How To Leave Excuses Behind, Dig In, And Grow Retail Sales
By Bob Phibbs
Many years ago I was working with a coffee franchise and we were looking for ways to grow retail sales.
We knew we had to maximize the traffic we already had and entice each customer to buy more than a cup of joe. We had to raise the average check.
I suggested we put in a merchandise line for the holidays which included S’Mores tree ornaments.
Customers shopped as they waited for their drinks and the ornaments blew off the shelves. We had to re-order twice. We achieved our goal.
A week later we received a letter from the landlord telling us a retailer at the opposite side of the shopping center had complained we were carrying a gift line which was hurting her business. She wanted us to stick to coffee.
Like there is a finite number of people looking for gifts and any sale we made meant it was one less for her.
Yesterday, I thought about that retailer and what happens when you are challenged by:
A new competitor
A bad online review
A line you carry being picked up by someone nearby
The loss of a good employee
When those things happen, you have a choice to either dig in to see what you can do to rally and turn things around or give in, stay stuck and create excuses to make yourself feel better.
And you’re not in it alone; it is your sales reps too.
Let’s face it, digging in often means work. Giving in is easy and here’s how the excuses show up:
You discover a salesperson whose first response to a customer’s question is no.
You listen to a manager saying my hands are tied.
Or if it is you, you want to write an invective note to a vendor, reply to an online reviewer, or torch your personal relationship with a former employee.
In short, you find a scapegoat to help you feel better about yourself. It’s someone else’s fault, and there’s nothing you can do.
I know, I’ve been there myself.
When such moments happen to you, you need to realize you are facing a moment-of-truth choice. You can either dig in and add something to fight your competition, or you can settle back with excuses and distract yourself from changing anything.
When employees perform at minimal levels, they too have avoided trying to dig in and find a way to make a sale.
When you dig in as a salesperson in a retail store, you push past what might have happened previously with another customer, and find a way to first say yes.
When you dig in and look at a vendor’s motivations for selling to one of your competitors, you realize it is just business and look for ways to become more valuable to them, not less.
When you dig in and look at a bad online review, you push past the bad feelings and look for the nugget of truth to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
And if you see your numbers not stacking up like you hoped they would, you do the hard work to discover just what the customer experience is in your store.
When you see the opportunities to create an exceptional experience and then work to make them a reality every day, then every day is a chance to move forward.
And this choice to make progress or make excuses isn’t just for retailers; sales reps often give excuses as to why their accounts won’t listen to them about changing their merchandising, marketing or floorplans.
When you dig in as a sales representative, you look at each individual account to see what is keeping those retailers from taking your suggestions. From their viewpoint, you find a way to be a trusted advisor, not just a guy schlepping merchandise.
If you’re a sales rep, you’ll hear your dealers say they just want easy answers to getting more customers in their door.
The place to dig in is by asking yourself why customers aren’t coming back in the first place. Was it the experience or the dealer’s lack of marketing?
And one of the challenges of independent retailers is that they don’t live with the threat of a boss firing them.
They are the boss and they won’t fire themselves.
At the corporate level, everyone from the CEO down lives with this threat of being fired and actively has someone over them to keep them digging in.
When the employee doesn't feel like digging in anymore or doesn’t seem curious to find answers, they’re gone.
With some retail dealers, they wait until customers have stopped coming before they dig in.
By then many times, it is too late.
The reality for all of us is that you don't get creative when everything is fine; you get creative because everything isn't fine.
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