Salesmanship: What’s next?

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by Warren Tyler

The official definition of the end of a recession is when there are three consecutive quarters of increased GDP, which has happened. I also feel politicians who quote this fact are lying. No one feels like the recession has ended.

The problem here is many traditional definitions are no longer valid. America has been changed forever from the country we all knew and loved. Many believe the damage is beyond repair. No one anticipated so much damage could be done to the economy in so little time.

There is no easy way out; the economy isn’t going to be better for some time. What does it mean for us as an industry? What do we do?

Those of you who are surviving, it’s going to get worse. Some of you are going to fail. Many retailers are doing better than ever because of local market conditions or, they have adjusted to the conditions, renegotiated payments, experimented and went after customers aggressively. For those dealers, keep doing what you’ve been doing—only keep doing it better.

Here’s the deal: Customer traffic is down so you have to make due with what you have, which means you can’t afford to lose a customer. Follow the “new-sell is no-sell” sales advice I teach in this column. Change whatever you’ve been doing if business isn’t doing better. Demand exclusivity. Every rep can set his own rules in his market and if you were the first to sample or stock the item, make it a condition of the sale no one in your territory can sell it. Do not sample anything available in the big box stores. Private label everything. You can’t afford to do all the work and have the customer sell you down the river for a few cents. Work on your suppliers on how you can get better pricing.

Have a protocol for sales-people. Make them sell the way your best salesperson does. Everyone should have a story of just why your store is the best store in which to buy—no questions asked return and complaint policy, you employ artisans or craftsmen rather than just installers, install guarantees, decorators on staff or whatever separates you from the rest. Make sure your people sell it.

Be certain the sales staff understands how to make a personal connection with consumers and if they can’t do it, fire them. Every employee should have a page on Facebook, not to mention your store. Hire an expert to show you the ropes on social media. Do not do charity advertising— little league, yearbooks, programs and the rest—you can’t afford it. Everyone in the company should be networking with the 20 or so networking groups in your market—they should belong to as many social or service clubs as they can. It has to be a goal for everyone, including office staff, to hand out at least five business cards daily. This is Big Bob’s idea and he is up 40% this year.

Extend your hours to 8 p.m. every night and 5 p.m. on Saturday. The key is to work harder and longer. It will take your mind off the economy. If you have less customers, you need to make more with each one. Another “Big Bobism” is if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed. Keep exact minute-by-minute records of who came in and what exactly happened. Make sure you always get the customer’s name, phone number and email. They will always give it to you.

Your biggest source of customers is still your previous customer list. Make sure everyone keeps a “tickler file” and works it every day. You have to be a fighter and keep fighting every day for each sale.

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