As I have said in my previous blogs, if you are a professional sales person you should be making cold calls every day. I don’t care if you have been in the business for 1 day or 30 years; if you are a professional you should always be prospecting-and that requires cold calling. Making warm calls is very beneficial as it brings you close to people you already know or people you have been introduced to. But if you are a pro you have to practice your selling skills every day and nothing is better for that than cold calling. (Ask any sports professional how often they practice and they will each tell you they practice every day. They practice their skill set everyday because they know if they don’t, someone else will be and they will soon lose their edge.) And, you have to expand your universe of potential buyers past your base customers because, believe it or not, your current universe is on the way to retirement or dying.
Alright, let’s say that you have bought into my premise (if you have not, go a week without cold calling and tell me how hard it is to get back into the swing of things). You have just made your first cold call for the day. You prepared for the call by reading up about both the company and the person you are calling just before you picked up the phone. You have no food in your mouth and no distractions. And you made your call and you got all the way to the ever present and evil "Gate Keeper". Ever polite, the gate keeper told you that your target would call you back as soon as time was available. While probably truthful, time won’t be available until the Cubs win the World Series. It just is not going to happen, and if it does happen you won’t know what to do because you will be in shock.
So, what should you do to insure you get the appointment AFTER that initial call?
1. Keep good notes. What was the name of the gate keeper? When you spoke with the gate keeper what did you learn about the gate keeper’s background. How did you relate to the gate keeper? Will the decision maker be at any conventions that you will be attending? Did you get a specific call back time?
2. Set a time that you will call the prospect back. Regardless of what the prospect said to you, you should set a time to call back. I normally wait a week to call the client back, but never more than two weeks. They have an obligation to speak to you. It is their JOB. They are responsible to their company to constantly know what is going on in the marketplace. If you have an idea or product worth an hour of their time (and if you don’t you are working in the wrong place) then they have an obligation to speak with you. Waiting for the client to call you back is like waiting for paint to dry; it is fun for the first few moments but pretty soon the fumes will get to you.
3. Think about other ways to get in to see the customer. Your initial call is just that, initial. It is the first step in your quest to make the prospect's business life more successful. So, if for whatever reason the prospect does not call back, you still have an obligation to help them with your product. Who do you know that knows the prospect? What interesting articles about the prospect's company can you send? Where did the prospect go to school, and how can you relate to that? Be creative in this area. The competition that is PLOM (poor little old me) is spending their time complaining about the prospect not calling back. They are never going to be given the chance to help the prospect be more successful, but you will.
4. Make sure you know specifically why you can help the prospect with their business. There are only two reasons a business should take their time to spend with you. Either you can increase their sales or you can decrease their expense. If you want to sell them a product or service that you cannot relate to one of those two business problems you should stay at home. Be specific on the business problem you want to solve. At Axcelora, our premise is that we can increase sales by getting our clients to retail decision makers, thus increasing sales. We also believe we can lower costs by lowering travel and payroll expense on wasted trips to see people that are not decision makers. At your company you have to be just as specific. If you can’t then you are wasting the prospect's time.
5. Practice your presentation. You are going to get the meeting because you will get to chat with the prospect eventually. Our “Pleasantly Persistent” program will make sure of that at an 85% rate. So you should be practicing your presentation. Make sure your slides are simply points of reference not something for you to read from. Images with few words will work the best. Write down what you want to convey to the client during your presentation. Don’t just say it; write it down. This will make all of the difference in the world. Anticipate the questions the prospect is going to ask. Write those down. This is what professionals do. I have always said the answers are not the problem, the questions are the problem. Because if the questions are well enough defined, the answers become obvious.
6. Develop a list of additional prospects. To some extent, sales is a numbers game. That is, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. You have to talk to many people to make a sale. I have yet to find a successful salesperson that closes every sale. People that have a high percentage of opportunities that close often have a low sales amount.
So while you are waiting, work on your next group of prospects. Ask yourself some of the following questions: Where does the product have the most use? Who are the prospects that look most like my current list of clients? How can I group these by geography? What size company is my best prospect?
So now you know the six things you should do while waiting for the prospect to call back. If you get tired of waiting and want to get to the decision maker fast, and with a personal introduction, go to www.axcelora.com and learn how this unique company can speed your sales process.
Over the past 15 years I have had the opportunity to visit the corporate office of hundreds of national retail and restaurant companies. During these visits I always took the time to look around the lobby of the office. There were usually articles that would highlight the culture of the company. In one office I noticed they spoke about their employees and their value, in another office they talked about the drive to find new products or foods to satisfy the needs of the consumer. I have also seen many companies talk about their history; some even putting them into book form. All of these tactics of reinforcing the culture of the company are worthwhile exercises. It is when there is disagreement in the agenda of the company that things start to fall apart.
The easiest example of opposing agendas in the retail arena is the battle between brick and mortar and ecommerce. You can certainly understand how this happens; the brick and mortar is threatened by the high percentage sales gain (shiny new object) being constantly thrown in their face by management. They can see the numbers daily and become fixated by them instead of worrying about the real competition. The pay plans of each division are not designed to reward the overall gain of the company in a way significant enough to change behavior. While some management thinks this type of strife within an organization is a healthy way to grow the business, they are simply wrong. These two groups are fighting so hard for resources and attention within the organization they often forget about the threats from outside the organization.
Another area where there can be opposing agendas is in the area of inventory control. The merchant and the store team are often on the same side of the duel; they never want to be out of stock. They want extra inventory to mark down so they can drive sales during traditional soft periods in retail. On the other side of the discussion is the CFO. He wants to have inventory magically appear just as the customer reaches for it on the shelf. He does not understand the value of a full store to paint a merchandise picture for the customer.
In the franchise world of restaurants there exists another big area of opposing agendas. While a franchisee normally purchases a franchise partly because of his reputation, and that reputation is built on the back of a number of stores, he does not want another location anywhere nearby. The franchisor is normally paid on the gross sales of the entire franchise system; so the more sales the more they make. On one side of the discussion you have a party that wants exclusivity and on the other side you have a party that wants total coverage. So, what is the solution?
The solution to all three of these problems is simply respect. If you respect the other party to the discussion you will listen to what they have to say in the context of your opinion. The Brick and Mortar retailers should realize that the consumer likes to shop both on line and in the store. The e-retailer should understand that working with the Brick and Mortar part of the business gives the consumer a better shopping experience. They should stop worrying about protecting their turf and start worrying about working together. If this can be accomplished there is no reason the e-tailers like Zappos.com should even exist. Because omni-channel retailers have a huge strategic advantage over pure play e-tailers.
Respect is also the key to the inventory problem. When central planners realize that individual stores, given the right tools and pay plan, can do a much better job at the store level than central units can, they will be given back both the authority and responsibility to keep the store in stock. Store managers, in both specialty and big box retailing, can change the direction of the merchandise mix because of their personal preference. They will sell more of a product if they are excited about that product. This will also be the same for each department within a big box store. But, you cannot simply give the store team authority, you have to give them responsibility and hold them financially accountable. When you ask people to fly, give them the proper tools and explain how rewarding it will be, you will be surprised how high Orville and Wilbur will go.
I have observed many different franchise organizations. There seems to be an incredible amount of friction in so many of them. This friction comes from a lack of respect. From the moment the franchisee purchases a franchise he forgets the reason that he agreed to pay a lump sum of money and a percentage of all revenue that his/her franchise could generate. He goes from “I am so grateful you wonderful people allowed me to be part of this wonderful team” to “You are stealing my money and I am not getting anything for it.” He forgets all of the effort that went into developing and growing the business. And, he forgets that he agreed to the terms without any gun being involved. And the franchisor is no better. Rather than looking at the overall health of the business, the franchisor forgets about the hard work that the franchisee does each and every day. Work that he agreed he would support with store visits, advertising to drive traffic, and continued product development to keep the franchisee competitive.
All of these opposing agendas can be fixed with respect. I was at the Restaurant Leadership conference two years ago and a group of franchisees came to my booth. They were accompanied by a member of the franchise leadership team. It was like the pied piper leading around his flock. You could tell that this group was all on the same page. They looked toward each other for continued success. And, during the past 5 years this franchise has had outstanding success. It wasn’t an accident.
So, how do you fix opposing agendas within an organization? By respectfully listening to each other. If you put your own individual success ahead of that of the organization then you are just waiting for your next job. When you start caring about the success of others you will realize that their success will make you even more successful in your life.
Let’s start out by saying that I am a Baby Boomer. Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Baby Boomer generation are the people that were born to the Greatest Generation. This is the group of Americans who survived the Great Depression, went off and won World War II, and came back and rebuilt America. When they came back to America they got married, started careers, and had children…lots of children. Remember, they had been off to war so there was this huge void of children being born until the men and women got back to America. Hence, the Baby Boomer generation. Much like the media likes to put names on the various generations of today, we got a name.
For the next 60 years everything we touched became huge. When we started going to school, there were not enough schools for us so our parents built more schools, lots more schools. When we got to high school, they wanted us to stay in school and get a better education than they did so they went and built more colleges. Lots more colleges and even Junior Colleges (later called Community Colleges). Then we fought our own war and came back from that, but not to cheering parades like our parents. So we used our education and went to work.
While we didn’t start Silicon Valley and Silicon Prairie and all of the other places where you could use a transistor, we sure put the fire in their growth. Because our parents insured we had every opportunity we took advantage the ones that make sense to us. We did well in our lives.
President Kennedy had us involved in physical fitness so we played sports, exercised, and traveled more than any other generation before us. He also ignited our technology leadership when we began to lag behind Russia in the space race by declaring we would be first to the moon. This effort might in fact be responsible for our current technology leadership decades later.
As adults we got to be part of the beginnings of the computer as a tool usable throughout business, not just in the IT department. We got to enjoy the easy access to cellular phones (yes, we used the entire word) and cable TV (not sure what ever happened to the outside antennas and rabbit ears. Remember when you would yell at your brother for walking in front of the rabbit ears and messing up the signal?)
And, as a whole, we did well financially. While not everyone became rich, we did more than OK. The Baby Boomer generation today is the wealthiest generation in the history of the world. We can, as a group, buy what we want, eat well, and travel to see our grand children.
But, there is no store for us. Shocking if you asked me and if you didn’t you should have. How can the entire retail community and their collective minds have forgotten about the Baby Boomers? We fueled them through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and now we have been kicked to the curb. No one cares that we have more disposable income than Gen X, Y or whatever letters they come up with. We are simply not paid attention to. Our parents are certainly catered to with all of the special services being offered by Senior communities and health organizations, but we are not ready for that. While we are in our 60’s now, we are not an old 60 thanks to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and the goals we had. We are, for the most part, pretty young for 60.
So, someone pay attention. There should be a clothing store for us. For women Chico’s and Talbot’s do a good job. Stylish clothing that fits the body that you have when you are 60, not 16.
But, what about the men? Where do we go for similar options that women have? In the specialty arena there is simply not a store aimed at the male end of the Baby Boomer Generation. While we don’t get dressed to go out to dinner like our parents did, we sometimes want something nicer than a golf shirt and shorts. And, we want to be able to chat with employees that knows what he or she is talking about. Chico’s has this and so does Talbots. Why not men? If you were to walk through a mall and look at the stores you would quickly come to the conclusion that American women are well dressed and men walk around naked. I have seen men naked before, this is not a sight we should want to share with anyone.
Next let’s go onto electronics. The Baby Boomer generation is more informed about electronics than our parents, but much less informed than our children. We have the money to make our life more enjoyable as well as a basic understanding that things can get done, we just don’t get excited about the next app that can bring us nirvana. We had nirvana in the 60’s and it was not nearly as good as we thought it was going to be.
The problem with electronics in general is the opposing pull of two different forces. One the one hand is the constant pressure of lowering prices of products. In 1972 a four function calculator cost $119.95 and we could not keep them in stock. Today they are $2 or less. In 2005 a 50 inch Plasma TV cost $3,500, today that TV is all but blister packed and cost $299 or less. So the manufacturers add more features to the product to keep the retail price up. So, instead of a four function calculator you get a calculator that is functions you wanted in 1972. And that TV now is 4X HD with features that no one can explain, and if they could you still would not know why you needed them.
And on the other had you have consumers that simply don’t need to have 2,000,000 apps on their phone, 200 features on their SLR, and a refrigerator that will order food for you.
We need our own store.This EASY Electronics store would be for Baby Boomers. It would have “not so smart” phones. Phones that would have big buttons already installed with extra loud speakers that could be compatible with our hearing aids. There would be just a few features already installed that would make sense. Perhaps a program that would allow our kids to know where we are…if we wanted to let them know. It would have just a few SLR cameras. The software attached with this would be easy. Perhaps an RF product built in that would allow this camera to talk with our computer. It would have easy-to-use computers without most of the features that gamers are looking for, but basic communications software. It would have electronic health equipment that would make our lives easier. And if we bought a product like a Fit Bit, we would be asked to bring our laptop to the store and we would load the app for you. Because this store would not be the cheapest store in town, it would be the smartest. The employees would be trained to speak to Boomers. We don’t mind paying for things that we need to make our life better. Easy Electronics would also have products that would make our travel life better. EE would be happy to insure your GPS worked and would show you the easiest and most economical way to use it in the country you are traveling to. We would also set up your phone so that it worked in that country.
And finally in EE we would have a “grandchildren’s” section. This would be the place where you could find smart electronics. Our smart electronics would be products that would prepare grandchildren for the future. Not just computers projects, but robotic projects as well. Our customers would be known as the cool grandparents who think about their grandchildren’s intellectual growth without making it boring.
So, someone build us a store. We promise to come and visit and buy if you have done it right. We need our own store. We all promise to give you free “consulting” on this store for the first 10 hours of questions you have, but build us a store. Whoever does it first will have a winner.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.