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Be A Hero

Understanding our purpose as salespeople

One day, two little boys and their dad decided to have a day together and to go watch their favorite baseball team during spring training here in St. Petersburg. The major league team would be playing a game that afternoon, so the players at the practice complex were those that hoped to land a position with one of the minor league affiliates. The two young sons would not know the difference. What they would see would be many players wearing the same shirt that the major league players, as well as they and their dad, were wearing. They were thrilled to be there and to see their heroes.

As the boys and dad were sitting on the grass along the base line, one of the little boys reached his hand through the fence to touch the bats and helmets that were awaiting the players. What a thrill. Upon completion of the warm up exercises that the players were going through, one player approached the fence to collect his equipment. The dad pointed and said, "look son, here is one of the baseball players."

Unfortunately, the player looked not at, but through, the dad and son. The player said not a word, picked up his equipment and walked to another practice field. The player did not acknowledge a young boy that wanted to have the attention of a baseball player. The player, as a minor leaguer, has the odds stacked against him that he will ever hear the crowd cheer at the major league stadium. But this young boy was prepared to cheer for the player. The young boy did not get to meet a hero. The young ball player did not get to experience hero worship that day. Everybody lost, and end of the story.

Even though we associate hero worship with sports or other people that appear in the news, hero worship can take place in almost any type of situation; even in a retail location. I had always thought it to be outside the norm, but in shopping with a friend in a mall recently, I heard the comment that she was disappointed that she had only purchased one pair of shoes at the sporting goods store. The reason for that statement was that the shoe salesman was so friendly and helpful. The friend stated that she almost felt obligated to make an additional purchase just to reward the salesman for his efforts.

Yankelovich Partners of New York released a survey that stated that only 25% of the consumers responded with a "very good" or "excellent" in regards to the retailers and the level of service that they provided. Even the post office, frequently the object of jokes about service, was able to receive a 37% rating for very good or excellent. Retailers did manage to beat out fast-food restaurants and auto sales.

The survey, and follow up article written by the New York Times, stated that the retail industry spent less time in training than any other major business sector. The average for our industry, is a total of seven hours of training for each new employee. This number was qualified as being formal hours of training.

Handing a new employee to one of the "old timers" and saying "follow him around, and he will show you the ropes" does not qualify. Obviously, this is not much of an opportunity for instilling our own version of corporate culture and allowing hero worship to exist in our businesses.

As we were discussing this idea with a retailer recently, she volunteered this experience from her store. In the early spring of last year, she had the need to use one of her high school students to work part time for only a couple of months as a cashier. This particular student, because of the duties that she previously had working in the store's warehouse, was not a participant in the bi-weekly training classes that this merchant held.

And, while this particular retailer is a hardware dealer as compared to being a Christian bookstore, the logic of her story remains the same for all merchants. During last spring, Florida was experiencing one of our outbreaks of a caterpillar infestation. The caterpillars numbered in the thousands in any yard. Restaurants with outdoor seating, temporarily went back to indoor seating only. The caterpillars were more of an annoyance than anything else as there were only a few plant leaves that the caterpillars were fond of eating.

The customers, wanting to get rid of them, flocked to the store to find a solution. There were several chemicals that would work to cut down on the number of caterpillars that one might see around their yard.

The student, in watching and listening to the other team members, had picked up on the tips that were given to the customers. She stated that she would be sad to see the caterpillars go away later in the spring because during the brief time that she was working on the sales floor, she had found an area where, with her limited product knowledge, customers were appreciative of her assistance.

She had always known her way around the store, but then so do many customers. And, she was a very polite, and efficient cashier. But now, she had a higher level of expertise, and her self-esteem level would rise.

When she would travel to a fast-food restaurant, she would undoubtedly see the level of incompetence, and make a comparison to her experiences in the hardware store. Getting yelled at by a customer who had asked for his burger to have no mustard would be quite a difference from having a customer say thanks to a high school student that stopped when she saw the customer wandering in the lawn and garden department. She solved a problem and was now a hero.

The basis for these stories is scriptural. In Matthew 20:26- 27, Jesus said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.

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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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