Are You Ready?

Sales is a profession.  Like medicine or law, it’s part art and part science, but it’s a  profession that requires training and experience to do it well.  There’s a misconception that anyone can sell, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

If you’re not doing everything you can to sharpen your selling skills, you’re selling your self short (pun intended).  There is more sales training information available than ever before on the Internet.  Much of it is free.  Every sales person should be spending at least an hour per day listening to sales or motivational speakers.  Best time?  How about while you’re in the car.  You may love country music; or maybe talk radio but, trust me,  Toby Keith and Rush Limbaugh aren’t going to help you make that next sale.

Doctors and lawyers have shelves full of medical books and law books.  What does your sales library look like? 

What about practice?  Do you ever role play in the store?  Albert Pujols is arguably the best hitter in baseball.  He’s also the first one to show up for batting practice and the last one to leave.  The best golfers spend hours at the driving range. In the music field, the best musicians are the ones who practice the most.   Can you afford to do any less?

When there are no customers around,are you and your staff practicing your selling skills, or are talking about politics?  Guess which one’s going to make you more money.

There are three ways to increase your sales:

1.  Talk to more people.

2.  Increase your closing ratio.

3.  Increase the size of your average sale.

 

It sounds simple and it really is.  All you have to do is constantly grow your sales knowledge and practice, practice, practice.

Confused Consumers

Pity the poor consumer.  Chances are she’s part of a two-income family.  The mortgage is getting paid.  The credit card bills are getting paid.  There’s money left at the end of most months.  Every day she gets offers for new credit cards and mortgage refinancing in the mail.  She and her family are better off than they’ve ever been before.

Then she sits down in front of the TV and sees on the news that the economy is in the toilet.  Unemployment is high.  Housing sales are down.  Detroit is struggling to compete with Tokyo.  And then there are the gas prices.  $3.79 per gallon with predictions of $5.00 and even $10.00 being thrown around.  People can’t afford to make their house payments.

Over the weekend I was talking to someone who said that we’re in a "depression"!  Of course, this same person is leaving Friday to spend a week in a Gulf Coast condo.  Not exactly the classic definition of depression.

So, what’s up with the economy? Are we in a recession, a depression, or what?   According to the government, the definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters with no economic growth.  So far, we haven’t even had one quarter of no growth.  It’s small growth, but it’s still growth. 

Granted, there are issues that we have to deal with, but for the huge majority of consumers, it’s business as usual.  Here are some facts to consider.

  • The unemployment rate for April, 2008 was 5.0%.  (Source US Bureau of Labor Statistics)  That means that 95 out of every 100 Americans have a job.
  • From 1976 to 1981, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States jumped from 60 cents to $1.35, an increase of almost 60%.  Adjusted for inflation, that $1.35 price is equivalent to $3.17. (Inflation Data.com) Granted $3.17 is still less than $3.79, but there are more than thirty American cars that get 30 mpg or more.
  • There were more than 1/2 million new homes sold in March.  Sales may be slow, but they’re not nonexistent.  It’s like anything else.  Home prices are down.  Mortgage rates are down. Good real estate sales people are selling houses.  Agents who don’t want to go the extra mile aren’t. 
  • Mortgage defaults are big news but the reality, while serious, isn’t as bad as the media would have you believe.  Depending on the part of the country, as many as 20% of those defaulting on mortgages are speculators, not resident home owners.  (Mortgage Bankers’ Association) The vast majority of home owners are having no problem making their house payments.  Many of those having problems are getting the help they need.  Banks are in the money business, not the home owning business.  They will bend over backwards to keep a loan from going into default.

You catch big fish by fishing in deep water.  Don’t let the evening news set your sales strategy.  Don’t let the nay-sayers have their way.  There’s a deep pool of big fish out there, just waiting for you to cast your line.  If they’re coming into your store, there’s an excellent chance that they have money to spend.

A New Feature

We’ve added a new feature to Mine Your Own Business to help you bookmark and share your favorite posts.  It’s the little button in the right-hand column that looks like this: Add_this_icon

Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you read something you really like.  C’mon.  It happens, doesn’t it?  Anyway, you see something you like and you’d like to add it to your Del.icio.us bookmarks.  First, click on the heading of the post so you’re taken to a page that has just that post on it.  Pass your mouse pointer over the button and a drop down list appears.

Add_this_dropdown
In this case, click on the Del.icio.us icon and there you are, right at the Del.icio.us box.  Add some tags and you’re done.

If you don’t see your favorite sharing site in the drop down list, click on the word "More" at the bottom right of the box and you’ll be shown a more comprehensive list.

There are also some sharing/bookmarking options at the bottom of each post.
Share_links

In addition to the most common sharing sites, you also have the option to email the post to someone else, or to subscribe to MYOB updates via email.

So, why do I want to do this?  By bookmarking your favorite pages, you can come back to them later without having to store them on your own computer.  Services like del.icio.us, Google Bookmarks, Yahoo Bookmarks, and the others let you add tags to your bookmarked sites.  For example, earlier today we posted an item on branding.  If you’re particularly interested in branding and saved everything you find interesting with that tag,  later on you could come back and click on "branding" and see all the articles and pages you have bookmarked with that tag.  Not only that, you can find all the pages everyone else has saved with that same tag.  Very handy.

Another benefit is that you can help spread the word about your favorite blog by sharing it through the various bookmarking sites.  Remember I said that you could see all the sites that other users have bookmarked?  Well, others can also see what you’ve bookmarked and the more links there are to MYOB, the more people are likely to see our blog.  Just think how good that’s going to make you feel.  But remember, to be effective, you should first click on the post heading

If you use one of the social media sites like Facebook or Myspace, you can add an article to your profile with one click, sharing it with the people you’re connected to.

What Does Your Brand Mean?

Here’s a very interesting web site courtesy of Seth’s Blog.   It’s called Brand Tags.  Here’s how it works.  You log onto the site and it flashes the logo of a famous company.  You respond by typing your one-word response to the brand.  Then you can view a tag cloud of other people’s responses. [Be aware that some brands have elicited some rather vulgar responses].

Then you’re given another brand and you repeat the process. 

It’s really just a fun exercise, but there is a practical application.  There are some very negative responses to some brands.  As you’re looking at the responses, ask yourself how people would respond if your brand were to appear on the list.  What pops into people’s minds when they see or hear your brand?  Make no mistake, they think something.  Are they thinking what you want them to think or are they thinking something entirely different?  How do you know?  You’d better know because that first thought has a lot to do with whether they’re going to shop in your store, or not. 

As Seth points out, no matter how small your business is, there’s no reason why you can’t build a local brand, "a brand that’s magical for a smaller group of people."

Mom

Sunday is Mothers’ Day, the day we set aside to give mothers a small portion of the credit they deserve.  When a child is born we call it "giving birth".  That’s what moms do.  They give us the greatest possible gift, the gift of birth.  Then they take care of us for the rest of our lives, no matter how old we (and she) get.

So, take some time this Sunday to let your mom know how much you appreciate all that she’s done for you.  For some of us, someone other than our biological mother has filled in.  Be sure to thank those people too.  And if you’re someone’s mom, all of us at Tacony Corporation wish you the best, happiest Mothers’ Day ever.

Rose

We’re All on the Same Team!

Doug Fleener, he of the Retail Contrarian blog and The Daily Retail Experience newsletter has been attending a conference in Phoenix.  The purpose of the conference was for retailers and vendors to get together and talk to each other, something that we probably don’t do often enough.

Doug writes: 

"* Communication, communication, communication.  Over and over I heard vendors tell retailers that they want to work with them.  Vendors know they can only succeed if their retailers succeed.  So why is it that sometimes we act like we’re not on the same team? We retailers need to partner with vendors on ordering, sell through, and events.  I think there are times we retailers don’t ask enough of our vendors.  And I’m not talking about discounts, dating, or free shipping, I’m talking about asking them for honest opinions and feedback on what we’re doing well and not doing well."

I consider myself the retailer’s advocate, but I do work for a vendor and I can assure you that Tacony Corporation along with the huge majority of vendors want to work with our retailers.  We’re on the same team.

Some retailers (and, sadly some vendors) believe that there’s a pile of money that represents the difference between the cost to manufacture an item and the price the consumer pays; and that the size of that pile of money is fixed.  They view the relationship between vendors and retailers as a tug-of-war.  We’re all fighting for the same dollars.

Tug_o_war

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Vendors need retailers.  Retailers need vendors.  If we work together, we’ll all make more money.  If there’s an enemy, it’s the competition.  Instead of fighting over our pile of money, we should all be trying to get some of their pile. 

Here’s a good example.  At a meeting this morning, Ken Tacony read us a letter from a dealer.  Since I don’t have permission to use his name, I’ll just give you an outline of what he said.

Two years ago one of our sales professionals convinced him to take on our Simplicity line of vacuums.  In just two years, his business has tripled.  He’s reinvested the profit from the Simplicity vacs in his business and has changed the course of his business and his life. 

Did we make money on the deal?  Of course we did.  Was it a win-win?  You’d better believe it.  Did this dealer make money buying our vacs?  No.  He made money selling our vacs–and we helped him with training, marketing materials, and other tools.  That’s what a good vendor does.

As Doug points out, retailers often don’t ask for help.  Or they view vendors offers of help with suspicion.  After many years of selling, I can back him up.  I can’t tell you the amount of advertising and promotional funds I’ve seen go unused; the number of point-of-sale materials I’ve found collecting dust in back rooms; the non-functional displays I’ve repaired or replaced.

Right now you and your customers are being bombarded with negative news.  Gas prices are up.  Housing sales are down.  We’re turning food into fuel and now there’s not enough to eat.  The sky is falling!  Run for your life!

But, unless there’s an oil deposit under your store, you’re going to have to keep doing what you’re doing, only better.  And the best place to find out how to do it better, and to get help doing it,  is from your vendor partners.

But it’s not a one-way street.  Vendors need your help, too.  If you see a better way to do something, let us know.  If you see a way to make a product better, let us know.  (See No More Lost Straws!)  If a competitor is doing something better than we are, let us know.

If we all work together, we’ll all come out ahead.

If you have something you’d like to share, comment below.

That Mall’s History

Here’s are two interesting web sites for you history buffs and curiosity seekers.  The first is called DeadMalls.comDeadMalls features the history of shopping malls that have seen better days.  Chances are that if you lived in a larger city, you have fond memories of the shopping center where you hung out as a kid.  But, changing times and trends have made it obsolete and it may be on its last legs, or gone entirely.

While you’re at DeadMalls, be sure and check out their "Links" page.  They connect to come cool sites including one on grocery stores and several Howard Johnson’s tribute sites.

The other site you might be interested in is similar.  It’s called Labelscar.com, another shopping center history site.  (A labelscar is the still-visible outline of the letters when a name is removed from a building.  The site compares it to the white non-tanned skin that you see when you remove your watch.  Like DeadMalls, Labelscar has a state-by-state index and some interesting links.

River_roads

Getting Away

This past weekend, I went on a retreat.  It ran from Friday evening until noon Sunday, just 40 hours.  But there was no computer, no internet, no television (we did cheat and watch a little of the Cardinals and the Cubs Friday night, but that was all, really) and no newspaper.  I highly recommend it.

We all need a little time to get away once-in-a-while.  And by get away, I mean physically get away.  If you’re going to relax and recharge your batteries, you have to avoid distractions and that means going to a location where the very things that distract and cause stress aren’t going to find you. 

For your own sanity, pick a place and a date and put them on your calendar, in ink, not in pencil!  If you can commit to a convention, a meeting, or a trade show, you can commit to something that’s good for your health, both physical and mental.  Your personal retreat, whether it’s an organized event like mine was, or just you and your spouse spending the weekend at a bed and breakfast, must be an appointment that you can’t break.

Depending on your stress level, you should do this at least twice a year.  You’re blood pressure will be lower.  Your stress level will be lower.  And your business will benefit.  As they say on the infomercials, "So you don’t forget, do it today." Circle the dates on your calendar before you go home tonight.

Tacony Puts on a Show

Here at MYOB, we’re always looking for good examples to pass along to our readers.  Here’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while and I didn’t even have to leave the building to see it first hand.

According to their web site, "The American Sewing Guild is a national non-profit organization dedicated to people who believe sewing is a rewarding and creative activity."  They recently held their regional meeting in St. Charles, MO, a community located just west of St. Louis. 

One of the events the ASG members enjoyed was a visit to the Corporate Headquarters of Tacony Corporation.  Our sewing divisions, particularly Baby Lock, really pulled out all the stops to make the visitors welcome.  As Julia writes on the "J.Sews" blog, we seem to have made a good impression.  She writes, "I was astonished at the resources the Tacony people put into the tour."

Asg_welcome
 

[Ken Tacony, CEO of Tacony Corporation, welcomes American Sewing Guild members to the Corporate Center (Click to enlarge)]

So why spend so much time and money to impress a handful of consumers?  For one thing, these are people who use our products.  The fact that they belong to a national sewing organization and spend their time and money to go to a regional sewing event is a strong indication that they don’t mind spending money on their hobby which also happens to be our business.

But, more important, they’re influential consumers.  Other sewers listen to what they have to say as evidenced by Julia’s blog.  I promise you that when they got home they told their friends about Tacony Corporation and Baby Lock.

You may remember a while back we posted the story of Universal Studios and the way they promoted their new Harry Potter section to just seven people. (Tell Seven People)  Rather than promote the new experience with a high-dollar ad campaign, they contacted the seven people they thought were the most influential Harry Potter fans.  The low-cost campaign eventually resulted in 350 million impressions.

Here’s the thing:  You have influential customers, people who are respected in the community, whether the community is defined by geography, profession, hobby, or any number of other things.  You should cultivate those customers who are members of YOUR community, the community who buys your product.  Make a good impression on them, you make a good impression on the community.

But (and this is critical) you can’t fake it.  If you don’t truly appreciate the people you’re trying to influence, you’ll be spotted as a phony so fast it will make your head spin.  At Tacony, we understand that people who sew are critical to our business, as are the people who buy our other products.  What’s good for the industry is good for us.

If we had just put out a bunch of samples and handed out some free stuff, we wouldn’t have fooled our ASG visitors.  I watched our people getting ready and you could see how excited they were to show our sewing friends all the things they could do with our products.  It was a labor of love.

How can you put this concept to use for you?  Use your imagination.  Have a cocktail party for your best customers to introduce them to new items.  Offer some exclusive information, maybe a class or seminar, just to your key customers.  There are a lot of things you can do.  While it’s ok to have merchandise available for sale, this shouldn’t be a selling event.  Your goal is to make an impression, not to make a sale.  Just be ready to take their money if they insist.

If you have any other ideas, please share them with us.

As Julia said at the conclusion of her post, "I hope the total good will and eventual sales turn out to make this effort worth their while — we sure appreciated all the work they did for us!"

Julia, we appreciate everything you and your sewing friends do for us!

How to Dial a Phone

This has nothing to do with business, but I had to pass it along.  We’ve come a long way in a short time.

On the other hand, those old Western Electric phones would have survived a nuclear blast and kept on working.  Maybe we haven’t come so far after all.