Increase Product Knowledge

Increasing the product knowledge of your employees has never been more important. In this article from Retail Dive we learn that 50% of employees in one surveyed business feel that often times their customers know more about the product than they do. That is a scary number.

Worse yet, in another survey, 83% of customers felt they knew more than the retail sales associate. Often times we want to blame the attitude of the customer who may or may not really understand the product, but perception is reality for that customer. Furthermore, if half of the employees agree with them, we have a real problem on our hands.

Granted, this is a survey of one company, but with today’s smart phone culture it isn’t a stretch to say that most customers are very prepared and have researched the product they are after.

I suggest you adopt at least one of these methods to ensure your employees are prepared for today’s buyer.

  1. Hold daily product briefs where you highlight the features and benefits of a specific product. This puts you in control and allows you to focus on the products that make the most sense for your bottom line.
  2. Place the same value on product knowledge as you do maintaining the cleanliness of your store. 44% of employees say they are spending too much time arranging products and stocking shelves. While these are important tasks, understanding the product we sell is just as important. You might even combine this with option 1, and have different employees present the products each day. That way everyone gets the benefit of what each other are learning.
  3. Consult the experts, your customers. Ask them when they make a purchase, why they chose that particular item over the others. You’ll never have a better selling point than the one that already worked.

With all the competition for your customers dollars, make sure you do everything in your power to provide a service they can’t find on-line. Your knowledge about your products should be an easy value builder.

Things That Matter

I don’t like giving blood. It isn’t fun. I don’t react well. Usually it is my own fault. I fail to eat a hearty breakfast as I know I should. Last time, I got the sweats, and thought for sure I was going to pass out. Honestly, how embarrassing. There I sit, a grown man, barely able to keep himself conscious. Meanwhile, the frail little lady next to me is looking at me as though I’m pathetic. I’m sure she is thinking that back in her day men were made of stronger stuff.

To make matters worse two co-workers of mine there at the time. One started before me, and the other, after. While the questionnaire is done in private, the actual blood draw is done in a couple of semi-circles giving each phlebotomist access to numerous patients quickly. I didn’t really think about them at the time. I was pretty preoccupied with my own situation, but as it wrapped up I was pretty sure there would be a rash of taunting awaiting my arrival back at the office.

This event took place nearly a month ago. So what made me think of it today? I got a text from the blood bank saying that my donation had been sent to the hospital. It was currently being used by a patient. Nice move blood bank.

Today, consumers have more options than ever before when choosing where to spend their money. Often we think due to the internet and “show rooming” that shoppers care about one thing. Price. I assure you that isn’t the case. While consumers may not feel loyalty to brick and mortar buildings down the street, they do feel a deep desire to do business with companies who are seen as socially conscious.

Many consumers now believe business owners have a responsibility to give back to the world at large as well as the communities that made them successful. Social consciousness can come in many forms. It can be a company commitment to green energy, recycling, homelessness, childhood hunger, poverty, veterans, mental health issues, beating cancer, childhood obesity, etc.The list of needs in this world is seemingly endless, and most likely you are already doing something that shows just how much you care.

Perhaps you’ve donated items to the local sports team for their raffle. Perhaps you have done a free dental day for the needy in your community, or you pay your employees for a day of their time to work at a local soup kitchen. Whatever you are doing. Don’t be afraid to shout about it in your marketing. Let people know that when they do business with you, those dollars continue to good across the community.

For some of you it may feel as though you shouldn’t be singing your own praises. You are wrong. The next time I’m sitting in the chair of a blood drive, I’ll remember that text reminding me of all the good my donation did, and it might just make it worthwhile. The next time your customer is digging into their wallet to purchase your product or service, they will remember the local little league team that was able to play ball this year due to the donation made possible by purchases like this one.

A $28,000 Mistake

While on a motorcycle ride with some friends I watched a salesman miss out on a $28,000 sale. The reason why is a lesson for anyone running or managing a business.

[Transcript]

Each year I take a motorcycle ride with a few of my friends. The route changes slightly, but the destination is always the same. We visit a one of my friends family cemetery where the solar lights around his father’s grave are replaced.

It is a beautiful area here in North Dakota right near the Cross Ranch State Park. The site of his families homestead is there along with the family cemetery that has been there since the 1800’s.

But I digress, back to the $28,000 mistake. As you can see, I’m riding a concours. Kawasaki’s sport touring bike. Most of my friends prefer cruisers, and a couple are die hard Harley folks. During one of our last stops, Russ, who is leading this group of misfits told us that he had spoken to his wife over the phone and was planning on buying a brand new Harley in the next town if they could make him a deal.

It’s not really my cup of tea, but I could see why he liked the bike. It had everything! Cruise control, sound system, navigation, rider/passenger communication system, and tons of comfort.

But he isn’t on the bike right now, and it isn’t because they wouldn’t make him a deal. THEY DIDN’T EVEN TALK TO HIM.

Russ even told the lady at the check-out counter that he was interested in talking to a salesman about a bike. Her response was that the salesman were over there. Sure he could have approached them, but Russ felt that if he was going to spend $28,000 on a new motorcycle, he shouldn’t have to beg a salesperson to talk to him.

There were three salesman on the showroom floor that I could count, and it was pretty easy. They were standing around talking to each other.

Russ waited in the showroom, exhibiting all the buying signs in the world. He was touching the bike, examining the price sticker, sitting on it, even calling his friends over to admire, and give reassurance that this was indeed a fine specimen of a motorcycle. But as time went on Russ’s frustration grew, and finally he simply left. Unsatisfied, and ready to tell everyone about his negative experience.

Now Harley guys are Harley guys and 3 weeks later he did buy his bike. At a different dealer, in a different town, with a different salesperson collecting the commission and different owner raking in the profit.

I can see at least 3 lessons to learn from this encounter.

  1. When someone tells you they want to speak to a salesman, you get up and you walk them directly to the person they need to speak with and you introduce them. Don’t leave this to chance.
  2. When you have someone on your showroom floor. Never, Never, Never assume you know what is happening there. Sure, 5 out of the 6 of us were looky-loos, but one of us had the green light from our spouse to spend $28,000. All you had to do was hang out with us long enough to figure out which. Pre-qualifying is rampant in every company that sells anything, and costs us more than probably anything else.
  3. When someone is heading for the door, you have one final chance to ensure that they were well cared for in your business, and if not NOW is the time to fix it. No one stopped him, not even the person he had told he was looking to buy a bike.

We all make mistakes in our businesses, I just hope it doesn’t cost $28,000 to learn my lesson.

 

Less Margin – More Volume

What is the right price to sell your product. There are entire books dedicated to the subject. There are also folks who break it down to nothing more complicated than supply and demand. While I agree that supply and demand is the overwhelming driving force in price determination, I would like to suggest the idea that there is yet another variable to be considered. Before we get there check out this video from Brett Whitlock at Whitlock Motors who talks about margins.

In today’s social media climate I would like to offer the idea that social capital is another variable to be gained through pricing in a competitive way. As Brett points out the more people who have a positive experience with you, the more people you have spreading your message.

Sure you can take this too far. You have to make a profit, but don’t discount the value of an excited customer vs. a satisfied customer. A satisfied customer feels neutral at the end of a transaction. They got a fair price and the next time they are likely to start the process over again with you on a level playing field with your competitors. An excited customer on the other hand is more likely to tell a friend, and during the next purchase is less likely to shop your competition.

Supply. Demand. Social Capital.

A Great Tag Line…

How do you build a great tag line for your business. Sometimes they just write themselves. Some basic rules:

They need to be concise.

They should be easy to remember.

They must be relevant.

They should reveal a key part of your business.

They must be true.

They must be timeless.

Brett Whitlock from Whitlock Motors in Cody, WY shares about their tag line, “Where our name means a great deal.”

The Very Best Marketing…

What is the best marketing you can do? This is a question we get a lot from businesses. Rather than answer the question ourselves we set out to ask a few of our clients. Brett Whitlock has operated a very successful used car lot since the early 80’s in Cody, WY. He shares with us an investment that is a must in your marketing mix.

They Know My Name

Today I walked into a local car dealer to have a little service work done on my wife’s vehicle, and the Service Manager remembered my name. Honestly I was a little taken back. I have only spoken with this particular manager on 2 other occasions that I can remember.

I have always preached the importance of remembering our customers names. The one simple act gives the impression that the person you are speaking to is important and you value the relationship.

Being on the other end I can say, it felt nice and gave the service a personal touch that made me want to come back for service in the future.

I can’t help but wonder if he really remembered my name, or if he simply looked to see who had appointments coming up. Either way it had the desired effect.

Whether we have to take the extra step to look up their name, or if we are simply blessed with a memory that retains names, it’s worth it to call our customers by their first name.

They will appreciate it, and it will likely result in more business in the future.