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How to Keep Staff in a Competitive Environment and More of Your Questions Answered

The best time to hold a clearance sale? Our Brain Squad has some ideas.




How to Keep Staff in a Competitive Environment and More of Your Questions Answered


What is the best time of year to have a non-holiday sale? And what about the worst?

We put this to our Brain Squad a while back, and the overwhelming takeaway was “it depends”: on your client base, on local weather patterns, the school calendar, local tax holidays, etc.

April and May were the most commonly cited months, because many jewelers find this a good time do a clearance sale ahead of the arrival of new inventory, and because customers often start receiving their tax refunds around then. The slower summer months from June through August were also popular, but not with everyone — some say too many clients take vacations at that time for an event to be successful.

How often should I be looking to change my window display?

There is no hard and fast rule. Rather, the decision to change windows should be more about the flow of traffic in front of the store. The purpose of a window is to capture a customer’s attention and to keep him or her engaged. That means that if a store is in a location where many of the same people pass by every day, it is in your best interest to change the look of the window as often as possible — in some cases, every week or two. The change can be as simple as keeping a display theme for a month at a time, while changing only one eye-catching element and rotating through various product samples. For stores where foot traffic is not as significant an issue, changing less frequently might be acceptable, but nonetheless, keeping a fresh look for theme and for product should be, at minimum, a monthly goal. Moreover, the stores with the most effective displays know that keeping a consistent theme or look — between windows and between windows and interior displays — is a very important part of getting the customer to focus on the product and not on the prop.

We spend a lot of time training staff. How do we keep them in a competitive environment?

The good news — and the bad news — about retention is that it is not all about the money. A competitive salary is obviously important, but employee longevity is often more about other issues like the friendships people have at work, the opportunities to grow, the challenge and satisfaction they get from their career. And sometimes it’s about the benefits. The bad news is that working out what keeps people engaged, happy and sticking around can be difficult. One of the best ways to get such insights is “stay interviews,” held periodically with your most valued workers. Specifically, ask your employee: “Can you identify some of the things that could contribute to you doing the best work of your life?” or more simply “Please tell me why you like working here and what I can do better.”

Establishing retention in a systematic way starts with your hiring process. Some people just aren’t cut out for working many years at one employer, especially a small one. Tell job candidates, “This is a long-term position for the right person. If you don’t see yourself here in two years, please tell me.”

After more than 20 years of solid production, my best salesperson’s performance is falling. She’s still pushing hard, but the sales just aren’t coming. Is there anything I should be doing?

It could be she needs to update her selling style. The ways in which people want to be sold have changed, and salespeople who follow the old power-selling school of salesmanship won’t find consumers as responsive, especially the younger ones. Get her (and yourself) an update on state-of-the-art selling skills so that she sells smart and not so hard. That usually means asking more questions, listening more, and essentially letting the customer close the sale herself. Give serious thought to bringing in a sales coach; implemented correctly, training will make your fading star feel valued and as if she’s growing while also restoring some of the confidence she’s no doubt lost. (The improvement in sales should repay the cost pretty quickly.) You may also want to reconsider the metrics you’re using. Closing rates are good, but to ensure your whole business is looking more forward, track some other areas as well, like new contacts initiated with potential customers, how contacts are followed up, and the amount of face-to-face or phone-to-phone time your salespeople are putting in. There’s a fairly direct correlation between these factors and selling success.

How do I avoid a cash crunch?

The key to warding off liquidity problems is the ability to accurately project your cash-flow needs. If you’re off by more than 5 percent of your receivables each month, then you’ve got a problem. The capability to produce cash-flow projections is one of the greatest strengths of a POS system. If your POS system is not spitting out the numbers you need, find a tutor — quickly!

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