In this episode, Jim Weiland from SCORE shares a few of his best sales tips for small business owners.
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AB- Andrew Bowen JW- Jim Weiland
AB – It’s another beautiful day in Charlotte, and we’re glad to have you back for another episode of CBR’s B2U podcast, bringing business directly to you, presented by CBRbiz.com. As always, our goal is to connect you to the information you need to start and run a successful business.
Today, we’ll be continuing with the third part of our conversation with Jim Weiland. So far, we’ve discussed how SCORE can help you with getting funding, as well as some great tips for marketing your business. If you haven’t yet, check out parts 1 and part 2 on CBRbiz.com.
Welcome back, Jim, thanks for being here.
JW – Glad to be back.
AB – Yeah! We’ve had such a great conversation here so far, I think specifically about the weather. How we go back and forth between 80 and 50, and we’re back into the spring weather. I hope it stays here and doesn’t get too hot.
JW – Well, it does bring on colds, which, as you know, I’m recovering from.
AB – Great. Well, I’m glad you’re getting better, and we’ll just keep on moving here. So we’ve talked a little bit about funding and marketing, all of which leads to sales. So if I’m a business owner, and I want to increase sales, what would you recommend? And how would SCORE help?
JW – Of the topics that we are talking about today, this is the one that 90%+ of small business owners hate. They don’t like to sell. Interesting, but true. They view selling as some kind of art, which in some cases it is. But they just don’t like to be salespeople, and yet sales are what drive a small business.
There are lots of different ways to do selling as a small business. In my opinion, and that of my fellow mentors, client service is the number one way to sell. So your business has to be known for being client centric. The customer is always right.
It only takes one grumpy wait staff to turn off a person attending your restaurant. Today’s world, they’ll go on the reviews circuit, go into Yelp or wherever they want to go, and they’ll send you a nasty review in a minute.
Conversely, if you do excellent client service, most people aren’t going to take the time to do a review. Some do, but not many. So as a business owner, you have to always be alert to how your staff–and yourself–are interacting with a client.
As an example, I mentioned earlier in another segment that I was in a conference in Goldsboro last week, and it was time for a coffee. There was a little local coffee shop on this restructured Main Street, and I and another gentleman went in. And it wasn’t my vision–and I’m not talking about a Starbucks kind of coffee shop; this is a little local coffee shop. So those are usually great places, but the two gentleman that owned the place immediately asked how the conference was going, where we were from etc, etc. They built a rapport immediately–the coffee, different story.
Would we go back? Yes, because of the client service aspect. We like to be pleased by the people who are providing us what we’re looking for. The message is you start sales with client service.
AB – That’s great, so it’s kind of like communication, where they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. So would 90% of building a business be the actual service to your customers?
JW – Yeah.
AB – Obviously, you have to have a good product, too, but you can have the best product in the world, and not be very pleasant to deal with—and there wouldn’t be much of a market there for you. Right?
JW – Yep, and I can tell you about restaurants in the metro area that I’ve been in where the food is great, and the service is bad, and you don’t go back, and they don’t survive. If you look at a triangle–or a pyramid, I should say–the base is customer service. Then, the next thing that you need to do in improving your sales is some topical areas that you use to do that, and if you’d like I could discuss several of those.
AB – Yeah, that’d be great!
JW – Okay. Promotions. They cost you money, but they build excitement to your business. So what do I mean by promotions? You’re a hair salon, and you’re trying to build your clientele, and you normally charge $52 for the service.
Well, you could say the week before Easter, we’ll do it for $42, and try to bring in more people into your shop during that time. It’s not something you are going to do permanently, but it’s a promotion to get people to come to your business. That is an effective way to increase your through traffic, but remember you’ve got to deliver the same level of customer service, or you’re going to negate anything gained by doing that.
Another area is discounting. Dangerous, but effective. The issue with discounting is you could start…first of all, all businesses have competition. (By the way, you should know your competition, intimately. You should know what they do, how they do it, etc.) The minute you discount, your competition may discount as well. And then you’re in a price war, and price wars never end well for anybody.
On the other hand, there are some legitimate times when you might want to discount. You have a product. The product has a shelf life. Grocery stores do it all the time. Most people, I’m sure, have figured out that when they lower their prices on a lot of products, especially top shelf products, it’s because it’s timing out, so they need to get it off the shelves. That’s a different kind of discounting, but it does increase the amount that you’re selling, and your loss to the inventory aging out is less.
Incentives in general, they can be lots of different things. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, banks used to give you things when you created a savings account. I have a blender from so many years ago that, when I went to Denver, Colorado, the bank we chose gave a blender for x number of dollars we put into a savings account.
AB – And toasters, too, I think.
JW – Yes, and toasters, but those kinds of things do bring people in. They should be connected, we think, with the products you’re trying to present versus independent from them.
One last thought: it’s important for the client to know which ones they’re thinking of using, and then if they’re working with us as their mentor, we have the discussion as to the pros and cons of those kinds of different things to use.
AB – That’s great. So when we talk about ways to increase sales, we know it doesn’t necessarily mean increased profits. Which is okay in most situations, but I imagine it’s very important for the business owner to kind of see where they fit in in this whole service or product delivery spectrum.
So how, really, they interface with clients, and then take feedback from clients to see how they can improve their services in the future. Can you talk a little bit about how a business owner should insert themselves into their business in gathering feedback and making sure they are working towards improving their service to ultimately increase sales, right?
JW – Yes, surveying is everywhere and can be overdone. I mean, I tend to ignore very often…If I go into a particular business, and I go there frequently, and they give me a survey every time, it’s kind of irritating, okay? They should know who I am, if I’m a frequenter; you need to know who your clients are if they’re frequently visiting you because they’re going to pull in other clients.
So let’s not talk about the traditional way of surveying for a second. Let’s chat instead about one-on-one surveying. The most effective input you can get as a business owner is to go talk to your client one-on-one. Find out why they liked what they did and why they didn’t. Spend time with your client; don’t sit behind the counter and ring the cash register. Be out with your clients.
Now small business owners have all the hats, right? So they’re going to have to ring the cash register, too, but they need to connect to their clients. That’s really effective in the product sales area. In retail, it works–you can do it fairly easily. Where it’s very difficult is if you’re a small business, and you’re in the services arena; that’s a little harder because it depends on the service and how impersonal the service might be. But you can still do it. You know who your clients are—you can give them a call, send them an email. But talk to them one-on-one. It takes two seconds of a bad relationship for you to lose a client. It takes a fortune to get them back.
AB – Absolutely. So, everyone, you heard it here first. Customer service is number one, and I’m not biased at all because I grew up in the restaurant business and worked in retail for a number of years, but customer service will get you a long way. Especially, it sounds like, with the proper use of promotions, discounts and other incentives, as long as you keep a good relationship with your client. Is that a fair assessment?
JW – Yes, excellent review, yes.
AB – Great, well, Jim, thank you again for coming on to our show. It has been an absolute pleasure hearing from you. This has been the third segment of our conversation with Jim Weiland from SCORE. Listeners, if you want to learn more about starting and funding your own business, visit CBRbiz.com, or follow us on Twitter @CBRbiz. Stay tuned for our next podcast. Thanks for tuning into CBR’s B2U podcast, bringing business directly to you, presented by CBRbiz.com. Until next time, we mean business.