I am sure all of us have heard the PSA announcement as we are walking through the airport or on television. “If you See something Say something.” Well I think you can take that same statement and carry it through many segments of your personal or business life.
At work I think it is vital that we have a fun hard working hard playing atmosphere. The more fun the better…as long as it does not get in the way of productivity. At the end of the day we are all brought together for the common success of the group. Having fun tends to raise the brain waves and gets people thinking. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. (yes, another cliché). But sometimes things can get out of hand. If you are there, say something before it goes too far. Because hurt feelings can kill an organization.
In my first B2B selling position I learned to deliver presentations to small audiences. We only had a few “rules” but they were important. We had to stand while making any presentation, we had to encourage the client to speak more than we did, and we had to shop in their store if it was at all possible before the presentation. After each presentation we had another rule, we had to discuss two things 1-what did we do right and 2-what did we do wrong. The whole point of this was to proactively think during the presentation about seeing something and saying something. How often do you see a co-worker doing something wrong (not necessarily on purpose) and just let it go? I promise, if you bring it up in a one-on-one atmosphere your co-worker will appreciate your effort.
Now you don’t have to be smug or above your co-worker when you do this. Simply tell them what you noticed and perhaps ask them to point out to you any mistakes they see you making.
I was at a restaurant last Saturday for brunch. I ordered a burger (don’t tell my cardiologist) and I ordered it rare with no cheese. When it came to our table it had cheese so I asked them to take it back and bring it without the cheese. They brought it back (the cheese had simply been taken off and not all of that) to the table for me. I cut it in half and it was not even close to medium. Well, rather than have any more delays, I had the burger. It was not bad, just not what I order. The waitress came around and asked how our meal was. I showed her the burger and mentioned it was not rare. She offered to get me a new one and I told her it was not necessary, but I just thought she should know. She thanked me and all was well. The idea here is that if I did not tell her than she could not fix the problem.
I am not talking about honesty issues here; those are a no brainer. I am talking about having enough compassion for your fellow human being to politely point out problems when you see them. My family thinks I am strange because I tidy up displays when I walk through a store (I know I am not the only one that does this). I am not certain why I do it and I don’t do it all of the time, but I think it helps me get a better sense of what the store is all about. But if you see something out of whack in a store - say something. You don’t have to call the home office, just say something to the manager.
And, if you see something good going on, especially make sure that you say something. Rewarding good behavior is an imperative to success. If you see a store clerk helping out a senior, tell him how nice that was and tell him that was one of the reasons you shop there.
When you see a police officer helping someone (which is where they spend most of their efforts), take a moment and thank them for their efforts. If you see something, say something.
If you see something say something, YOU will be a happier person for it. You will quickly learn how to say something without malice in your heart, just for the simple reward of making another person better. It is our responsibility to make the world a better place than when we got here. Tikkun Olam is a concept that says acts of kindness will make the world a better place. Well what could be kinder than helping someone get better by pointing out what you saw.
Take a moment each day for the next 7 days when you see something to say something. It won’t hurt and it may just help. 7 times in 7 days, is that too big of an ask. When you see something (and you will), say something. It could be at work, at home, while you are out shopping, visiting a museum this could be a movement. When you see something say something. If all 4,450 people that I am LinkedIn with do this for 7 days we will have more than 30,000 acts to make the world a better place. We will be better employees, better family members, and better member of the community. If you see something say something for 7 days and watch the world get better, kinder, and smarter. #seesomethingsaysomething
I have been in the direct B2B sales industry for nearly 20 years now. I started out as a naïve rookie in this business 20 years ago working for what has become the leading Retail Customer Analytics companies in the US. I was given no territory, no potential customer list, no leads to follow up on and no direction. While I had 25 years of retail management experience, I quickly found out that held no water in the B2B selling business. I was given a desk in the open office, but quickly moved to a table in the back room because there was so much noise and commotion in the open office I could not even hear when the phone rang.
While in the retail business, I worked for a company that had a culture where every phone call was to be returned before you left the office that day. And, since it was the only company I had worked for in my adult life, I figured every company worked that exact way. So, I dug around the office and found an old data base of all of the retail and restaurant companies in the US. Since I was in Texas, I sorted out all of the retail and restaurant chains that were in Texas. I figured that they may have at least heard of us. There were phone numbers in the database, so I thought I was off to the races. Well, in the next three weeks I learned two very important lessons. First, not all of the phone numbers in any database are going to be correct. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I learned that not all retailers return phone calls.
Now, the first revelation was not such a big surprise. But the second surprise was a real shock to my system. Here I was a veteran retailer, one that had held significant positions with one of the most successful retail companies in the US and retail leaders did not return my call. It did not register with me. I could understand if they had met me and did not like me, but these were people that had never heard of me. Were they crazy? I had a solution to their rapid store deployment problem and they were not calling me back.
And then I learned an even more shocking lesson. If I actually got through to a company, many of them had "Gate Keepers" to keep me away from the decision makers. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Gate Keeper. We never had them, we spoke to everyone. But companies had apparently hired people whose only job was to keep people like me, who wanted to honestly help their company continue their success, away from decision makers. Why would they do that? It made me wonder if they also hired people to keep customers away from the inside of their stores so they stayed neat and clean all day.
So, after three weeks on the job I told myself I had a problem. I had a Rolodex of one person in one retail organization that I could call. I had not received one call back from any of the 50 companies I had called in the previous three weeks. And it was not just a job for me; I was working for my best friend and I did not want to fail him as he was counting on me. Waiting around for the phone to ring was not productive- plus I'm not a sit around and wait type of guy. So I decided to stop Cold Calling altogether. It was a waste of time. Everyone else was right and I was wrong. No one responds to cold calls.
So I got that decision off my plate. And, the execution went flawlessly. I just stopped picking up the phone to make calls. I had seen others take this approach and they seemed freed from their burden of pretending to make calls. And now that I had lots of time on my hand I could learn what everyone else was doing to generate business. What I learned was shocking. They were simply waiting for the business to come to them. Could that be the answer?
Well, I waited for an entire day, sitting at my desk, getting up to annoy others sitting at their desk, and drinking lots of Diet Coke. I was exhausted. There had to be a better answer. If making cold calls was a waste of time, and waiting for the phone to ring was not only a waste of my time but forced me into bothering other people, I had to come up with a better answer.
I could call up my friends but, as I stated earlier I only had one friend. What would I do with the other 364 days of the year. Even if they purchased a lot from me I would be bored out of my mind. And, as my mom said “Idle hands are the devils workshop” and that was absolutely true with me.
After the beginning of the second day the light bulb went off. Literally, the lights in the back room went off. But it got me to thinking, why not make calls that were not cold? Since this was before Facebook and before LinkedIn (yes my younger friends, there were times before these all knowing depository of wisdom) I had to use my knowledge of the few people I knew in the business world. As Tandy was starting to break apart at this point in my career, I made it a point to find out when people were let go. I would drop them a note to offer my help in any way I could help them. They would always get back to me when they were looking for a job. Here was the answer. Build a network when people needed help not when they had all of the answers. So, off I went. Every time I found out a person had left a company I immediately reached out to them. (Not as easy as it sounds because their former company would not tell you where they went…got to love what lawyers and lawsuits have done to business). I got them to send me a resume and chatted about what their perfect job would be. Then I would sit and think about who I knew, or who I knew that knew someone that could help out my new friend. Surprise of a lifetime, but this really worked. People are more responsive to you when you are working to help them when there is nothing in it for you.
After these people landed a job I reached out to congratulate them, even if I had not helped them at all. They also always took my call. Every three months I took just a second to drop them a note to see how the new job was and what they were learning. Pretty soon we had a business “friendship” where they were always taking my call. If I saw an opportunity that fit their skill set I would always send it their way. Why not, it did not cost me anything.
Now, I must tell you that I also started cold calling again. I learned that to get someone to pick up the phone you have to call 7 times on average. I also learned that most people stop at two. As I have never considered myself most people I came up with my own program. I called it Pleasantly Persistent. I began to fully understand this calling job. I determined that it was not the job of the customer to return my call (it was nice when it happened) but it was my job to talk with them. So if I was always pleasant, and never took it personally, I was always going to be happy when I got to talk with a client.
So, in my case one (making lots of new business friends that lead to appointments) plus one (continue to cold call with a Pleasantly Persistent mentality) ended up equaling a great career in B2B sales. I became president of our division and our company became the largest retail customer analytics company in the US serving more than 400 clients.
I would suggest that for most of you that don’t have your heart into cold calling, you just simply need to stop doing it. It is more than just a waste of time and it pulls down the energy you are spending on other parts of your job. Find other ways to meet people, but make sure you work at them. And if you cannot do that then you should find a different profession. Because professional sales people are always well paid.
To learn more about how Rich Hollander gets in front of retail and restaurant professionals go to www.axcelora.com
Fort Worth Sales Management Consulting Firm, Axcelora is expanding its services into the travel and tourism sector throughout the country, focused on making connections with decision makers in Convention and Visitors Bureaus and Economic Development leaders who are building destination brands and offerings. The U.S. tourism industry represents $947 billion in direct spending and is the 7th largest employer segment, so there is a high level of activity in the market. Running this division is Michael Woody, Executive Partner at Axcelora and a seasoned leader with more than 28 years of experience in the meeting and event, hospitality and tourism industries.
“I know first-hand how difficult and costly it can be to get in front of the right people, those who are making the buying or development decision from a destination perspective. In addition, leaders in the business travel market are looking for opportunities to connect with those who decide where their annual meetings or sales incentive promotions are going to be held,” Woody said. “Partnering with Axcelora is going to provide the opportunity to put CVB’s, Economic Development teams, service and product providers and meeting planners in touch with each other, in a timely fashion, for the chance to do business. “
“We are excited about this new division at Axcelora,” said Rich Hollander, Managing Partner. There is a CVB and Economic Development team in every major city across the country. The business and leisure market is looking for opportunities to strengthen and expand destination offerings through hotel, restaurant, retail and attraction development. “This not only brings leisure travelers to town, it brings more conventions and major meetings to that city as well. Our partners will be able to decrease the amount of time it takes to have a meeting with the key decision makers.”
Axcelora offers a shortcut around the typical road blocks and barriers to getting a personal appointment with the right retail chain store decision maker. Because we personally evaluate and book the appointment, you know all parties have been reviewed, vetted and the stage is set for a positive interaction. While we can’t guarantee a sale, we do guarantee to provide the best context and best opportunity to close.
In my time in the B2B part of the business world we went to conventions about 5 times per year. These conventions would cost us between $20,000 and nearly $500,000 to attend when you considered all costs. You had the cost of the booth, transportation, entertainment, salaries, set up, hotel, and of course recruitment.
So, if you spent, say an average of $150,000 on a typical convention, how much would you have to close in revenue to break even? (Who works a convention to break even.) If you have a 20% incremental net profit from your B2B business than you would have to deliver $750,000 in revenue to justify the convention costs. If your typical sale is $125,000 you would have to be able to net 6 new sales from the convention to make a good investment out of your efforts.
So, that begs the questions - How do ensure you are going to make at least 6 sales from your convention? How do you keep your team on the right path to success? The answer? Create a roadmap for success. Here is my recommendation for that roadmap.
2 Months Out – Ensure your convention preparation team has everything under control. The booth looks good, the hotel and air reservations are made, booth refreshments are taken care of, and all handouts are ready to go to the printer. A list of all of the attendees has been obtained and assigned to people that will be attending the convention. Appointment goals for the convention are assigned to each individual. These should include both current customers and potential new customers. (Remember it is a wish until it is written down on paper, then it becomes a goal) A calling schedule has been set for each prospect and current customer and a kickoff calling day has been scheduled as well.
You should have determined if you are going to be introducing a new product or not at the convention. If you are, you should have determined the marketing campaign and you should start the kickoff.
6 Weeks out – The “Calling Kickoff” day occurs during this time. Have a contest for most calls, most people spoken with, most appointments made with existing customers, most appointments made with prospects. Keep a Scorecard up where everyone can see the results. Make the payoff fun, a suite at the convention, a special dinner the evening before the convention starts, tickets to a sporting event or a concert, fun stuff that is not too expensive but will get the group into the spirit. Perhaps you create a pool of money, $5 for every appointment you want made at the convention. Every time an appointment is made $10 of that money gets put into a pool. The person making the most appointments gets all of the money in the pool. By the end of this “Calling Kickoff” you should have 10% of your appointments actually booked and over 50% of your targets contacted at least once.
4 Weeks out – You should now have the base presentation made for all of your team to use with each prospect. (Set up a time to practice this as a team next week.)
It is also important to have a specific goal for each of your current customers you are going to meet. If you are going to be introducing a new product or service at the convention it should be completely locked down at this point.
Check to see who has made less than 50% of their appointment goal and meet with those people and perhaps have a calling session with them. Ensure they understand the importance of paying for the show. For the company to hit the appointment goal it is going to take pleasant persistence. While there are a lot of moving parts to your company, if you don’t have a priority on appointments at a convention (whether or not the show normally is an “appointment show”) you will never get the return you are looking for. I can assure you that your competitors will not have the necessary discipline to hit the goals you have set.
You also need to ensure your operations team is ready for all of the appointments that are being set. The gold is in the detail here. This will be your best chance to make a good impression on the customer. It may be the first time you meet these people in person. Perhaps you could have a picture of each of the attendees that will be having an appointment in your booth. You can instruct your greeters to look at the pictures before the appointments to be able to recognize the honored guests. How special would that make you?
3 Weeks out – With only three weeks to go, the concentration is going to become more intense. Set aside some time this week to have your initial role play with each of your sales team. You play the customer and they should play themselves. Make sure your team understands that they have to be quick here, but give the prospect enough information to get them excited. Your role in this effort is to play the part of the prospect without playing “gotcha”. If you take it seriously, your team has a better chance while they are meeting with a prospect. They may have heard the question and will be better prepared to answer it. Explain to your sales team that their objective from this convention is to set a face to face meeting with the prospect at their office. You won’t have enough time to successfully do anything else. You need to wet their whistle enough that they will take a meeting with you at their office. Have your calendar ready and suggest a specific time. Give them a week to get back to the office and catch up, but then you want to meet with them. If it gets vague here, you have lost everything you worked for.
If it is a current client meeting, each session will be different. Make sure you and your salesperson knows specifically what you want to accomplish. What, if any, are the current issues? What is going on in their business? What is going on in their sector? With their competitors? What do you want to walk away from the meeting with? Be very specific.
2 Weeks Out – With only 2 weeks left you should have between 75% and 80% of your appointments made. Hopefully none of your people have back to back appointments during the convention. With a block of time between each appointment they will have time to recharge and prepare for the next appointment. Everything should be shipped to the convention this week including booth handouts and fact sheets.
While I personally love picking up promotional items at shows, at B2B shows I don’t think they will deliver you any business. If you have followed the road map, then everything else should be taken care of. Sit with each of your sales team members and operations team and ensure they understand the investment the company is making at the convention. Make sure they understand the goals that were set and what we need to do during the convention to get there.
1 Week Out- With only one week left before the convention you will have made all of the quality appointments you are going to make. If people have not said yes to you by now, they are not going to. Take your foot off the gas and give your team a breather.
Set your expectation for behavior at the convention. Tell your team to have fun while they are on the convention floor. Enjoy their time with the customers, the walk ups and each other. Remind them that while they are talking with each other, it is important to immediately break away to say hello to someone that has walked up to the booth. The customer always comes first.
Talk with your team about how they will represent your brand at the convention. Remind them that while having fun is an important aspect of the convention, it is even more important to be on their best behavior and set a good example.
Show time – This is where the real winners win. Each morning take a few moments and ensure you are ready for the appointments that are going to take place. Communicate with the operations team to keep them in the loop throughout the day. At the end of the show each day have a recap with the team. Let the team members brag about the number of appointments they set for the upcoming weeks. Find out if there were any glitches during the day and determine the solutions for the next day.
Shows typically end early afternoon on the last day. When everything is packed up take the entire crew out to a nice dinner. Recap your successes, the meetings you have set, the progress with existing customers, and the walk-up meetings that took place. Determine areas where you could have done a better job in either preparation or execution. Finally, and this is vital, get a commitment from each of your sales people when they are going to finish their follow up. Then enjoy the meal and unwind from a busy convention.
Follow up – Don’t let grass grow under anyone’s feet. During the next week everyone will be a bit emotionally tired, but you cannot let this happen. Everyday make sure the follow up is going on. Post how many appointments are being made, how many sales are being signed, and how many new leads are being activated. Two months after the show, sit with your CFO and determine if you can afford to do this show again next year. Are you going to make the 6 sales at $125,000 each? How could you have been more efficient with the investment?
Reaching your Goals - As Yogi Berra said “If you don’t set goals, you’ll never reach them. Or like they say in golf, if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Yogi was a brilliant guy. We have built a road map, if you use it you have a much better chance of success. If you put it in the drawer of your desk, your desk may have a chance of getting there.
Ok, it’s Monday morning and you have just sat down at your desk. You were busy last week so you did not GET to do your normal calling. But let’s face it, you have not been doing your NORMAL calling for 7 weeks now. Something has come up every week to get in the way of your cold calls. One week your dog was sick (odd, because you don’t have a dog) one week you had the sales conference in Las Vegas (you had a slow start every morning in Las Vegas…must be the dry air and your sinuses) and remember that week when you had to go to product training (Ok it lasted only 2 hours, but you had to think about the repercussions of the information you had absorbed.)
These are rookie excuses that sales managers have heard all too often. These rookie excuses will get you fired for lack of initiative if nothing else. They are trite and candidly lack any imagination. Our list of 8 solid reasons for not making calls should last you at least 3 months. So let’s get started, and remember, they will work best when practiced often and delivered with a sense of remorse.
Now, at some point in time you are going to have to get in front of customers. And, as we have discussed in our past posts, there are many different ways to do that if you don’t like to cold call. You can work phones with your friends, you can work conventions, you can do direct mail, or you can work your LinkedIn network. All of these are good.
But, if you want the most innovative and perhaps efficient method of getting in front of decision makers you have to give Axcelora a try. Leveraging it’s more than 1,100 years of retail and restaurant experience, and contacts with more than 4,400 retail/restaurant decision makers Axcelora is attempting to make cold calling obsolete. As one client said “You have put us in front of more qualified prospects in two months than we were able to do for ourselves in a year and a half.”
I remember one of the first sales training sessions I went to at Dale Carnegie in 1973. Most of the people in this sales training class were not retailers, so the leader of the class was concentrating on them. He brought out a Yellow Pages phone book (for you younger people ask your parents what the Yellow Pages were, and for that matter what a Phone Book was) and told us that this was a suspect list and that professional sales people were able to take a suspect list and turn it into a prospect list. That visualization stuck with me for more than 25 years until I got into the B2B sales business. I remember sitting down in front of a database that I had with the name, address, and phone number of every significant retailer in the US. There were thousands of them in the database but this was my suspect list. Just like the phone book that the Dale Carnegie teacher had shown me 25 years earlier…and just as useful.
I had to develop a plan to take this list and make it manageable, otherwise I would be overwhelmed. And an overwhelmed sales person faces the prospect of inertia. So over the next several years I developed several key steps I took whenever we looked at a group of suspects.
Finally, sit down with your sales manager and get buy in of your plan. Listen and be open to suggestions you may be given. But, don’t be afraid to defend the plan you have developed. If you have been thoughtful about your plan, share it with the person hired to listen to you. When you both agree to the plan, get to work. Along the way you should analyze your results and correct your course if necessary.
If you are having a difficult time getting into a prospect you think is a must see, look for different methods to break the door down. An interesting new company in that field is Axcelora (www.axcelora.com). They use individual personal relationships to make personal appointments. There are also companies that use professional telemarketers like Sales Roads (www.salesroads.com ) and I even found one that used actors. Leverage your LinkedIn network. Take the time to learn the best practices of LinkedIn, it will be well worth your while.
But most importantly, create the plan, write the plan down on paper, and post the results of the plan to yourself and your leadership team. Oh yeah, enjoy the success.
We have all worked for people that we like more than others. But many of us have also worked for people that are simply just short sighted. People that cannot see the forest for the trees, that walk over dollars to save pennies and 20 other clichés’ that I won’t bother to mention.
In the world of sales management, these shortsighted views can often get in the way of running a successful organization. I thought I would write them down and look for your ideas on how you have fixed them within your companies.
1. Only travel to visit a potential customer when you are certain you are going to make a sale. This requirement is normally only imposed onto a sales team by a sales manager that has never sold and never traveled. It is like saying a retail sales person should only go and speak to a customer that wants to buy something. How do you know?
a. I realize that you should qualify a customer before you go and visit with them in person, but in the world we live in today, if the customer is willing to give you some of their time (and they are the right person), they have an interest.
b. Shortsighted Sales Managers do not realize that many good things come out of making presentations.
i. You get to practice your presentation
ii. You get to learn about the customer
iii. The customer gets to learn more about your company
iv. You get to encourage them to dream about what your product and service can do for their company.
v. You get to find out who they may know that could use your services
So there are many advantages of going on an appointment but poor sales managers tend to miss them.
2. You can Manage your way to a successful sales career. I cannot tell you the prevalence of this trait in Shortsighted Sales Managers.They are so concerned about process over product it makes your head spin. I can certainly understand the importance of recording all interactions with the customer. I also understand how poorly sales people do in this area; it is right brain vs. left brain. It is actually a good way to create effective habits for new sales people. But a shortsighted sales manager seems to treat everyone equally, not giving latitude to the winners and more direction to the people struggling for success. Leaders lead and Managers should not be in sales.
3. Thinking that budgets and goals are the same thing. I have never understood paying an employee on a budget, especially a budget set by someone other than the employee. For the first 25 years of my working career I worked for Tandy Corporation/Radio Shack. We never had a budget in the entire time I worked for Radio Shack. We certainly had lots of goals for the company. We had Leaders Club goals, we had the goal for our first Billion Dollar year. We tracked our sales for computers until we got to the first 100,000 (just like McDonalds). But, no one got paid on these goals. We got paid on how much money we made. And that is how all sales people should be paid. Shortsighted Sales Managers use budgets to punish some people and reward others. Budgets that are set by an accountant (no offense to accountants) are the scariest thing to put into a sales organization. Budgets are used by sales organizations that are afraid they are going to pay their sales team too much money. NEVER worry about paying your sales people too much, worry about them not earning enough.
4. Shortsighted Sales Managers never want to face the customer.Shortsighted Sales Managers think their job is to manage the sales force, not to lead the sales force. They only want to go out on the “sure thing” sales calls and then blame the rep if the sale does not happen. Great sales leaders always want to be in front of the toughest sales opportunities. They also take public responsibility for all failures and give praise to their team for all success.
5. Finally, Shortsighted Sales Managers pick favorites. It is so obvious in some organizations that a Sales Manager has picked a favorite. Some times that favorite is because they are the best sales person in the organization, but even then it is shortsighted. While no one can be even handed all of the time, it is important to not appear to have a favorite. It makes all of the disciplines you have tried to put into the organization seem worthless. Why try to get ahead when the boss is going to take care of Mr./Ms. X no matter what happens. One of the best sales managers I ever met always had a favorite. It was the person that had just closed the latest sale. And that favoritism lasted just until the next sale was made.
Shortsightedness keeps you from seeing the big picture. It makes you focus on the wrong thing. By letting these wrong ideas get into your sales organizations you are seeding a crop of failure. It may not happen today, but unless you focus on the big picture you are on the wrong road. Steve Jobs had the right idea. Hire smart people and listen to them. Often times 1 person plus 1 more person can yield you the ideas of many people.
You might want to get onto a great sales organization by looking at Axcelora and the unique service we provide to the B2B retail/restaurant world. We are constantly looking for people that want to join our group and grow with us.
The Advantage that E-Commerce Cannot Match
There are significant differences between E-commerce and brick and mortar retail. E-commerce is the shiny new object of the retail world. Limitless supply, low overhead, 24-hour access, low rent, low cost of inventory, higher inventory returns, greater Return on Inventory Dollars - these are just a few of the advantages of E-commerce retail. You also have much fewer problems with store employees because you don’t have a store. Yes, you have people sitting in call centers, but they are not the same as retail employees.
You typically have much closer supervision for those call center employees. And you have all of the metrics that can be closely monitored. How long were on the phone? Were they able to suggest an additional product? What was their average ticket? There are so many metrics to measure every moment the call center employee is at work.
But retail has significant advantages as well. The first advantage is the tactile advantage of retail itself. The customer is in the store so they can feel the merchandise. They can see the subtle color of the shirt, skirt, shoe, or desk that they will have in their home. They can smell the leather of the new purse, jacket or belt that helps to sell your product. And who doesn’t like to go to Costco on Saturday to taste the different foods that are being offered. I am certain that Costco can measure the difference that tastings generate. The next significant advantage is the immediate gratification a consumer gets in taking the merchandise with them. I can save $10 if I buy something from the e-commerce site from Best Buy, but I can have it and enjoy it RIGHT NOW if I buy that same product in the store. And those same employees in the stores that are difficult to manage tend to be a bit smarter and more informed than the call center employees; even if those employees are here in the US.
But, you know all of this already. There is nothing new in the two paragraphs above. However, there is something that happens in a retail store that has not been written about and cannot be executed in the E-commerce world and that is Random Acts of Kindness.
If you think about the best retailers in the US, there are employees working for those retailers that practice Random Acts of Kindness every day. I have seen employees at DSW hold a baby while the mother is trying on shoes. At Nordstrom’s I have seen employees walk a customer from their department to another department even though they would not make a sale for their efforts, they were just being kind. At Lowes I have asked an employee for a specific product which they did not carry. The employee told me which store I should go and visit to get what I needed. Another Random Act of Kindness. And you simply will not get that in any E-commerce site.
If you think back to the original Miracle on 34th Street, you will recall the scene where a child asks Santa (Kris Kringle) for a toy. Macy’s does not have the toy. But Kris tells the child’s mother to go to Gimbal’s, Macy’s arch rival. The word got out that Macy’s was the retailer with a heart. And sales went through the roof. Mr. Macy was thrilled.
Random Acts of Kindness are a strategic advantage. But can you teach your team to do be Randomly Kind to customers? I think that is going to be difficult. You can certainly encourage people and recognize people for their Random Acts of Kindness. You can be Randomly Kind to your employees thanking them for their efforts when they don’t expect it. And you should, because Random Acts of Kindness are the biggest advantage that Brick and Mortar has over E-commerce. If a mother has to stop shopping online because she has a crying baby, there is no one from your organization that can hold the baby while she is looking at a blouse. But in a retail store you can certainly try and calm the baby so mom can focus on your merchandise.
So if it is difficult to teach Random Acts of Kindness how does a retailer implement this strategic advantage. The answer is easy but the execution is difficult. You hire nice people that simply want to help the 80-year-old customer find the restroom; people that get excited about some else’s happiness; people that want to listen to your story because it makes you happy to tell it.
Never in the history of retail have there been so many choices for consumers. And never has it been more difficult to distinguish one retailer's offering from another’s. So the retailer that will win is the one that has made it a priority to find the differentiating factors in retail, like Radom Kind Acts.
I once had a boss that told me what an exclusive was. He said an exclusive feature on a product is one that you talk about that your competitor does not. Random Acts of Kindness are features of your offering that your customer will talk about that your competitor’s customers will be envious of.
In New Orleans they like to give people a free taste as part of their meal. Something memorable before the meal or something sweet after the meal. It is called Lagniappe (pronounced Lan-yap). At Axcelora we are going to make that same offer to any new clients. When you book 5 appointments or more we will give you one for free to give you a taste of how we work. And we will even make the first one the free one. Our Lagniappe to you. So just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a fun conversation.
You have worked hard for the past 12 months. You have made your calls, gone on appointments, and worked to understand your client’s needs. You have followed up, gotten the order, done the paper work and gotten the project or merchandise delivered. You have made your year and it is time for a break. While you are not on vacation officially, your mind has officially left the building. It is Party Time!
Now, fast forward to February for all people that just stopped at Party Time. You are scrambling because there is nothing in the pipeline. While your mind left the building, the obligations you have to yourself, your paycheck, and the company certainly have not. While you were relaxing and patting yourself on the back, nothing got done to fill the pipeline. The retailers did not take your calls in January because they were busy trying to figure out what happened in the fourth quarter. What little time they have to take a breath they are using to meet with the very few people that know the quiet dark secret of retail. All of the central unit people have now done all they can do for Christmas. All the ads have been placed, mark downs on under sold items have been taken, and shipments have been made. They are just watching the scores as they come in. With the weather patterns that are moving across the US they may be working on a strategy for winter clothing that is going to be over stocked. But, essentially there are very few meeting that are taking place. And, they are much more likely to answer their phone right now.
So, if you want to have a great first quarter, you have to take the next two weeks and be on the phone. Because the next two weeks will separate the winners of 2016 from the losers, it is just that simple.
Retail executives are in their offices this week because they don’t want to get in the way of sales in the stores but they want to keep an eye on the business. While they may have meetings planned, they won’t have any time allocated to the stores because, again, they don’t want to be in the way. They will answer their phone because no one else is making the effort to call them.
So, pick up the phone and get ahead of your competitors and ask for the appointment. And if you cannot get the appointment you are looking for , call us.
Never have I had such a pleasure than to announce to all of you the publishing of a book by Lew Kornfeld.
As you probably know, Lew was with RadioShack for more than 50 years serving as the President and overseeing spectacular growth when Charles Tandy brought the company of 9 stores nearing bankruptcy to the leading Consumer Electronics company in the world with more than 8,000 locations in countries around the world and, at one point, opening more than 600 stores in a year.
We have brought together the Presidents Messages and Flyer Side Chats that Lew wrote every month (with just a few exception while he was traveling on business in the orient) for you to get the retail learning of a life time. While this journey is a unique look into the building of the world's premier Consumer Electronics company, it is much more than that.
Read it carefully and you can see how the RadioShack culture was built from the inside. The importance of owning your own product and not selling someone else’s. The value of promoting from within an organization instead of demoralizing your own staff. The insight Lew gives us with his writings are something you will want to pass on to your children and your colleagues.
So, as Lew would say, “Buy several. I don’t know how we can afford to sell them at this price.”
Messages from the President and Flyer Side Chats by Lewis Kornfeld. You can get there by clicking this link http://www.amazon.com/Presidents-Messages-Flyer-Side-Chats/dp/1517070171/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446566243&sr=8-1&keywords=flyer+side+chats
All of the profits from the sale of this book will go to support students at the College of Merchandising at UNT, where Lew was kind enough to teach classes on marketing.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.