Hi [name] and welcome to Ian Keightley's Insight for [date]
Everybody needs to understand
About 3 months ago I was working with Bill who owned 3 retail stores and he was finding things really tough. Sales were down some 30%, he was letting some staff go and Bill was asking for help to strategise his next move.
I asked Bill what he had thought of doing and like most people in sales he was considering having a sale. He was going to use PRICE as a drawcard for more customers. Was this a strategic advantage for Bill?
I took Bill for a walk through the mall and asked him to tell me what most other shops were doing. Bill had to admit that 80% of the other retailers were already having a sale. Obviously just having a sale and reducing prices was not going to help Bill if everyone was doing it. Unless he dropped his prices the most of course. Bill wasn't prepared to do that and wisely so.
We then looked in newspapers to see what else was happening in the marketing world. The papers were full of sales and some campaigns had deadlines such us "Sale only until 5pm Sunday" etc.
So now we could see 2 strategies in use - reduced prices and deadlines.
We checked out the real estate and motoring pages and they were the same. Price reduced, must be sold, Vendor demands sale, must be sold at Auction etc. All doing the same. Auction was perhaps too radical for retailer Bill, but in the real estate market it is used to stop chasing the market down with price reductions and it is working superbly in the hands of the skilful realtor.
Bill remained resolute. He wanted to have a sale with huge price reductions and only for a few days so it would make buyers take action. Bill said, "If it works for them it will work for me!"
My next question was, "Is it working for them Bill?".
I took Bill shopping around the mall. We visited the stores that had the BIG sales. I said to Bill, "Now try to buy something."
I sent Bill into several stores and after about 30 minutes he came out and said, "If I owned those stores I would be wasting my money on marketing the sales. The staff are grumpy, no one wants to help and when you find someone prepared to listen to your question they simply try to sell me what they have been told to move. Worse, when I was talking with one sales person another interrupted with a question without any apology at all. It's not the market that is making their sales low. It's how they are treating their customers."
"Where does that come from? I asked.
Bill refelected for a moment and replied, "It's how they are managed. It's what they are allowed to do."
"If you are committed to the sale idea Bill, what else do we need to do?"
With a smile Bill answered, "I had better involve my staff in planning it, marketing it and being excited about it. Then we need to make sure we have fun days during the sale. I had better make sure WE ALL know what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we are doing it and then have some service practice training and set a new level of customer interaction. It's like we all need to understand the problem, the stratgey, the solution and how to do it."
Bill and I planned a staff planning and training session where Bill & I worked with his team to get their input. This was a first for Bill and whilst initially sceptical he relaxed when he saw his team's enthusiasm. They all knew it must be tough for Bill. They were worried too. They respected his honesty and knew it was in their interest to make this work. They also wanted to know the service model Bill wanted and they took on-board the sales training like never before. Why? Because they could see Bill wanting to change the working environment to make their job easier, that he was setting standards and that he was rolling up his sleeves and working on the floor with them.
Bill had his sale. It was the easiest to organise as the team took over. The team made it a five day success and were running for the five days with big smiles on their faces. Bill exceeded his expectations and cash flow was almost back to normal.
Bill's sales are now back up 20% even after the sale. What was the sale? Probably a business saver but more than that the "tough times" created a willingness to change not only the working environment but also their skill level.
Bill met the challenge of the market head-on. He didn't avoid it, he invested in change and skills. He developed greater loyalty with his people, he gave them and himself some certainty and Bill has understood that discounting is at best a short-term solution. Being better is the best solution.
Bill's story is a simple lesson and so easliy adaptable to any sales business. What are you doing that needs to be done better? What are you doing that is a waste of time, who are you working with that wastes your time, how could you be better? Find one thing to be better at and make that work for you.
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Posted: Sunday 22 April 2018