I received a postcard from my local Infinity dealer. The card offered a set of cut crystal and a chance to win a new Infinity if I stopped in during their Grand Opening Sale. It appeared that somebody took some time to plan a classy sales event. Like you though, I generally toss this type of solicitation instantly. But for some reason I kept the card and visited the dealership.
The morning I visited the dealer, there was not a sales person to be found. Was I surprised; my expectation was to be met with open arms by a sales person expanding the virtues of the new Q45. I was wrong. Not a sales person to be found so I walked toward the back to a receptionist. Abruptly, she took my postcard and paged a parts clerk to get for me the box containing my gift. In the box were two cut crystal “bird bath” champagne glasses. That was it! What a colossal disappointment. This was not even close to world-class service. What a waist of money and energy for the dealer!
They invited me to visit their grand opening “sales party.” When I arrived, they could have cared less that I came. Was it because I drove up in a Saab? Was it because they were busy? Who knows the source of their apathy? One thing for sure, they lost the opportunity to influence me to consider Infinity. They lost a potential sale! Why in the world invite potential buyers to a sales event and not even ask them to look at your wares? Am I crazy to expect that they might offer to me the chance to purchase a world-class luxury car? Have you ever been guilty of the same sin? Have you ever invited customers to visit your business and not been ready?
The best advertising campaign in the world will quickly be assassinated by employee lack of interest. The next time you have a special sales event, see to it that your employees’ “desire to serve” is quite high. No matter how much money you spend inviting your customers to your “party,” your employees can as easily send them home with bad feelings about your place of business and quite disgruntled. I doubt that I will ever visit my local Infinity dealer again, why in the world should I?
Let’s explore some ideas to counter the lost opportunity scenario in your business:
- Explain the big picture to ALL your employees. Tell them how they will influence the results and how the results will influence their employment and income status.
- Allow your team to have an ownership rather than just a buy-in on the event. This is achieved by letting them have some say about how the event will be handled. Your staff has valuable ideas to offer, all you have to do is listen.
- Incentive is effective. The carrot is far better than the stick in any customer service situation. Try giving a bonus or spiff to EACH team member based on the total effectiveness and profitability of the event. If your people receive a commission on sales, make the spiff beyond their usual compensation. This will create more of a team effort.
- Be ready for the party. Invite your customers and have your act together when they attend. This means higher staffing and inventories for the event. Never allow a customer to walk in with high expectations and out with a deflated bubble because you were out of stock or your people were out of energy. Exceed your customers’ expectations.
- Partner with another local business to make the event a “double dip” for your customers. Having two activities in the same general geographical location gives them more of a reason to attend. Today people art short on time so help them out, make it worth their time and effort to visit your place of business.
- Show by actions that you are genuinely pleased that your customers have arrived. Do more than just have an expressionless “parts clerk” hand them a gift box and walk away. If you give a gift, ring a bell or do something exciting when you hand out the goodies. This will reinforce in the mind of your customer that their decision to visit was a valuable one. While you are at it, make it fun too.
Lost opportunity, the chance you had to influence your customer and you blew it. In today’s competitive marketplace, you no longer have the convenience of unlimited chances to influence consumer-purchasing behavior. Today’s consumers have so much more choice than ever before. They are conditioned to make quick decisions. Every moment they are in your place of business is a moment of judgment. Trust me, they do judge quickly. Opportunity like time, once passed, it is gone forever. Sure, you can try again, but they may never come back.
Be aware of other opportunities that slip like sand between your fingers. I am referring to synergistic alliances. A synergistic alliance is any type of partnership, permanent or temporary, where two or more entities come together. They partner to make more happen in their businesses mutually than would have been possible singularly. In the challenge of today’s global competition, working with others simply makes good business sense. It’s simple, two companies advertising the same sales event can double the bang for their individual advertising dollar. Two companies buying from a single vendor can get a better discount or concession than one based on the increased order. Don’t be twice guilty of missing opportunity. Work with others to create the kind of synergy that allows one plus one to equal three. Why not get more?
As I travel the country lecturing to business persons on partnering ideas, I am truly amazed at how many people see the world from “the glass is half empty” point of view. There is no better time than this minute to have a paradigm shift and look at the possibilities. Sure the first half of the decade was difficult for many. Let’s get off the complaining “slow boat” to personal destruction and jump on the “Bullet Train” to Success and Prosperity. Why not, you deserve it!
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.