Leave Excuses Behind: How To Dig In and Grow Retail Sales as Consumers Return
As the pandemic ebbs in the U.S., a growing number of retailers are finding excuses why they can’t move forward with their business as they’d like. “We’re so busy.” “We can’t get anyone to work.” “Our vendors can’t ship.” “We have too many customers.”
I get it. As predicted, the end of the lockdown is resulting in an accelerated push to buy, not just to shop. Many retailers were unprepared then and are unprepared now. However, you can leave excuses behind and plan for an even brighter future.
Many years ago, I was working with a coffee franchise. 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 that included s’mores tree ornaments. Customers shopped as they waited for their drinks and the ornaments blew off the shelves. We had to reorder 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 that was hurting her business. She wanted us to stick to coffee. Geez. As if 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; not being able to find employees; a bad online review; a line you carry being picked up by someone nearby; the loss of a good employee; or even a tsunami of customers.
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. Let’s face it, when it comes to retail management, digging in often means work. Giving in is easy. Here’s how the excuses often show up:
- You discover a salesperson whose first response to a customer’s question is No.
- You listen to a manager saying to a customer, My hands are tied.
- You get on private retailer groups and bemoan problems most anyone could have if they really thought about it.
- You want to write an invective-filled note to a vendor for treating you poorly, reply to an online reviewer to justify yourself, or torch your personal relationship with employees.
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 are facing a moment of truth. 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 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 build an ideal schedule and then creatively find ways to attract and pay the best, you realize what success will look like.
- 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 as you’d hoped, you dig in and 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 moving their 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. Or they are getting so many customers, people are leaving.
The place to dig in is by asking yourself why customers aren’t coming in the first place. Was it the experience or the dealer’s lack of marketing?
With the pandemic easing and with the labor force slowly returning, hiring will be rocky in the coming months - but it never is easy to run a business.
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.
Big changes come in the little moments: when you walk in and see a cluttered store;
when reading a review about your curt employee; when you discover your products at another store; when there is a crush of inquiries to your website and in your stores; and when your department’s numbers are down, your turnover is high, and your online marketing efforts aren’t working.
Look to yourself for solutions
Check yourself at that moment of truth when you should see change is needed. At that nanosecond, ask yourself the following questions:
Could this be a time I need to look at my own part in what has happened? If so, is this the kick in the butt I need to focus my attention on doing better?
Am I holding on to a feeling of helplessness at changing the situation to feel better about myself? And if I am, what does that say about my self-image? Sit with the feeling for a bit. No knee-jerk reactions. Just. Own. It.
When you do that, those feelings can spur you to new ideas and plans. You’ll be able to see a rush of possibilities once the betrayal, anger, and let’s be honest, fear, dissipate.
How can you develop a customer service process that makes customers rave?
How can you make everyone feel as if, for those few minutes of an interaction, they are the most important person in the world?
What type of retail sales training program should you use to train retail staff?
If you truly are looking for how to grow retail sales, it’s in these truth-telling moments you must make the critical choices and do the work of digging in.
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