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Ask INSTORE: June 2006

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Smoother social exits, boosting a salesperson’s confidence, getting newspaper coverage for your press releases, and more.

[h3]Exit Lines for Sticky Social Situations[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]Sometimes I get into social situations that are hard to get out of. What are some diplomatic exit strategies I could use?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A]Remember that scene from the movie Animal House when Flounder and Boon were rushing fraternities and kept getting ushered to the backroom to be repeatedly introduced to Mohammed, Jugdish, Sidney and Clayton? It’s an old party-escape trick that still works.[/dropcap]

When you’re in a business setting, though, it might help to add: “Jugdish may be a good person to discuss some of the opportunities you have.” Other exit lines you could try, from networking expert Andrea Nierenberg:

“It was great meeting you, and I hope we can continue our conversation sometime over lunch or coffee.”
“Thanks for sharing the information about your new project. It sounds exciting. Hope it’s a success.”
“Please excuse me, I see a friend I’d like to go and visit. Enjoy your evening.”

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A final suggestion before making your exit is to ask for a business card. Remember to follow up with at least a short email and perhaps a phone call for a meeting.

[componentheading]SALES[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Get a Backbone[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I’ve got a salesperson who loves people, but never seems to show much confidence when he sells. Are there any techniques that would help him?[/b][/h4]

Start by telling him to avoid “weasel words” like “should,” “may,” and “might”, says Brad Huisken, sales trainer and author of Munchies for Salespeople. “People are looking at you to show confidence and certainty in the merchandise you sell,” he says. “If you’re not convinced the product will be exactly what they need, perfect for them, or that the recipient will absolutely love this gift, how can you expect your customers to feel they are making a good, sound decision?” Words like “definitely, “we will” and “I know” tell your customer that you’re confident in what you’re saying

[componentheading]PUBLICITY[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Be the News[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I can’t get our local reporters to call back when I send out press releases. How can I increase their interest?[/b][/h4]

For a reporter to pick up a story from someone they don’t know, it’s got to have something that jumps out at them immediately. So you can do one of two things — send press releases only when your news is stop-the-presses unusual, or become known to your town’s local reporters. How can you get known? Contact the reporters when you’re not pitching anything, says Jeff Crilley, Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of Free Publicity. Praise their work. Leave a voice mail or email saying, “Hey, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed that report. Keep up the good work.” Or, contact the reporter and tell them about a story that doesn’t benefit you. Either way, you’ll slowly work your way into their life … and their good graces

[componentheading]LEGAL[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Instore Confidential[/contentheading]

[h4][b]We have a small-to-medium-sized store and our salespeople have access to most of the business information we keep on the computers. My lawyer brother says we should be more careful. Is he right?[/b][/h4]

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Listen to your bro; you don’t want to get “Lieberted”. Okay, the word hasn’t really caught on — but we suspect it might. Liebert Corp recently lost a case it brought against four former salesmen who had plundered its database for client lists before jumping ship to a rival firm. The judge’s reasoning was that Liebert had not done enough to signal the information was private and proprietary. Apart from labeling such information as confidential, here are some other things you should do:
• Allow computer access to critical information only on a need-to-know basis.
• Restrict access to physical copies.
• Advise employees that lists are confidential. Require a separate log-on for confidential pages or files stating that, by logging on, employees agree to keep the information confidential.
• Require employees to sign confidentiality agreements. (Hey, why not ask your brother for a family discount on the contract work?)

[componentheading]SECURITY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Danger Zones[/contentheading]

[h4][b]How does one safely ship goods to “hot zones” like 10036 or 10017 in New York or Hill Street in Los Angeles?[/b][/h4]

There is no sure-fire way of protecting your packages, says Mike Lazorchak, G4S International/ OneService director of marketing & communications, since thieves are constantly thinking of new ways to pilfer them. Still, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:
— Make sure you are insured properly either through a third-party provider or your block policy, especially if you use couriers such as UPS, DHL or FedEx. Courier shipments will never be secure, says Lazorchak, so insurance is a must.  
— Avoid easily identifiable routines. Consider switching couriers for each shipment. Also, try shipping to an address outside the zone for pickup there.
— From major cities, using a secured service is the safest way, but it can be tough on the budget. Elsewhere, the safest method is generally registered mail, but it is also the slowest and least convenient.

[componentheading]MARKETING[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Celebrity Function[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I’m looking to get some celebrities to endorse my store and its products but I’m worried it’s not worth the cost?[/b][/h4]

If you partner with the right celebrities, people who are very visible to your customer base, it can be a win-win deal for both of you, says Kip Hunter-Epstein, president of marketing for Levinson Jewelers (Plantation, FL). “The celebrity receives additional PR and goodwill, and your store will be associated with a strong personality who can drive additional sales,” says Hunter-Epstein.

Some local celebs may even be willing to work for store credit. While it’s hard to quantify celebrity impact on sales, their real value is the additional PR they help to generate for your events (both pre- and post-). It’s a good idea to tie the event to the celebrities’ favorite charity, adds Hunter-Epstein. Additionally, get extra mileage from celebrity involvement by using them in your print ads, on duratrans in your store, billboards, and your annual catalog.

[componentheading]STAFF[/componentheading]

[contentheading]The Boss’s Pet[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I have one great salesperson, who I assign to maintain my most important accounts. I know this causes resentment among the other staff. What do I do about “boss’s pet” talk?[/b][/h4]

First, understand that fairness doesn’t mean uniformity, says Marcus Buckingham, author of the business bestseller the One Thing You Need to Know. Every employee is different and will feel fairly treated if his or her differences are recognized and accommodated.

Your B-grade performer can be perfectly happy with a star getting the best projects — as long as they have a chance to show off their best talents as well. Employees will repay you with loyalty if they know what’s expected of them, have the resources and the chance to excel, feel that someone cares about them at work, believe their opinions count, and know that merit is rewarded, says Buckingham. If you can do that — all of your employees will feel like they are your favorite.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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