Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is it a Win-Win?

Do you ever look for the Win-Win scenario?

You win, the customer wins?

They got their problems solved and the product they needed at a fair price, you got the sale and the smile and the long-term relationship.

You win, the vendor wins?

You got the product you needed at a margin you can afford, they got the sale, the smile and the long-term relationship.

Wait? You didn't promise your vendor anything other than this order. If it doesn't sell or someone else comes at you with a better offer, you're moving on. Right? And they better give you a decent show special, and good terms, and an extra discount, and channel protection, and exclusivity, and price protection, and free training, and a free display, and samples, and literature, and point-of-purchase signs, and seasonal promotions, and guaranteed sales, and immediate shipping, and drop-shipping, and touch-up paint, and brochures, and advertising co-op, and markdown money, and web support, and...


I admit. I am guilty of it. I want all of that from my vendors. I want the whole nine yards, the whole kit and kaboodle, the whole enchilada.  Yet when my own customers come at me with those kinds of demands, I never feel like the winner. Yeah, I got the sale, but I sold my soul to get it.

Don't put your vendors into that same position. Treat them like partners. Find the win-win for you and your vendor. Understand that they have expenses, too. Amazingly high expenses. They have to invest a lot of money into research and develop of new products before they know if the product has a chance at selling. They have to buy up front without terms.

The smart vendors often have built all those goodies you demand into their profit margins, just like the smart retailers have done with their extras. But if it is going to be a good long-term relationship, the vendors need you to give a little, too. Go back to the list of demands. Which do you need? Which can you live without? Which are deal killers? Which are merely nuisances? Which ones move the needle?

When you enter a relationship with a vendor (and all purchases should be looked at as relationship-building), make sure you are clear up front of what you want and what you can live without. Make as many concessions as you make demands. Make sure you and the vendor are on the same page. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Make it about the long-term relationship.

There is always a win-win scenario. That's where you'll find the profit.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Sure, when you're small and just starting out there will be vendors who don't care enough about you to look at it that way. Some of that is because they have been burnt by too many retailers who don't look for the win-win. That's okay. You're not them. Do it the right way and if nothing else, you'll sleep better at night. More likely, however, is that when you treat your vendor - no matter how big or small - as a partner, they will often come through for you when you need them most.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Much Are You Investing in Your Business?

The Jackson County Chamber and I are teaming up to offer the best segments from the Jackson Retail Success Academy for all Jackson area businesses (and anyone willing to make the drive).

Three classes. Three four-hour days. $250 investment in your business (or $99 per class if you cannot make all three or are not a retailer.)

Inventory Management and Financial Health for Retailers
Thursday, June 27 (9am to 1pm) 

Every retailer knows that Cash is King. But do you know how to get more cash in your business to grow your kingdom?

This Business Boot Camp is designed strictly to help retailers understand how to manage inventory and expenses and, most importantly, your cash. You will learn simple formulas that the smart retailers use to keep the checkbook fat and happy. You will learn the Do’s and Don’t’s for keeping your inventory fresh and moving. You will find out where your cash is hiding and how to get more of it.

We will discuss things like Open-To-Buy programs, financial statements, the proper numbers to measure, how to price your products for profit, and the simplest way to get the most out of the inventory you sell.

Yes, there will be math. The important math. The kind of math you have to do if you want to be successful. What will surprise you is how quickly and easily you will learn the math and see the results.

(Note: to get the most out of this Business Boot Camp bring your previous fiscal year’s Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss statement. You will not be asked to share, but it will help you do your own math.)

Shareworthy Customer Service for Small Businesses
Thursday, July 11 (9am to 1pm)

We all know Word-of-Mouth is the best form of advertising. But do you know how to get people to talk about your company?

This Business Boot Camp will teach you the fundamentals behind generating Word-of-Mouth from your customer base. You will learn how to exceed customer expectations in such a way that they have to tell someone else. You will learn how to create a culture in your business that wants to delight your customers at every turn and raise the bar of Customer Service so high that you turn clients into evangelists.

Whether you are a retailer, a service provider, or any type of business, you will walk away with four ways to generate word-of-mouth, a new approach to hiring and training, at least one planned staff training, and a better understanding of what it takes to offer Customer Service that makes people want to talk.

Word-of-Mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising. This Business Boot Camp will be one you will be talking about for a long time.

Branding and Advertising: Reaching New Customers in Today’s Market
Thursday, August 8 (9am to 1pm)

The advertising that got you results yesterday isn't working today. Today’s market just can’t be reached. Or can it?

This Business Boot Camp will teach you the fundamentals of marketing that work in any day and age and how to apply those to this day and age. You will learn what moves the needle in advertising and how to craft a message that gets your potential clients to take action. You will learn the biggest myths of advertising and how even the largest companies throw good money away every single day. You will learn how to get the most out of your advertising budget (even if it close to zero).

Advertising cannot fix your business, but if you have a good business model, you will learn techniques that will grow your business the right way and keep it growing for years, no matter what kind of business you run.

Contact the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce to sign up. It will be the best twelve hours you spend on your business this summer!

Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you are struggling in any one of these areas, you should sign up for that one class Ninety-nine dollars for four hours of top-level, hands-on instruction is the kind of no-brainer investment you know you should make for your business.

PPS If you don't think you need any of these classes then you should definitely sign up for all three. Last night as I did a presentation for the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizers lamented that it was only the businesses who were already doing well that showed up. I reminded her that was why they were doing well. They kept showing up.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Makes Them Drive to See You?

I plopped down in the back seat next to a newborn baby. Cute little thing. Eyes still closed to the world.

The new mama sat on the other side of the seat and asked, "Do we have the straps on right?"

They had been in last week to get help installing the seat in their car. Now they have the baby. Even though the car seat owner's manual clearly states how tight the straps should be, this couple drove to our store, parked while daddy came in to get me, and listened carefully as I explained how tight the harness should be and how to check it themselves.

Some of you might be thinking, wow, what a waste of your precious time. I didn't sell them anything. There was no transaction. Heck, the car seat didn't even come from my store. It was a shower gift. I got nothing out of the transaction.

Or did I?

They drove to my store.


In one week.

While having a baby.

To make sure their new baby is safe.

What is the chance they will be back?

What is your store known for to the point that customers will seek you out even though there may be an easier solution? What do you do that is so trustworthy customers will make a special trip just to see you? What do you do that connects to the core values of your customer base? What do you do that might seem costly to an outsider but you know will reap you great rewards in the long run?

Answer those questions. Then do more of that. They'll be back.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There are many ways to build trust with your customers. I detail some of them in my latest FREE eBook Selling in a Showrooming World. If you aren't one of the 273 people who downloaded it last week, you might want to see what all the fuss is about.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Do You Know Who You Are?

Do you know who you are? No, not you. Your business. Well, okay, and you, too.

Did you know that as much as you try to keep your business separate, your business is really simply you?

You only have so much energy to give to your business. You only have so much energy to teach your staff, merchandise the store, work with the customers, pay the bills. You can't do it all. So you prioritize. There are the things you have to get done. Period. The necessary stuff.  Then there is everything else. With limited time and energy what part of the everything else will you do?

The stuff that is important to you.

If orderly and organized is important to you, you will spend your limited resources on straightening, organizing and getting your staff to do the same.

If having fun is important to you then you will find fun things to do or do things in a more fun way. You'll encourage your staff to join in the fun.

If education is important to you, you will spend time reading, watching instructional videos, teaching others.

If staying active is important to you then you will find things to do that get you out of your desk chair and out on the floor. You'll be directing traffic and assigning tasks to anyone who looks the slightest bit bored or inactive.

If punctuality is important to you then you will be standing by the time clock waiting for the staff to arrive, devising games to get them to show up on time, firing those who are chronically late, and posting clocks all around your store.

If innovative is important to you, you will be updating to the latest technologies, using the most modern design features, trying new things, encouraging your staff to follow the trends to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Whatever is important to you - your values - will be where you spend your limited resources after doing the necessary stuff. Those values will then become your store's values, and eventually your store's reputation.  More than your product mix, more than your services, this will be the most true differentiating factor that sets your store apart from everyone else's.

The key is to know what those values are, and openly embrace them. Not only will it help set you apart, you will end up attracting more customers who share those values. Those are the best customers. The most loyal, the best recruiters for more business.

First, however, you have to know who you are.

Check out this worksheet I designed to help you figure out your own values and those you most closely share with your store. Here are the accompanying notes.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Once you identify your values that also fit your store, you will have a blueprint for every decision going forward. Does it fit with my values? Yes, do it! No, don't do it. It's that simple.

PPS Yeah, that is also the foundation of Tim Miles' First Order of Business. (In his naming contest I was a runner-up because I called it "The Order of Business". I won the bacon!) Do this first because everything else depends on it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Handle the Crowd

I was at a trade show for the baby industry last week. One of those smaller shows with limited vendors and limited hours. My agenda was packed. One of my main vendors went out of business earlier this year and I was searching for a replacement. I had to budget most of my time for one product category while I skimmed through the others.

You know exactly what I'm talking about.

One of those skimmed booths had a bunch of new introductions. I needed a new price list and catalog. I slowed down my pace to take in all the new stuff before I reached the table where the lone person was staffing the booth.

She was sitting behind a table conversing with another person, presumably a customer.

I was about to interrupt to ask for information and be on my way, but someone else stepped in front of me and asked the same question. And then I heard it. A response that stopped me dead in my tracks. I shook my head, hoping I had heard wrong.

"Can't you see I'm talking to someone right now?!"

Yes, that is exactly what I heard. Not only did the guy who asked the question walk away, I walked away, too. Emailed my rep the next day for the information I needed.

This is a multi-million dollar subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar company and all they could send to the show was one person who did not know how to handle a crowd.

Other crowded booths got it. Either they brought in enough people or they knew how to handle a crowd.

They said, "Will you excuse me, while I go greet that other person? I will be right back." They asked my permission to leave (which I granted), went over to the other person and said, "Hey, thanks for stopping by. I'm working with Phil right now. Will you give me a couple minutes to finish up with him?" to which they also granted him permission and promised to wait for his return.

If you're running your business the right way you will have moments where the customers needing help outnumber the employees available to help them. How you handle those moments will go a long way towards how many more of those moments you will get.

Ask permission to leave the first customer to greet the second customer. You will always get it.
Ask permission from the second customer to finish with the first customer. You will always get it.
Always be polite and gracious.

The better you handle the crowd, the more crowds you will get.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This is an easy skill to train your staff. Make a game out of it by having them all ask each other's permission to do crazy and goofy things. Get them in the habit of always asking customers' permission. It puts the customer in control, gets the customer to buy-in and often will get the customer to wait for your return.

PPS If you find yourself getting too many crowds, time to hire more staff. As my grandfather always said, "Plan for Success".

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Selling in a Showrooming World

Information wants to be free.
Everyone has a smartphone.
Much of what you sell can be purchased online - often for less.
It has never been easier for a customer to do all the research herself, scan a barcode, and get the best possible price.

How are you going to compete?

By doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway - meeting the customer where she is, and giving her exactly what she wants when she wants it.

Yeah, we call that selling.

I spoke to a roomful of baby product sellers last week about this topic and spelled out a few simple ways to help you close the sale. My notes from that talk are now available in the Freebies section of my website.

Check out my latest ebook - Selling in a Showrooming World. Yes, it is FREE (see the opening statement above). Share it with all your retail friends and start selling (again).

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS After you read Selling in a Showrooming World, go back and read Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! and Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend.  Then, if you don't think you can train your staff to close the sale, you might want to consider buying the book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel and get yourself a staff that is a work of art.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Information Gotta Be Free, A Good Salesperson is Priceless

What did we do twenty years ago when we wanted information on a certain product we were considering?

Anyone remember?

There was Consumer Reports. There were other magazines that might have done a review or two. There were your friends and family - a much smaller circle before Facebook helped us all reconnect.

And there was the salesperson. The gatekeeper. The controller of knowledge.

A Good Salesperson knew all there was to know about everything she sold and quite a lot about the stuff she didn't sell. A Good Salesperson knew all about you, too. What you liked and didn't like. What worked well for you. Your preferences. Your desires. A good salesperson let you through the gate, showed you what you needed to know, and found you the perfect fit.

When you found a good salesperson, you kept her. You went back to that store for the information, the suggestions and the personal touch. Oh sure, sometimes you got the information and bought elsewhere cheaper because of a deal too good to pass up. But you understood there was a price to that kind of knowledge and more often you were willing to pay for it.

The Internet changed all that.

Information is FREE. Wikipedia said so. Jeeves said so. Yahoo said so. Google said so. Information is free and plentiful. Not always accurate, but always out there.

Today we can pull up dozens of review sites, complete spec sheets and instructions, hordes of testimonials both good and bad all in a matter of seconds. Today we can walk into almost any store in America and know just as much or more about the product than the gum-chewing clerk waiting on us.

The Internet brought the level of available information up. But at the same time,the level of professionalism of the salesperson went down. I partly blame Albert Einstein who said, "Never memorize anything you can easily look up." It is so easy to look things up now that salespeople stopped knowing.

Except what does that tell the customer when your salespeople are looking up the same information the customer looked up last night at home?

The other thing we've lost has nothing to do with the Internet. Our salespeople have lost the ability to connect.

Information gotta be free. And it is. The difference now between "selling" and "clerking" is the connection. Go back up and read that paragraph about the Good Salesperson. Those last six sentences are why showrooming is such a big deal. Salespeople have forgotten about connecting. Customers feel no connection so they gather up all the free information they can and shop wherever they please.

Want to combat showrooming in your store? Spend your money hiring good salespeople who want to connect. Spend your money teaching them how to connect. Spend your money, your time, your effort getting to know your customers better.

The Internet will never be able to compete with that.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS In a few days I'm going to be showing a bunch of juvenile product store owners how to connect and sell. Shortly after that I'm going to post my latest Freebie - Selling in a Showrooming World. If you can't make it to Vegas, be sure to look for the new eBook. Just like all the information I've posted... It's FREE!