Are these common excuses getting in the way of your success?
We all do it… make excuses for why something went wrong, or didn’t happen. It’s part of human nature. But, when the excuses take over real progress in your business and you stop looking at the true realities going on around you, then that is a serious problem.
Here are some of the most common excuses retailers are using today. To get the true effect for each excuse, pinch your nose to get your most whiney voice, and then say each excuse out loud. When you hear yourself saying the excuse, you will realize how pathetic it is.
Is your whining and excuses getting in the way of your business’ success?
No one is shopping for furniture!
One of the things I hear as I meet with home furnishings retailers around the country is, “No one is shopping for furniture!” to which I answer, “Well, that is just not true!” People want and are buying new furniture. However, the consumer has changed and if you want to get your share of the market you will also need to change.
First, look at some of the latest industry research. The numbers tell the story. America’s Research Group interviews 5,000-8,000 consumers across the country each month and consistently reports, “In a typical month, 80 percent of the consumers interviewed can name a specific furniture item they intend to buy.”
Now let’s look at a recent March 14, 2012 article in Bloomberg titled, Jobs Recovery Revives U.S. Furniture Sales as Home Market Heals! This article, by Anna-Louise Jackson and Anthony Feld, went on to say that more Americans are stretching out on new sofas as they settle into recently purchased homes, amid an improving outlook for employment.
Ken Smith, managing partner of accounting firm SmithLeonard PLLC is quoted in the Bloomberg article saying, “Demand ‘appears to be rebounding’ as Americans regain confidence in the economy. If consumers are more comfortable with their job security, it makes them a little more willing to spend.”
In fact, furniture sales grew 8.3 percent in February from a year earlier, following the largest increase since July 2000 in January, according to Census Bureau data.
Data from the National Association of REALTORS says existing single-family homes sold at an annual rate of 4.1 million in January, the most in almost two years.
On March 9 the Bureau of Labor Statistics said, “The unemployment rate held at 8.3 percent in February, a three-year low, while the economy added 227,000 jobs, the third consecutive month of gains more than 200,000.”
Our advertising agency, which works with furniture retailers across the country, has continued to see growing sales in every market from metro to rural. So, if you’re using the “no one is shopping for furniture” excuse, you need to examine your business practices more closely.
- Has your brand message clearly communicated a distinct difference between you and the competition?
- Have you really given consumers a reason to shop your store?
- Are you monitoring your sales by zip code, by product category and by promotional event to hold your advertising and merchandising accountable?
Since it is clear that people are buying furniture, and stores across the country are growing, the question you should be asking is, “Why am I not getting my share?” Once you answer that question, you will be empowered to build a strategic plan to grow your company.
—Doug Knorr, President, Knorr Marketing , firstname.lastname@example.org
I just don’t understand social media!
I’ve had the opportunity to speak about social media marketing to thousands of independent retailers across the country over the past few years. The biggest excuse I hear as to why retailers don’t use social media to market their stores (next to not having enough time) is, “I just don’t understand it!” Some might argue that this statement is not an excuse but rather a fact; however, I consider it an excuse based on the context it’s used in. Retailers say, “I don’t understand it,” “I don’t care” and, my favorite, “I’m a dinosaur, I just don’t get it!” But the root of those statements is that they don’t want to learn it, which becomes one of the most common excuses I hear.
Most retailers I talk to are very fearful of social media sites both personally and professionally. There’s always fear of the unknown and these retailers typically didn’t grow up with this technology. It is a completely new space for them. In the beginning, like most businesses I’ve worked with, there needs to be some hand-holding, but comfort comes with doing and one of the best things retailers can do to become familiar and comfortable with these tools is to simply use them.
In January we had a retailer panel at AmericasMart where three successful retailers shared how they market their stores, and what kind of response they’ve had from their tactics. Everyone on the panel was using Facebook. A retailer in the audience said, “I just don’t understand it,” and the retailers on the panel went crazy saying, “I didn’t know it either, but I just starting using it, and it became SO easy!”
The woman in the audience then said, “Well once you understand how to use it, then you’re spending tons of time on it every day. I don’t have that kind of time.” The panel went crazy again saying, “I don’t spend more than 5 minutes a day” and, “You’d be shocked, it really doesn’t take that much time, I promise!” They saw that retailers like them were easily using it, seeing a response, and were only using it 5 minutes a day!
Like I said before, the first step is to get over your fear or excuses and, in the words of Nike, just do it! It’s important to know what your goals are when using these sites—are they to announce new products when they arrive in your store, enhance customer service, create a platform for conversation, stay in touch daily, an outlet to promote events, sales and exclusive offers, a research tool to find out what your customers are buying or maybe a combination of it all? Once you know how you’re going to use these tools to market then you have a better idea of what to post and how often.
If you’re new to social media marketing and just don’t get it, I suggest attending a few online webinars or local seminars to learn how to effectively use these tools. If you attend any of the gift/home/furniture markets, most of them now offer educational breakouts with great speakers and great content. If you take the time to learn in the beginning to understand these social sites, you’ll save a lot of time in the future.
A few additional resources I would suggest to help you learn more about using social media to market is SnaptasticBlog.com, SocialMediaExaminer.com, and WhizBangTraining.com.
—Crystal Vilkaitis, Director of Social Media, SnapRetail, Crystal.Vilkaitis@snapretail.com
All the shoppers in my store are “just looking”!
“Just looking” is by far and away the dominant reason customers give to their salespeople when not buying. “Just looking” is a greeting problem that ultimately affects the closing ratio. Too many salespeople give up at the start when they hear these ubiquitous words. Another problem is the sales team is inadequately trained in developing rapport and asking the most effective questions to customers as they enter a store. It is a crime in this day and age to ever hear, “May I help you?” Still, I encounter it when I am doing research or visiting home furnishings stores in my travels across North America.
Why do we, ourselves and our customers, even use this excuse in this day of instant gratification and mobile research? Some customers do not want to be hounded by aggressive salespeople; others are simply shy and reluctant. Some customers are very confident and know exactly what they want and do not believe that the salesperson can solve their problem. Still, others behave as if it’s some kind of high school romance and play “hard to get”. Ironically, research shows that only a very small percentage of customers are really “just looking”. Research shows that the vast majority of customers, 79 percent, entering your store anticipate buying. Sales teams flip the numbers around by reporting 95 percent of customers are “just looking”. Furthermore there is the smartphone customer that waves at us while talking on their cell phone when entering your store. Regardless of the customer’s motivation for using this delaying, or avoiding, tactic we have to be prepared.
First of all, remember with confidence that this is your store, and we are here to serve the customer even when they can appear to be rude. Be prepared. Have all your sales tools with you and be expectant and enthusiastic. By that, I mean expect the customer to like you. Too many salespeople prejudge their customer’s incorrectly. Prejudge that they are going to buy from you and that they have the wherewithal. Anything less than this prejudgment will trip you up when the customer says, “just looking”. Next have a plan of what you want to accomplish during the greeting phase. At minimum you want to build rapport, get the customer into a ‘yes’ mood, acquire their name and find out the key item or room they are shopping for. The more ‘yes’ answers you get, the more likely it is that they are going to buy. That is why saying, “May I help you”, while well-meaning, is unacceptable! The answer is going to be ‘no’ almost every time.
The most effective greeting question you can ask is, “Would you like to look around?” Ask this question immediately after you make eye contact and say hello. Do it with warmth and enthusiasm. If your customer heard you, they will say ‘yes’. The question is effective on two fronts: It gets them in a yes mood and allows them to drop their defensiveness. If they didn’t hear you they may still say “just looking”. If this occurs the responsibility is still yours to do better the next time. Assuming they answer with a ‘yes’, immediately offer your customer a choice of two general departments in your store as in “Are you interested in furniture or appliances?” Use a descending couple of choice questions until the customer chooses an item or area of your store. Next, introduce yourself and ask for their name. Once you have their name you can then proceed to lead them to the area. Your goal is to stay with your customer and move onto the qualifying process. If your customer says ‘no’ to “Would you like to look around?” it is still a ‘yes’ to buying and that’s ultimately what we want.
—Philip Gutsell, Owner, GutSELL & Associates, email@example.com
Consumers aren’t spending because of the economy!
Welcome to the new economy. Employment rates are slowly rebounding, with more than 1.2 million net new jobs added over the past 6 months. This still is nowhere near the number of jobs lost during the Great Recession, but it is a sign of improvement.
As the economy continues to improve, customers are going to be cautious on spending their money. While March saw a small dip in the Consumer Confidence Index over February, overall confidence is on a gradual upward climb with the Index at 70.2. The Consumer Confidence Index in March 2011 was at 63.8. Even with the Index climbing, the Great Recession was an eye-opener for many, and consumers are now taking more time to make larger purchases—but they are still shopping.
Apple’s iPad 3 sales skyrocketed past 3 million iPads—in only four days. With prices starting at $499, that is a good chunk of change from many customers’ pocketbooks. And how many of you have sofas starting at $499? Wouldn’t you love to sell 3 million in four days?
Consumers are spending money, but they are deciding who they want to spend it with. Having a distinct identity, products your customers love and a memorable experience will get the people into your store—despite what the economic forecasts say.
—Melissa Dressler, Editor, RetailerNOW, Melissa@retailerNOWmag.com
I don’t know! I need more information!
The biggest excuse I hear from retailers is that they do not have all the information they need to make the best decisions. Regardless of what system they may be on: Storis, Myriad, FurnServe, PROFITsystems, FROG, Red Prairie… Most retailers do not utilize their systems to the best of their potential. Information is power, and poor information costs retailers thousands in lost sales, higher inventory levels and higher payroll expense. Many retailers owe their success to employing a few “superstars” in their organization. These folks make the things happen everyday to keep the company running. Sadly, their efforts are often based on missing or incomplete information.
Who should be your superstar? Your system. Why do you never see a McDonalds going out of business? Systems and procedures! A store with great systems can be very productive and profitable with a group of average employees. Now when you team up superstar employees with a superstar system, you really can see just how profitable your store can be!
What can you do to turn your systems and procedures into your superstar?
Take a very close look at all the options on your computer system. How many of the programs at your disposal do you use on a daily basis? Perhaps you tried to use a program in the past and it did not work. I am amazed how many retailers will just stop trying and come up with other methods of managing their business “outside” the system. Spreadsheets and ledger books offer a quick fix to a problem, but they are not integrated with the core system. Look at any procedure that has been created outside your computer system and find a way to get the same results from within the system.
Attend user conferences. Most computer companies host an annual conference for their clients. This is a great way to learn how to fully utilize your system and meet and interact with other retailers. Often, the best answers to your problems come from fellow retailers who have taken the time to find the solutions in their software and are happy to share their methods with you.
Utilize your data options. Some software offers data download options, others offer ODBC (open database connectivity). With these tools, you can customize the presentation of information to suit your specific needs.
Spend time at the RRC (Retailer Resource Center) in High Point and Las Vegas. If your computer provider shows there, visit them and bring them your problems and issues. They are happy to sit and talk with you and can demonstrate their latest software enhancements and tools.
—John McCloskey, President, Profitability Consulting Group, JMC@profitabilityconsultimg.com