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Welcome to the August 2017 edition of ‘Terrific Tips’ delivered to your desktop free each month.

This month’s retail edition focusses on the importance of retailers phoning up past customers in a structured way. The article is included in full rather than having an introduction then a link to the full article. Why? Because typically less than one in five readers open the links and the guidance in this article is far too important to miss.

If you are a supplier of products or services to retailers, in shopping centre management or a franchisor, please stress to your retailers the importance of reading and acting on this information.  

A lesson in climbing to the top

While on holiday recently I read ‘Paths of Glory’ by Jeffrey Archer, not a book in his usual style. It is a ‘What if…’ story based on George Mallory a man who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mt Everest in the early 1920s. In fact, George Mallory may have been the first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest… many years before Edmund Hillary. 

Stories of alpha males completing epic feats don’t do much for me, even when well written. Reading the book though did prompt me to search out a far shorter Everest story from US sales trainer Jim Meisenheimer that has a valuable lesson for us all. Here it is: 

Seventeen years ago I did a sales training program in Colorado. The meeting was held about two hours north of Denver, in a lodge situated in Roosevelt National Park.

My client was Low Alpine, a manufacturer of outdoor gear. Specifically, they made the stuff that Mt. Everest climbers use to trek up that mountain. My two-hour presentation was scheduled right after lunch. The speaker, who preceded me before lunch, had a slide presentation showing his various attempts at climbing Mt Everest. As you might imagine it was a powerful and extremely insightful presentation about the skills and dangers of mountain climbing.

I was sitting on the edge of my chair during his entire presentation. There were 25 salespeople at this meeting. Their climbing gear was sold to retailers. So they knew all about the climbing business. They also knew, by reputation, many of the names the speaker referred to. He talked about the climbers who made it to the top and also talked about those that didn't survive the ordeal. 

Throughout his presentation everyone was glued to their seat with anticipation. Just before ending he asked the group a question: “There's a time when you're climbing, when you can almost feel depressed. You just feel so low and down. Do you know when that is?”

My imagination started to run wild, especially since the highest I ever climbed wasn't even climbing, it was an elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building. I thought surely the salespeople in the audience would know the answer to his question. 

They responded with things that I imagined; when you first begin the climb, when you only have 100 yards left, when you reach the top, and when you begin your descent. 

The speaker’s body language and facial expression gave it all away - no one was even close. I was surprised by his answer - maybe you will be too. He said, "Climbers get down when bad weather sets in."  

He went on to explain that when bad weather sets in you can't see the peak; you lose sight of your goal and become easily distracted and sometimes even depressed. You need a crystal clear picture of what the peak of your mountain looks like, in other words - clearly defined goals.

Isn’t that an amazing story, with such a valuable lesson? As Jim Meisenheimer goes on to say, “Being distracted isn’t your ticket to achieving your goals – being focused is.”

Key Learning Point: You don't have to climb Mount Everest to appreciate how important keeping your eyes focused on your goals is to achieving success in your business and in life.

In retail, then pick up the phone 

When did you last get a phone call from a retail store?  Was it in the last week?  In the last month?  Since the beginning of the year?

No, I didn’t think so. Yet, times are supposed to be tough.  So, why is it that less than one in a thousand people working in retail stores even think to phone up a past customer?

Now, for a retailer running an ‘everything under $10s’ shop it’s not going to be cost effective, but if the bulk of their stock sells for more than $50 why wouldn’t they and their team take it in turns to phone 5 customers?

“People don’t like getting cold calls”

“But, people don’t like getting cold calls”, we hear retail sales staff (and managers) say. This is not a cold call.  

The reason the store has their number is because they are a past customer. This makes it a warm call.  And you are not phoning up to sell to them – that’s right, the purpose of the call is to stimulate increased business but not by selling.  I will explain in a minute.  You are doing what all good friends do… keeping in touch.

What could you phone the customer about if it’s not to sell to them?

That’s a good question, and it’s one that should be discussed in a pre-work breakfast meeting at stores in every city and every small town.  The retail team should be able to come up with some reasons.  Here are two examples – 

  1. The guarantee on the customer’s ‘duvalakey’ runs out in less than 2 months.  The store phones to check that everything is OK and to remind the customer that in the unlikely event that they are having any problems, now is the time to act on their concerns. That will blow the customer’s mind! Which makes it a great opportunity to gather positive testimonials about the product and help make the store become their first choice for future purchases.

  2. To inform them that a great new cafe has just opened up three doors down from your store.  Suggest that if they are going to be in the area pop into the store, mention this phone call and they’ll receive a voucher for a complimentary coffee. “No, you don’t have to buy anything when you pop in. It’s just our way of introducing you to a new neighbour and thanking you for your past custom. Just pop in anytime between now and the end of the month.” Will they buy from this retailer when they pop in to get their coffee voucher? 9 out of 10 will, it’s the ‘Law of Reciprocity’ in action. Even if they don’t take up the opportunity, the fact that the retailer has made a ‘no strings attached’ offer will remind them of how smart they are to have chosen to shop there in the past.

This is a bit different to having another 20%, 30%, 50% off SALE like every other retailer in every other shopping strip and shopping centre in every other town. But it takes a bit of effort and it means doing something different from everyone else. Doing something different, that’s a novel idea, somebody ought to try it!

‘But what if I don’t have customer contact details?’ asks a retailer. Start collecting them NOW.  

In business today, as in yesteryear, it isn’t just what you know, it’s who you know. A data base is almost as important for retailers as it is for professional services and people in B2B. The difference is the retailer doing this will be one of the few using the information to keep in touch on a personal ‘me to you’ basis. 

Phone calls that show customers you care

As mentioned earlier, people don’t like sales calls, so retailers working the phones are best doing so as a way of showing customers that they care. This will be rewarded. Certainly, the phone can be used to invite customers to special events, new season product launches, advance notice of sales before the public. That will make them feel special.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of stores slashing their margins and selling at 50% off – to the customer that’s now the norm. There are very few stores taking the time and intentionally making the effort to make people feel special, that’s the exception!

Go on, dear retailer, get your team to work picking up the phone. If need be, get some prepaid cards for their mobiles and they can slip out the back when the store is quiet and make some calls.  

Get them to keep a list of who they’ve called, how often they left a clear positive message versus actually spoke to people – be prepared, have a script ready and get them to practice first so their message sounds natural. Also record the number of unanswered calls. That way you can crunch the numbers and assess what effect it has on store traffic and sales.

Make the most of every moment.

In your business who makes the rules and who are they designed to serve?

In your June Terrific Tips I concluded the It's alright it's only a customer article by highlighting the key lesson from this case study:

Develop your systems and procedures 
with the health and well-being of 
your customers uppermost in your mind.

Around the same time Melbourne small business marketing maestro, Winston Marsh in his newsletter included the excellent example below from the health sector. There are definite lessons in this, not just for health professionals, but for every service business. Over to Winston:

As old age slowly creeps up on me I’m finding more and more reasons to go and see medical people. 

Now, I’ve always had a beef with most of them because they're about the worst people at keeping appointments. They use the hoary old excuse that, since they never know when they going to have emergencies, they will unfortunately run late. 

Of course, when an emergency does arrive, the team members could ring people who are scheduled for appointments and let them know. But, because it's not customary to do so, it's rare when any medical receptionist provides that courtesy.

And, in the case of most medical practices, I believe that it's not the person who owns the business that runs the business. I think the actual medical people are so involved in doing what they do that they leave the running of the office to others. So, it’s those “others” who set the rules and they are generally designed to suit them rather than patients.

A case in point.

The other day, along with the other five or so other people, I had a procedure performed and was asked to attend for a check the next day at 8:30 AM.

To read more click on ‘Who makes the rules and who are they designed to serve?’ or go to Terrific Blogs.

“The Customer Experience Report is the biggest bonus”

It always fascinates me how the good operators are on a continuous path to improvement, and despite their extensive knowledge and skills are willing to learn from others.

A classic example of this is renowned central Australian wildlife and tourism identity – and professional snake catcher – Rex Niendorf of Alice Springs Reptile Centre. He has been working with Jan and myself since first engaging in our Alice Springs Business Development program for tourism operators in 2013.

Here’s what Rex has to say:

“The Terrific Tourism program has been great for my business… The workshops are great, but the biggest bonus is getting the Customer Experience Report that is part of the program. It’s more like a roadmap that lays out a pathway to follow. This makes it easy because the hard work is done. 

“We’ve been able to follow this step by step and used the independent in-depth report to help justify two successful grant applications that between them amounted to over $90,000. We’d have struggled to get these Grants without the Customer Experience Report.

“These 10 month Business Enterprise Centre Terrific Tourism programs are mandatory if you want to be a success. Why?

  1. Jurek and Jan have huge knowledge in understanding and influencing how customers of different types judge you.
  2. They know how to impart it in a meaningful way.
  3. They have a monstrous amount of experience from working with different but related businesses and the more they learned about businesses like mine, the more they were able to share.”

The Customer Experience Report Rex refers to is produced after conducting an on-site Customer Experience Audit. For a brief overview click on Customer Experience Audit.

Unhealthy Marketing

Twice a month I get a hurtful and offensive text from my local health shop. 

They tell me that I’m an idiot for shopping with them whenever there is something that I need from their vitamins and health food range, and I’m a mug for paying full price at their store. Instead apparently, I should only shop with them on the first Tuesday and third Saturday of each month.

Well, that’s not quite how they word it. Here’s what a typical text says:

“21% OFF Super Tuesday tomorrow at …”


“21% OFF Super Saturday…”

For a time-poor person like myself who prefers to shop when I need something and it’s convenient for me to pop in, each time I walk into their store I feel resentful. Why?

Because I know that if I’d organised to go on the first Tuesday or third Saturday of the month I’d be paying 21% less. 

Why do they have this stupid approach? Why do they punish shoppers who come throughout the month?

Because that’s what their competitors do and they claim they would lose too much business if they didn’t use an equally inane approach. No doubt they can point to the huge turnover they make on these two days each month but at what cost in terms of lost margins? And in lost customers during the other 28 days each month?

Is it surprising that many health food stores are struggling in spite of the growing interest in health and healthy eating?

Best video case studies

I recently made a wonderful discovery.

I’d received an email enquiry asking me to recommend any useful resources for local campaigns – particularly video based – to get business people and the community working together in small towns. 

My answer was Tom O’Toole’s Beechworth Bakery video case studies. Tom is always commenting that he has to get people to Beechworth before he can get a dollar out of them. His theme is businesses working together in the town so that they all make a dollar. 

I was going to recommend ‘The Making Dough With Tom O’Toole Masterclass’ DVD – 3 separate videos included in this package with the 18 minute ‘Making More Dough’ the best one to start with. Then I noticed on his website that this has now been reduced in price from $198 to $29.90

At that price I recommended she also invest in the ‘Drop Everything for the Customer’ DVD which has the same price reduction. While a few years older, this is my favourite because it goes into more behind the scenes detail about why they have achieved their ongoing success. I still use both DVDs at times in my workshops (in separate sessions) because there is nothing better available that is down-to-earth and easy to relate to.

Read the Sign

If you are going to have a sale always explain simply and clearly why you are doing so.

For example, Tom O’Toole could be saying that due to changing technology people have the chance to get the final copies of his DVD case studies at a bargain price… and have copyright permission to transfer them to their PC, laptop or tablet for training purposes.

Mr Toskana understands this approach to spelling out the reasons for discounting as you will see in this photo.

Winston’s wise words and more

Each edition of Winston Marsh’s twice monthly newsletter contains 3 or 4 insights such as the medical example earlier in this newsletter as well as tips for personal and small business marketing often shared with humour as in the next example on ‘Selling Benefits’.

Selling benefits

When you are in a selling situation you can talk all you like about features and advantages but, if you want to make the sale, sell the benefits. Winston Marsh uses this story to emphasise his point:

Ole, the smoothest-talking Norske (a person of Norwegian ancestry) in the Minnesota National Guard and a natural born salesman, got called up to active duty.

Ole’s first assignment was in a military induction centre. Because he was a good talker, they assigned him the duty of advising new recruits about government benefits, especially the GI life insurance, to which they were entitled.

The officer in charge soon noticed that Ole was getting a 99% sign-up rate for the more expensive supplemental form of GI insurance. This was remarkable, because it cost these low-income recruits $30 per month for the higher coverage, compared to what the government was already providing at no charge.

The officer decided he’d sit in the back of the room at the next briefing and observe Ole’s sales pitch. Ole stood up before the latest group of inductees and said… 

“If you haf da normal GI insurans an’ yoo go to Afghanistan an’ get yourself killed, da governmen’ pays yer beneficiary $20,000. If yoo take out da supplemental insurans, vich cost you only t’irty dollars a month, den da governmen’ got ta pay yer beneficiary $200,000!”

Then, Ole concluded… “Vich bunch you tink dey gonna send ta Afghanistan first?”

Remember… always sell the benefits or as Winston would say, answer their WIIFM question – ‘What’s in it for me?’

With thanks 

The best images in this newsletter are courtesy of Shutterstock.

Terrific quotes

"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I do not know." W. H. Auden

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” Yogi Berra

Overheard: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”


Thank you

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