Saturday, January 31, 2009

Increase Your Sales with Less Traffic

Let's face it...most retailers are experiencing a drop in traffic counts. However, here are three ideas you can apply right away to increase your sales even when store traffic has declined.

Talk to every customer. Be proactive and approach every customer in the store instead of relying on them to make contact with you. Most retailers wait for their customers to ask a question. While there is nothing technically wrong with this approach, you miss many sales opportunities because many people will simply leave your store if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Make recommendations. Ask your customers one or two questions to determine what they’re looking for and what they’re specific needs are. Then make recommendations for additional products that complement the original item.

Bundle products together. This is a greatly missed opportunity. Instead of trying to sell a single product, bundle together products that relate to each other. Even if you reduce the total price slightly, the overall sale will be higher which means more money in the till and in the bank!

© 2009 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Complete the Sale

Many retailers leave money on the table because they don't complete the sale. Their customer makes the initial purchase of a particular product but the sales associate does not ask them if they want additional items that are related to the initial purchase. Here are just a few examples:

Eyewear: protective cases, cleaner

Electronics: batteries, power bars, extended warranties, high quality connecting cables, cleaning products, bags, etc.

Pets: food, treats, cleaning supplies, deodorizers, shampoo, etc.

Furniture: lamps, pictures or paintings, coffee and end tables, throw cushions, extended warranties, fabric protection

Footwear: cleaners, polish, shoes trees, arch supports, insoles, conditioner, extra laces

Appliances: cleaners, polish, extended warranties, baking sheets/pans, etc.

Patio Furniture: accents, umbrellas, plants, wall hangings, candle, bug repellent, etc.

The list could go on but hopefully you get the idea.

The biggest challenge is that front-line sales associates feel they are going to be perceived as being pushy if they suggest additional items. However, let's look at it from a customer's perspective.

When I bought my first computer many years ago the sales associate did not suggest a power bar or extension cord. When I setp up the computer I discovered I needed these because I did not have enough receptacles close to where the computer was located. Do your customer and yourself a favour: suggest additional items and complete the sale.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sell on Value, Not Price

I came across this article in a colleague's newsletter. Ron LaVine runs a company called Accelerated Sales Training and specializes in B2B cold calling. You may be wondering what that has to do with retail. One of his clients, Mark Norato of Infomentis sent Ron this story about a retail experience.

I recently visited a local hardware store to purchase several gallons of paint for a remodeling project my wife and I had undertaken. After I found the color I wanted, a clerk walked up and asked, "Can I help you?"

I answered “I’ve found the color that I want, but honestly, your prices are higher than the Wonder-Mart super store down the street.”

The clerk immediately replied, “Sir, you’ve selected our premium brand paint. It comes with a five-year warranty against fading and peeling and will cover in one coat. Because of the way it s blended, scratches and other surface marks will wash off easily. I’m very familiar with the Wonder-Mart brand, it s a good, lower-end paint but it has no warranty, and you will probably need at least two coats depending on the color you re painting over, so it s not really the bargain it appears to be.”

I nearly fell on the floor! This 20-something year old clerk working at a hardware store in Conyers, Georgia understands what most sales professionals don’’s not the price, it’s the value!

The clerk could have chosen to defend his price, which would have been a losing battle since his product was already higher priced, and I was convinced based on my limited knowledge that paint was paint. He could have offered me a discount, which would have only reinforced my opinion that his product was no different than the Wonder-Mart brand in addition to depleting his margins. Or he could have bent himself into a pretzel like so many sales professionals do by using some sort of manipulative sales tactic to overcome my price objection. Instead, he simply chose to sell the value of his product in a straight-forward manner that helped educate me on the fact that paint was not paint.

This exact same scenario takes place every day in B2B sales, only in most instances the sales professional almost always falls back to selling price. Consider this fact & regardless of the product or industry segment you re selling into, when customers are presented with price versus value decisions, 73% of the time the purchasing decision will be based on factors other than price.

This is not to suggest that price is unimportant obviously is however, it's typically not the primary driver in the purchasing decision, although most sales professionals seem to believe otherwise. This principal should not seem all that extraordinary. If price was the only thing that mattered, we would all be driving Yugo automobiles and purchasing our clothes at Wal-Mart. The fact that Toyota commands a premium for its automobiles and department stores such as Nordstrom’s thrives on selling premium-branded products proves otherwise. The key point here is that unless you explain what value your product or service brings to the table, the client is left to think that price is all that matters, in which case the cheapest will always win.

I have always been a believer that there is more involved in a buying decision other than price. But...this concept is difficult for many retailers to grasp. The key is to find your differentiating factors and make sure that your customers are aware of them. AND, make sure your staff know how to tell your customers about these differentiating factors.

Read my article, The Myth About Price.


Monday, October 06, 2008

That Was Easy!

Back to school shopping is challenging for most people. However, I recently encountered one retailer who made this annual event easier for their customers. A local Staples store created a one-page list of the necessities for each grade level. Plus, they also drew up a one-page plan-o-gram of the store and highlighted the specific areas where the items were stocked. This information was strategically placed just inside the front entrance of the store which increased their visibility and prominence.

I thought this strategy was brilliant for a number of reasons:

It was customer focused. The lists explained the necessary supplies a student requires in each grade. Plus, the store map sped up the shopping process which is something every time-crunched parent appreciates.

It was very inexpensive to execute. Each list was neatly typed and printed on colour paper.

It was properly located. It was difficult to miss this display because it was situated directly inside the front entrance which means that most people shopping for school supplies would have the opportunity to take advantage of it.

Staples slogan is “That was easy” and they certainly delivered on this.

What can you do to make the shopping experience easier for your customers?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Complete the Sale

It always surprises me when retailers don't complete the sale. Here is an example;

I recently bought a wireless speaker that would allow me to listen to my stereo or iPod while sitting on my back deck. However, when I went to connect it, I discovered that I needed a transmitter for my receiver. That meant I had to go through the hassle of locating that item, driving to the store, and waiting in line to pay for it.

If the salesperson had been on top of his game, he would have known that I needed that extra piece and would have sold it to me. Instead, I ended up buying it from a different store and was frustrated in the process.

Examples like this are abundant. It doesn't matter whether it's a lack or product knowledge, poor sales skills, or the plain old fear of suggesting additional items, this costs you money both in lost sales and lost customers.

Get more information on this subject.

Here is another article that will help you.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

How to Retain Your Gen-X Workforce

Retaining retail employees is challenging at the best of times. However, today's younger workforce are not motivated by the same things you are. Author and speaker, Cam Marston, has written a brilliant article that can help get past this hurdle.

You've hired them. Now how can you keep them around? If I could give you one bit of advice on dealing with the latest generation of employees to come under your management, it would be to remember those words…things aren't always what they seem.

If you are like most business leaders, you've no doubt noticed a trend in the way employees behave in recent years. Most likely you consider it a negative trend—too much entitlement, not enough loyalty, no work ethic, only interested in themselves, and on and on. But I challenge you to consider that perhaps these are not negative trends, just different ones.

To better understand who your employees are and what drives them to succeed, perhaps it's easiest to understand who they are not—you. That's right. They may even be your offspring but in the workplace they bear little resemblance to the "you" of yesteryear.

Gen Xers (born 1965-1979) and Millenials (born after 1980) are operating in this world with a completely different perspective. Their definitions of loyalty, time and success are often quite different from yours. Rest assured they do recognize all of these concepts and value them in very important ways. The key to your organization's future success is understanding how the Millenials view the world and using that knowledge to motivate them in a way that works. Here's a hint: meet them where they are and they will achieve your underlying goals; try to force them to fit your definitions and they will run for the door every time. So let's take a look at some of the pervasive myths about our youngest generation in the workforce and discuss why these changes are happening and how you can tailor your workplace to meet the needs of you, your employees and the company.

Myth: Younger generations have no work ethic.
Reality: Younger generations have a self-centered work ethic. This is not necessarily the negative that it may seem at first. Millenials are dedicated to completing their task well. They have not been raised in a way that demands them to look around and see what should be done next. Instead they ask "what is my job" and go about figuring the best, fastest way to complete that task. Then they consider themselves done. This is a key differentiator between your employees and yourself. The younger they are, the more your employees view their jobs as "something to do between the weekends."

For most, early employment has nothing to do with a career path; it is a way to earn money to have fun in their free time. And that is okay. When you understand what motivates your employees you are better able to set mutual expectations for success.

Instead of being frustrated that your youngest employees are not interested in climbing your corporate ladder, embrace their true motivation—reliable spending money—and use it to your advantage. When you tell an employee, "I understand this is not your lifelong career, but to earn the paycheck every week, here is what I expect…" they are much more likely to respond than if you try to motivate with promises of promotions and titles down the road.Understanding that being at the job isn't as important to Millenials as completing the assigned task also opens up new opportunities for motivation and reward.

Younger employees are very likely to respond to offers of paid time off. A leading retail organization has recognized this new way of thinking with its "Working Hard Card." When managers witness an employee rising to a challenge, exceeding expectations or otherwise giving 110 percent, they can hand the employee a "Working Hard Card" on the spot. Each card is worth a set amount of paid time off to be used at the employee's discretion. It is a simple strategy that rewards employees in the currency they value most—their time.

Myth: They don't want to put in the hours to get ahead.
Reality: They are willing to put in the time to do the job, however they are uninterested in "face time." Gen Xers and Millenials view time as a currency. While Baby Boomers tend to see time as something to invest, the younger generations view it as a valuable currency not to be wasted. These are the generations that demand work-life balance and paid time off. They want to get the job done, then put it behind them and enjoy life.

Boomer managers have a tendency to lose the interest of their Millenial employees by looking too far into the future. Millenials live in timeframe based on right now. Their world has proven that nothing is a guarantee—from nationwide layoffs to war to soaring divorce rates—and have decided that there's not a lot you can count on. As a result they are not interested in promotion plans for five years from now. They don't even want to know what will happen at the end of the summer. Life is uncertain.

To reach the Millenial employee and reduce turnover, make it certain. Tell your employee that you have a plan. Take pains to ensure it is in a timeframe short enough for them to envision. Be prepared to fulfill your promise—once fooled, forever jaded. This approach feeds into their reality, while simultaneously building trust and buying you more time. Reward small successes along the way, string these milestones together and you will soon realize longer tenures among your staff.

Myth: They have no respect for authority.
Reality: They have great respect for leaders and loyalty. But no, as a rule they don't respect authority "just because." For the younger generations, every ounce of loyalty and respect must be earned. But when it is earned, it is given fiercely. In fact, loyalty to the individual is the number one reason Xers and Millennials stay in the job, especially during the first three, tenuous years. Dissatisfaction with the boss is the number one reason they quit.

So in order to increase retention, managers must take a flipped view on leadership—it is no longer enough to hire the right people and show them the way, now you must BE the right person to win their affection. Sounds a little touchy-feely for the workforce, yet the faster leaders understand this new relationship, the sooner you will see the reward in the way of increased retention. There is one big caveat to the "be the person they want you to be" approach to leadership, however.

Millenials have a tendency to seek tight bonds—they want a boss who is close, caring and aware. And you can be all that. It is very easy to cross the line between "boss as advocate" to "boss as friend." That is a slippery slope. It can be especially tempting in situations where managers and employees are close in age. When activities outside of the office become too regular, too casual or largely social in nature, it is time to examine how this will affect your role as a leader. What Millennials need most out of a boss is a guide, not a social life.

Myth: They don't want to grow up.
Reality: They really don't know how. The youngest generations in today's workforce are facing a delayed adulthood. They are getting married later, having children later and just generally facing the "real world" later. This isn't the result of a mutated maturity gene, it just is. And if we are being completely honest, Boomers had a lot to do with why it's happening.

First, as parents, Boomers had a tendency to coddle their children and use their own good fortune to make sure their children didn't experience adversity. Second, as career models, Boomers demonstrated the toll of working long hours and "paying one's dues" in a way that made their children less likely to follow in their footsteps.

Millenials today look at the corporate ladder and think, "there must be another way."My advice to you—don't waste time wishing they were different. Don't spend your energy comparing today's youth to the desires and drive you had at age 18. These employees are not a reflection of you, nor are they an earlier version of you. And again, that is okay. Your task is to take this new understanding and use it to reposition how you interact with, motivate and reward your staff. Take attire for instance. Your 18-year-old self would have gladly donned whatever uniform was necessary to fit the company mold. Be it pressed khakis and a tie or a specific corporate uniform, fitting in was part of the package.

Today's youth wants to stand out. They want their individuality to shine through even when required to provide a consistent standard of service and performance. Balancing corporate needs with individual desires takes some creative thinking.

Home Depot is one company that has addressed this dilemma at a very basic level—company uniforms. They simply require that all employees wear a standard Home Depot apron. Be yourself underneath (within reason) and show the customer that you are on the Home Depot team with this bright orange apron. Is there a standard that you can adopt to accommodate individual preferences? Something to think about. Not all change is bad.

As we've discussed, the myths surrounding today’s young employees are not always what they seem. Attitudes toward work, life, loyalty and respect have all changed, but each is still considered valuable. In fact, some of the demands made by today's youth are creating positive benefits for employees in every generation.

Flexibilty and respect for the individual, as well as the organization, are good for everyone. Loyalty from younger employees, once earned, is long-lasting. The adjustments you make to accommodate the changing attitudes of today's youth will be returned to you tenfold with decreased turnover, improved morale, and measurable business results. And when the frustration mounts, just remember things aren't always what they seem. Open your mind to the possibility that there is a benign, generational reason for the disconnect between what you want and what your employees are providing, and you may just find room to create a shared vision of success.

Cam Marston is a consultant who specializes in multigenerational communications and marketing, educating executives about the workplace expectations of different generations. For more on Cam Marston and Motivating the "What's In It For Me?" Workforce (John Wiley & Sons; May 2007), visit

Friday, July 27, 2007

Higher Prices Don't Mean Lower Sales

I read an online article this week about Karen Wilson (a Canadian designer) who made a strategic decision to charge a premuim for her products (purses). She believed that in the long run she would not be able compete with foreign-made products and knock-offs so she deliberately priced her pocketbooks at a premium level.

Many retailers would consider this to be a suicidal approach but I respect her decision. She was also clever in HOW she executed her plan. Retailers who sell her products were skeptical about her pricing so she offered area rights and gave each retailer the exclusive right to sell her products within their local trading area.

Her strategy seems to be paying off. She has a growing list of retailers and is currently expanding her product line to keep up with the demand.

Remember, price is not the only influencing factor in a person's buying decision. If you provide true value and can effectively position that value, price becomes less of a factor. However, when everything is equal, price becomes the default factor.

Take a lesson from Karen's approach and think of how you can change your results.

**Read the entire on-line article here.