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Ask INSTORE: June 2007

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Better sales meetings, training seasonal help, tips for employees who just don’t look old enough, and more.

[h3]Run a Civil Sales Meeting[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]Do you have any tips on conducting an effective sales meeting?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A.]Sales trainer David Richardson suggests you keep these five “dos” and three “don’ts” in mind:[/dropcap]
[list class=bullet-1][li]DO buy a solid flip chart or white board and marking pens.[/li]
[li]DON’T stand up and pontificate.[/li]
[li]DO involve staff with questions such as: “What can we do to improve our add-on rate?” Write their suggestions on the board.[/li]
[li]DON’T criticize anyone’s remarks — rephrase instead.[/li]
[li]DO ask staff how they will use the skill they have just discussed with their customers that day or on the coming weekend.[/li]
[li]DO follow up on training materials such as CDs to ensure your staff members fully understand the sales technique.[/li]
[li]DON’T hog the teaching platform. Assign different salespeople to lead talks on specific topics.[/li]

[li]DO conduct a brief sales talk with individual staff members every morning, focusing on just one simple technique, such how to use a counter pad and a Selvyt cloth.[/li][/list]

[componentheading]CUTTING COSTS[/componentheading]

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[h4][b]Should I buy a hybrid as the company car to cut costs?[/b][/h4]

One-time global warming skeptic Rupert Murdoch just did, so sure why not. It’s good for the environment — and your wallet, given gas prices. If it’s tax credits you’re after, however, you should probably check with your tax pro first. The IRS isn’t doling out them out for hybrids uniformly. The amount depends on the make, model and year of the vehicle, as well as how many hybrids the particular car maker has already sold in 2007.

[componentheading]TRAINING[/componentheading]

[h4][b]Should I invest time and money in training seasonal help?[/b][/h4]

It can be tempting to skimp on training because your busy-season hire won’t be around too long — but then your customers aren’t going to know that. A better approach is to spend time coming up with a standardized training program for casuals. Go through the usual welcoming gestures — stick a photo and short bio up on the kitchen notice board, and if they’re young enough, send a note home to their parents welcoming their child on board for the summer. It’s also not a bad idea to get name tags that say “I’m new” or “Intern” as well. Since there’s a need for seasonal employees throughout the year, investing in training can give you a pool of employees you can turn to throughout the year, and possibly a good full-time prospect later.

[componentheading]MARKETING[/componentheading]

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[h4][b]Our sales have hit a wall. We’re trying to find new customers via newspaper ads and direct mail but our return on investment is low. What should we do?[/b][/h4]

Could be that you’re so busy chasing new clients that you’re overlooking your best prospects — your existing customer base. Heard of that retail factoid that a customer who buys from you twice is 10 times more likely to buy again? Or the 80/20 theory? That just a small portion of your customers will account for the bulk of sales. So, yes while new customers (expensive to find) are vital to grow your business, more profitability often comes from better serving your existing customers (cheap to find). Some ways to do that:  

— Set up a loyalty program.
— Create an e-mail newsletter to maintain customer interest.  
— Offer exclusive deals (not necessarily discounts) that bring back your best customers repeatedly.

Transform your customers into raving fans by continually exceeding their expectations. Tell them that ring resize will take three days and then call them after two and say it’s ready. If you need help in finding things you can do for your customers — ask them. Act on their suggestions, and then use the results both to upsell and to woo new business. And when you do advertise, don’t go chasing any business you can get; your target should be “ideal” customers, says business coach and author Brad Sugars. (See more in Kirsten Darrow’s column, “Build Loyalty,” on page 175 of this issue.)

[componentheading]MANAGEMENT[/componentheading]

[h4][b]What policies should I include in our employee manual?[/b][/h4]

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Start by detailing all the stuff that could get you in trouble. Govern-ment websites will tell you what to look out for regarding harassment, discrimination and retaliatory policies. Include a separate section on security-related matters such as access to the vault, stock taking and locking up. Jewelers Mutual sells a 35-minute video with a 30-page discussion guide ($5 for policy holders) that will help you set policy and establish security and “integrity” procedures. You will also want to set down your policy on the confidentiality of client information — both in terms of discussing sales outside the store and access and ownership of client lists. For the latter, policy alone won’t do it — you need your staff to sign confidentiality agreements. To avoid confusion, include separate sections for full- and part-time employees outlining your store’s policies on overtime pay, vacation days, and other benefits. And mention — in writing — that just because a rule appears in writing, it doesn’t mean you can’t change it whenever you like. Remember to keep the language simple and where possible breezy. Don’t depress morale by loading up on officious language. (And if it’s an operations manual you need help with, check out Christopher Mee’s suggestions in his February 2007 INSTORE column, “Saving Time.”)

[componentheading]PERSONNEL[/componentheading]

[h4][b]I have a keen, smart sales associate who is 24 but looks only 18. I think customers sometimes have trouble taking her serious-ly when she talks about their “big day” or “special moments.” Is there anything I can do to help?[/b][/h4]

Aside from suggesting she take up smoking, binge-drinking and serial sun-tanning, there’s probably not too much you can do to make her physically age. If she doesn’t already, suggest she dress conservatively. And if she’s in a situation where you think her youthful looks might be a factor, go over introduce yourself as the store owner and give her a testimonial of sorts: “You’re in terrific hands. Lisa’s been with us four years now and really knows her stuff ….”

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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