afford to bring the fat margins that AWS is now enjoying down significantly without hurting their core business. If those margins were to fall too fast for AWS, Amazon might have to change their retail business model.
So, is Amazon in trouble today,? Perhaps not. But smart people should be looking out for opportunities. WalMart is not in rumors to buy Jet.com because they don’t think they have an opportunity to compete. The pressure is going to be on Amazon for the foreseeable future. They have an incredibly smart and alert management team that has been able to come up with tools and products to keep them going forward. Only time will tell.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.