Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Next Transaction

Do you know the real goal of each transaction? To earn the Next Transaction.

Unless you're closing the store and selling off your inventory, you're going to need that next transaction, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on.

You always need one eye on the horizon, one eye fixed on how to earn that Next Transaction.

Last Saturday we had a huge event. LEGO Contest, Yo-Yo Competition, Toy Demos, Crafts, Scavenger Hunt, Cookies, Prizes, the whole works! We advertised heavily. We staffed heavily. We spent a lot of money to draw traffic and put on a lot of events to keep that traffic happy.

Did it translate into extra sales? A little. We had a slightly better than usual Saturday. Not enough to cover the extra expenses, but that wasn't the point. The entire goal of the day was Wish Lists - pieces of paper that the kids took around the store and filled out with what they wanted Santa to bring them.

Since our competitors in town don't stock the same items we stock, we wanted those kids to make out their lists with our toys. Every kid who went on a scavenger hunt to earn a cookie got a wish list. Every parent with one or more kids in tow got a wish list.

Our goal for the day was simple - focus on the Next Transaction.

  1. Give everyone something fun to do.
  2. Give everyone a Wish List to fill out.
  3. Treat them so well they can't wait to come back.

It is a formula that serves us well.

There are a lot of businesses that put too much effort on maximizing this transaction - as if it will be their last. Make this one special for the customer. Delight her. Earn the chance to get another transaction.

If that isn't enough to convince you, try this... Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What percentage of my business is Repeat Business? (write that number down)
  2. What percentage of my business is Referral Business? (write that number down)

The remaining percentage is your advertising driven business - usually the smallest of the three numbers.

Put your energy into getting repeats and referrals and you'll have all the Next Transactions you need.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There are a lot of ways to earn the next transaction. Sometimes adding on and maximizing the current sale is how you earn another - especially if the add-ons are what is needed to "complete" the sale. Don't ever let a customer walk out without everything they need. Sometimes you earn the next transaction because you didn't get overly pushy. Sometimes you earn the next transaction because you planned it that way (like the wish lists). The best leaders are always looking beyond this transaction to the next one.

PPS Here is an email one mom sent me from our event that drives home the point...
"…and great event Saturday!   While I know you’re open minded and see the big picture, I wanted to let you know that your sales on days like that may not be all the sales you gain from the event.  I could barely manage the two kids let alone purchase anything, but I’ll be back this week to get everything."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Treat Your Sales Reps as Partners

The dreaded sales rep. We all have one. Maybe more than one. The rep that just doesn't get you or your business. The rep you wish didn't get all the good lines. The rep who makes you wonder if they even care. The rep that makes you roll your eyes just setting the appointment.

Then there is the good rep. The one who gets it. Who gets you. Who anticipates your needs. Who knows your style, your store's style, your store's goals. Who you can't wait to work with again.

My buddy Tim Miles illustrated the difference between those two reps - the order taker and the true partner.
Much of the burden on becoming that good rep belongs to the rep himself. He has to want to be your partner.

But I wonder if there is not also some burden on us.

Do you treat your rep as a partner or an order taker?
Do you share your goals for the store - especially for that line of products or services - with the rep?
Do you share your visions and philosophies with your rep?
Do you share the responsibility of all the work with your rep - or do you expect them to do all the heavy lifting?
Do you take them out to lunch instead of expecting them to always buy?
Do you listen to their suggestions?
Do you even ask for their suggestions?
Do you consider them to be part of your team?
Do you offer them the some of the same benefits you offer your own employees?

There is an anonymous quote that says, "Your customers will get better when you do."

I think the same applies to our reps.

-Phil Wrzesinski
PS I offer all my product sales reps the same employee discount my staff gets. It is just one way to make sure they understand they are part of my team.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Do Something Over-the-Top

You still have time to pull this off. Christmas is still 48 days away. Do something Over-the-Top for your customers this season.

Is parking a problem for your store? Offer Free Valet Parking. Get some young motivated drivers to move the cars to the distant lot (hire the local cross-country team - they don't mind running in the cold and their season just ended).

Offer a seating area with comfortable recliners. Coffee and doughnuts in the morning. Water and fresh fruit in the afternoon.

Do a coat-check.

Have servers walking the store with samples of local treats. Bonus - have them dressed in formal black tie outfits.

Forget the piped in music - have live performers from the local symphony. Get a trio or quartet every Saturday - pay them well (some of them will work for gift cards).

Give them labels to go with their giftwrapped packages.

Give out helium balloons free to every child. (As Winnie the Pooh said, "Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.")

Do a Santa Wish List - even for the adults - and keep it on file for spouses, parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles.

Offer a free sample, free inspection, free add-on, free trial, free upgrade, free whatever. Don't advertise it. (Please don't advertise it.) Just do it. Freely and with sincerity. Let your customers advertise it for you.

Have a couple doormen carry their packages to their cars - no matter where they parked!

Think about what your customers expect from you, then do something way unexpected and over-the-top. They will talk about you. A lot. To everyone they know.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Every fine restaurant in New York has a coat check, usually tucked away in the corner past the crowded bar. When I went to a Danny Meyer restaurant in NY fabled for amazing customer service the greeter took our coats without us having to shuffle through the crowd to the hidden coat check. Better yet, when our party got up to go, the greeter was already waiting with our coats and knew exactly who got which coat. That was unexpectedly cool. And I'm talking about it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Asking the Right Questions

The first few years I interviewed people for positions on the team I asked a bunch of questions. Most of them were the wrong questions.

I asked a lot of "What if..." questions. You know, "What would you do if a customer comes up to you with a complaint about...?"

Questions that are based on speculation will only get you answers the interviewee thinks you want to hear.

Those are of no value to you. About all they can tell you is whether that person has done any research on your company's policies and values. They rarely show how the interviewee will actually react when facing that situation.

The right questions to ask are questions about their previous actions. Our actions speak louder than our words about who we are and what we believe.

Use this phrase, "Tell me about a time when..."

Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond your job expectations to help a customer.

If they can't tell you a time, then they probably never did. What they tell you also gives you insight into what they think is above and beyond. It tells you how they perceive their role and whether they even believe they can do what is right versus what is policy. You might also learn that they are mavericks who do their own thing regardless of what policy might be.

Tell me about a time when you had to help a friend in need.

You learn a lot about loyalty, helpfulness and what friend means.

Tell me about a time when you had to stay later than you were scheduled. (getting the job done versus just putting in the hours)

Tell me about a time when you were short-staffed and everyone had to do extra. (how they view hard work and stressful situations)

Tell me about a time when you received the worst customer service while out shopping. (their view of what bad customer service looks like)

Tell me about a time when you received the best customer service while out shopping. (their view of what good customer service looks like)

Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem and no one was there to help you. (their approach to problem solving)

Tell me about a time when someone at work did something especially nice for you. (how they relate to other workers)

Tell me about the worst thing you ever had to do on the job. (how they get along with co-workers and bosses)

Actions speak louder than words. Decide which actions you want your employees to take, then ask them to tell you how they've taken those actions before. This one little tip changed the quality of my new hires overnight.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Some of your interviewees will hem and haw at answering these kinds of questions. They were prepared to tell you what they thought you wanted to hear. Take that as a sign. Others will tell you things that will astound you. If they get on a good story, keep it going. The longer they tell a story, the more passion you'll see and the more it will reveal.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Making a List, Checking it Twice

No, I'm not Santa (although some people in Jackson might disagree).

The list I am making is the list of traits my seasonal staff needs to have. Things like...

  • A willingness to learn
  • Knowledge of toys
  • Knowledge of play and play value
  • Ability to do math
  • Ability to work on a computer
  • A strong, confident voice
  • Friendliness
  • Problem Solver
  • Can giftwrap a package
  • Loves to help others
  • Has legible handwriting
  • Works well with others
  • Energy to stand on your feet all day

Wouldn't you love it if your seasonal staff had all those traits?

Which ones are deal killers (if they don't have it, you can't hire them)? Which ones do you think you could teach? Which ones do you know you could never teach?

Make a list like this for every position in your business. Then take that list and make a second list. Separate the first list into two columns - the stuff you cannot teach, the stuff you can teach.

Now go hire someone with the stuff you cannot teach, and train them on everything else.

As for the deal killers - those are the first things you need to identify in your interview process. That's how you get a seasonal staff up to your level of customer service in short order.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Friendliness, Problem Solver, Loves to Help Others, A Willingness to Learn - those are my deal killers. You don't have those traits, you don't work for me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Redefining the Terms

You don't sell products. You sell feelings.

The jeweler doesn't sell diamond rings. The jeweler sells the look on her face when he opens the box and asks, "Will you marry me?"

The shoe salesman doesn't sell shoes. The shoe salesman sells the bounce in your step and the self-confidence you have when your feet feel good.

The toy store doesn't sell toys. The toy store sells play value and imagination and creativity.

You and I get this. Our customers don't.

Not because they can't, but because the big chains won't let them. Especially the discounters. They are trying to commoditize everything you sell. Make it all about the price. It isn't about which toys you buy, but how many. The big chains know you can outperform them on getting the right items. They want to make sure the customers don't even think about that. They're winning, too, because we allow them to control the conversation.

They talk about the products. We talk about the products. We're speaking their language. We need to instead talk about the feelings.

We need to talk less about the products we sell and more about how our products make the customer feel. We need to talk about the emotions behind the products, the emotions behind the purchases, the feelings we create.

We need to bring the importance of the purchase, the reason for the purchase back to the forefront.

When you write your ad copy, whether for print, broadcast or social media, ask yourself two questions.

  1. Is this copy about the product or the feeling?
  2. How can I make it more about the feeling?

The more you do that, the more you change the conversation back to one you will win.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For example, here are two radio ads I have run this fall to change the conversation. These are the left-brained, logical ads. The more emotional ads run next month.

We Sell Play Value
Over the next couple months a bunch of stores will start advertising to you about toys. They’re talking about the wrong thing. You don’t buy toys. You buy Play Value. You don’t buy toys; you buy creativity and imagination. You don’t buy toys, you buy engagement and fun. You can forgive them for not knowing this. They only sell toys part time. We sell Play Value all year long. That’s why you shop at Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Made Up Lists
Fortunately, you guys are smart. You know all those Hot Toy Lists are fake, phony, decided in some backroom meeting months ago. Designed to get you to buy what they want to sell. As if your kids were sheep and only happy if they got one of the “hot” toys.  That’s not you. That’s not us. We aren't going to hype you into buying what we want to sell. We’re going to help you find what works best for you. Over twice the selection of the big chains, ten times the play value, and none of the hype. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.