Motivate staff to improve sales
Donna Myers -- Casual Living, March 1, 2009
Bad news blaring at us in all directions today makes it an especially discouraging time to be in sales.
Retailers are faced with less customer traffic, more price resistance, difficulty making once-assured add-on sales or stepping customers up a level. Finally, they face the challenge of even interested customers deciding they just can’t buy right now after all. It’s no wonder that a primary job of owners and managers has become cheerleading to keep their sales force motivated, whether they’re talking to three people or 15.
Make downtime productive
Nothing makes the day go slower than having employees sitting around waiting for an occasional customer to walk through the door. Finding productive ways to improve individual selling skills will benefit your business both now and when the selling climate turns around.
When you have multiple salespeople and you’re selling many different products, it’s tough for everyone to thoroughly know all the products. Assign each person one line of grills that they need to learn “inside out and backward” and let them become trainers for their colleagues. Once a week hold a training session on a single brand and let your staff “expert” do a comprehensive sales pitch to familiarize co-workers with all the benefits and competitive advantages of the line. Within a few weeks, the staff should be up to speed on all the products you offer and as a bonus each person should have improved his or her presentation skills.
Get on loyalty bandwagon
Finding ways to improve sales will foster more positive staff attitudes.
Supermarkets, card shops, hair and nail salons and even hotels and airlines have found current customers are their best, most profitable prospects so they reward frequency of visits. Have you thought about trying this for your store? Anything you do to get a customer back into the store is likely to generate some type of sale, thus you need to give them an excuse for repeat visits. Earn “one free” with a specific number of sales can ensure that consumables like charcoal, wood chunks and chips or propane tank refills or exchanges will always be purchased at your store instead of the supermarket, gas station or your competitors. There’s a good chance from fulfilling these needs another impulse sale will result.
To encourage purchases of accessories, cookbooks or seasonings, feature a specific item each week and provide proof of purchase, such as a punch card. With a specific number of purchases, offer a reward which could be a free product or a chance to be entered in a sweepstakes for a new tailgating grill or other popular item. Or along the same line, you could reward dollar purchases with a gift certificate toward a major purchase after sufficient dollars are spent. (Think of the free turkey supermarkets give with the purchase of $400 worth of groceries at Thanksgiving time.)
Another approach to rewarding frequent purchases is to work with local clubs or organizations as primary grill selling season approaches. Support their fund-raising efforts by letting them earn credits or dollars for their group via purchases made at your store. A church group or civic organization might like to earn a new grill to use for their own barbecues as a result of purchases members would make anyway. Others might prefer to earn dollars for the group’s treasury, with the amounts based on specific price points of the purchase.
Keep customer information
Warranty cards with valuable customer information are returned to manufacturers. How many actually mine that information to learn more about their customers? It could be especially beneficial for smaller companies that spend less on market research.
As a retailer, why not track your customers with your own data gathering? Keep computer records of major customer purchases and market regularly to those customers. For someone who just bought a new gas grill, determine if they have or are contemplating an outdoor room and periodically call them or send them an e-mail about an exciting new product you are carrying that would enhance their backyard. Suggest a fire pit to make early and late season barbecuing and entertaining more comfortable. Let them know when you are having a good sale or will be demonstrating a product they might like to see in action. Plan a series of barbecue classes and promote attendance via e-mails or phone calls to good customers, in addition to promoting the classes in your ads and in-store.
Morale building is vital
Slow sales are bound to lead to the need for some morale building. Besides finding ways to improve customer traffic, this is a good time to remind your sales staff you value them. Since employees are less busy, consider giving everyone their birthday off with pay this year. Or alternately everyone gets one half-day a month off during the summer. Cost to you will be minimal but it is sure to build tremendous goodwill by showing people you appreciate their efforts during this difficult economy.
Or occasionally, like the auto companies, offer employees a spin on a premium product such as an expensive stainless steel grill. This increased commission for a specific period of time will help sell a significant number of them while encouraging sales people who can increase their income.
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