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A Master Salesman

Walt & Asylum Records

In many arenas of retail, there are retailers working out of their home, single location retailers, retailers that have multiple locations and chain stores; each competing for the same dollar of the consumer. Whenever the independents gather for a trade show, convention, or other industry event, the conversation often covers many points, one of which is competition between the various types of businesses.

How does an independent compete? Rarely does the single location or multiple location independent have the best location, the larger business, or the backup from a corporation that can provide much of the advertising and merchandising support and research that is crucial to a business. The person working from their home office has none of these with their most visible presence possibly being their yellow page advertising.

For most independent retailers, the opportunity to be the number one retailer within a trade area, is not often found. The chain store, whether they be a discount, warehouse, big box store, or simply a "known name" store, has taken that position in most markets. Add to that the number of people selling the same goods as you through a magazine ad or on the Internet, and sometimes you will find more competitors than you can find customers.

Too often, when visiting with these independent retailers, we hear comments that indicate acceptance of being an "also-ran", or being relegated to receiving sales that are leftover from the competition. These "leftover" sales come from customers that are simply loyal, dislike a chain store, find the independent business to be more convenient, or have come because of a bad shopping experience with another business.

Recently, I had the occasion to travel through our city on one of the major downtown streets. I had purchased a car that was equipped with a compact disc player. As I had always kept a couple of favorite cassettes in the car that I previously drove, and was now without a tape player in the new car, these tapes were relegated to the home.

Having a few minutes to spend, I remembered a single location store that in previous years had done quite a bit of advertising. I went into the store and found my way to the type of music I was looking for. I noticed there were two people that worked in the store, but I don't think they noticed me even though I was the only customer in the building. Even when I had made my choice of one compact disc, I had to walk to the back of the store to get their attention.

"Do you want me to ring that up for you?", one of them asked. Other than telling me the amount of the purchase, that was my only conversation with either of the employees.

As I drove down the same street, I saw a second store. From the appearance of the exterior, you would strongly suspect that it was not a chain store. I decided to stop and see what they had to offer. As I walked through the small store, one person that was stocking the bins looked at me and said hello.

As I looked through the selection and wandered from aisle to aisle, I was approached by one of the staff. "What type of music do you like?", was the question asked of me. And upon giving an answer, I was engaged in a conversation about music.

"You may not know that we have used compact discs and I have a group of your type of music that was just traded in. Let me show them to you." And from there the conversation continued. Within a few minutes, this salesperson showed the rarest, yet most powerful techniques for marketing a business: "My name is Walt. I own this shop, and that person over there is John. He is my store manager."

How many times has this ever happened to you? If you are like most of us, having a person take the time to introduce themselves to you is quite rare. Granted, if you are making a call on a customer in their home you will introduce yourself. But, what about afterwards? Did you take the occasion to send a card saying thank you for your time? Or, did you call after the installation to ask how the customer liked the work you had provided?

Just as there are two types of stores; those that have the name, location, and image, and those that do not have the advantages, there are businesses that have the advantage of exceptional customer service and those that do not.

With the businesses having the customer service advantage, you will find someone giving quality, friendly service, following up on all the promises made as well as asking the customer afterwards, "How did we do?".

With those having this rare and most desired customer service trait, you will find the owner, or manager that loves their work and their customers.

So, what is the secret? The first part has already been mentioned: loving the job. Quoting an old adage, "Any work is great, when greatly pursued."

The second aspect of the customer service formula, is to find others that share that same type of customer service enjoyment. This would not only include a sales person, but the installer, and even a manufacturer working hard to make sure you can deliver on your commitments.

The third ingredient required is your participate in an ongoing training program so that you are able to offer the most up to date products, styles and colors to the customers.

If you are the only one from your company attending an EXPO, then it is imperative the information you receive is shared with all of your coworkers.

The final ingredient is incentive. Each successful business needs a system of reward. It can be through monetary means as well as recognition. The key is that the business shows its' appreciation to those receiving the recognition in front of employees not receiving recognition, as well as letting the customers know superb salesmanship is rewarded. This demonstrates that quality customer assistance is alive and well within this business.

The other payoff is that businesses that demonstrate this high level of customer service are likely to have less turnover than their "self service" counterparts. Add this to the information stating the cost of training a new employee and getting them up to speed is equal to four to six months of pay, you now have many reasons for becoming one of these businesses. Even if you are a "one man band", you need to have goals and self rewards to keep the job enjoyable.

Other than the statistics supporting what Walt is doing, my suspicion is he just enjoys what he is doing. And no favorable location, advertising, or image can ever match his efforts. Don't you enjoy being waited on by a master? So do your customers.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
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