Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Making the Pass

Learning how to involve a staff in
waiting on customers

Three friends, Walt, Richard and Len, recently ran into one another in a restaurant. Walt asked why none of the three was seeing the others in the store where they had initially met. A quick check among the three found that none shopped in the store any more. This prompted
a discussion as to why that had happened.

Quickly, they determined that the owner of the store, who had always made a point to wait on the three, was rarely seen on the sales floor any more. He had been one of those owners who made a point to know customers by their first name. There was often a handshake or pat on the back to go with the hello. It was one of those competitive edges a small business can have.

The business had grown, and the owner opened a second and third location. The owner, who had pampered customers so much, was pulled away from this enjoyable task by his expanded duties. Sure, there were other people working in the store. But who takes the time to notice the other salespeople when someone is taking such good care of you?

All of this brings us to the title of this column: "Making the Pass." There is a strong need for business owners and managers to learn how to successfully make a pass in their businesses.

While some need to be able to "make a pass" so they can expand their businesses to other locations, there are many more who need to be able to make a pass so they can complete their duties as owners and managers. We often hear how little time an owner or manager has to complete his management duties, to look at ways to increase sales, or find ways of reducing costs. This is what happens when the day-to-day aspect of running the business devours the work day.

Let's take a look at how you can become a successful "passer." Almost every store manager or owner enjoys the opportunity of visiting with customers. It is an integral part of what makes a business different from the competition; and with many businesses, the owner or manager is the best salesperson in the building.

However, the owner or manager is probably also the best at several other tasks-planning, merchandising, scheduling, and buying. While giving quality customer service is the backbone of a successful business, the other tasks are the internal organs of that same business, and no business can exist without either one.

Completing the task begins by having an owner or manager who develops a quality sales staff. The only way to do this is through an education program for your staff. If you say you don't have time for one, then you are sure to see yourself in a situation similar to a hamster on the exercise wheel in a cage: you go faster and faster but are going nowhere.

By having an education program, you start people on the road to becoming quality salespeople. When you begin building quality salespeople, you often find yourself hiring one or two who bring some terrific skills into your business.

Imagine what would have happened if Walt had walked into the business one day, asked the owner a question, and the owner suggested that another staff member be asked for his input. Walt likely would have asked why.

The answer would have been, "Sam just came back from an all-day school on these products, and I am sure he has heard some things I haven't."

With that, the owner or manager has introduced Sam to Walt and suggests Walt ask his question of Sam. Within a few moments, Walt is developing a level of comfort with Sam.

Of course, the good owner or manager will prompt Sam to follow up with a telephone call to Walt in a few days. More important, he is cultivating a relationship between Walt and Sam that is similar to the one the owner or manager has had with Walt; and the next time Walt comes into the store, the owner or manager will probably ask Walt if Sam took care of everything for him.

The key here is for the owner or manager to recognize that he cannot have all the answers to all of the questions a customer might ask. If he does, he will be relegated to one-and only one-job: always waiting on customers. This situation is much like the football team that does not ever pass but runs the ball on every play. With this type of strategy, the team is sure to lose.

One definition of a best manager is a person who recognizes that each and every person working in the business can do something better than he himself. That best manager's job is to find what that skill is and to put it to use somewhere in the business.

So, owner or manager-the ball is in your hands. What are you going to do with it?

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179