Growing Your Business

5 Things To Do When Retail Sales are Slow

I know this doesn't happen to everyone but sometime after the 4th of July business slows down or seems to stop.  What happened??  Summer happened - the kids get out of school, the weather changes, people have worked hard and are now ready to take off.
What to do?  Here's what the experts say to not only make sales now but set yourself up for the best finish of any year you've had.

  1. Don't let up - keep working hard if not harder:
  • Move your store around to create a new look.
  • Clean shop.
  • Evaluate your product lines and research new ones.
  • Inspire your sales staff.
     2.  Connect with established clients
  • Get to know your customers better - engage in conversation.
  • Create a customer database and contact them on a regular basis -birthdays, sales flyer, newsletter, etc..

     3.  Work on improving your skill sets:
  • Marketing - collect e-mail addresses.
  • Social Media - ask customers to like your Facebook fan page.
  • Don't have a Facebook fan page?  Create one.
  • Research and look for upcoming trends.
     4.  Make goals for the 4th quarter:
  • Seek new markets - consider an online store.
  • Train staff to collect customer information.
  • Have a themed open house.
  • Hold a special invitation only sale for customers who have bought in the last year.
     5.  Stay positive!  
  • Feed your mind everyday - make a list of positive reading materials and read them!
  • Encourage your staff to develop relationships with your customers.
You can make this the best year ever!

This article is a good reminder to always be thinking of ways to delight your customer.  Lowering prices is not necessarily the optimal way to bring in more business.  Great customer service will do more in the way of having a repeat customer.

By Hiroshi Mikitani

Everybody understands how crucial it is to delight the customer. But, because raising satisfaction is such an obvious point, people tend to forget about it.
What I am referring to here is certainly not the kind of “customer satisfaction” that is talked about in television commercials, and creative copywriting found in newspapers and magazine ads.
What is neglected is the need to constantly and seriously think about whether customers are really being delighted, and to continually put efforts into raising customer satisfaction.
For example, when companies ignite a price war, you might think that this is by its very nature for the good of their customers. But sometimes it happens that when a company strives to bring its prices down just one cent lower than those of its competitors, the quality of the service deteriorates, and customer satisfaction also goes down. You end up with a “cheap and nasty” business.
When this happens, it’s because at some point along the way, the company has forgotten to make the effort to think seriously about delighting the customer.
The true essence of business lies in the ability to satisfy opposing interests. Obviously the seller wants to sell their products at as high a price as possible. And the buyer wants to buy products at as low a price as possible. To put it simply, there is a conflict of interests. They’re as far apart as the two opposing banks of a river. Delighting the customer creates a bridge between the two sides.
If they are delighted with the service, the customer will pay a price commensurate with their satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is what makes the customer’s benefit and the service provider’s benefit go in the same direction.

The Sales World is Going Mobile. Are You Moving or Standing?

by Jeffrey Gitomer
When The Who recorded the song Going Mobile in 1971, they had no idea what the future held, nor that they were the predictors of it.
They thought going mobile was all about being on the road, and maybe flying on an airplane. But today, going mobile means a whole lot more.
Any business today that isn’t going mobile is going backwards.
Any business today that isn’t going mobile is losing to a competitor that is.
Any business today that isn’t going mobile is admitting their failure to see the PRESENT.
• How good is your mobile app? Does it serve the customer, or just you? Where’s the value? Can I easily get what I want? Can I pay easily? Can I schedule a service appointment? Make a comment? Can I also call you and get right to a human?
• Is all of your training and product instruction/information downloadable? Your manuals?
• How easy is it for people to read your message? What’s the format? Is it made-for-mobile, or just a poor adaptation of your blog or website?
• Size matters. (The size of type, that is.) Why not subscribe to your own posts and see. If I need to adjust the size, tell me how to view it in mobile format.
• Is everything you sell downloadable? Can I click, buy, download, and listen or watch in a minute or two? (Like iTunes or Kindle.) Think about it – more than 100 billion downloads can’t be wrong.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Instagram completely ignored the computer in favor of smartphones and tablets. How are they doing? HINT: Facebook didn’t buy Instagram as an investment – they bought out of fear.
NOTE WELL: Every major company has a mobile app so you can easily access their stuff. Every social media channel has a mobile app reliant on smartphone and tablet use for as much as 50% of their traffic.
Social media is there at the forefront of mobile app development – whether you’re there or not. Social media is the PERFECT place for your customers to share their message and their praise, and voice their concerns.
Going mobile is not an option.
REALITY: Mobile apps are now accessed more than the Internet. Mobile apps are an imperative, not an option, or an added service. They are the future. Your future. If you don’t have one, you are a jackapp. ;-)
BIGGER REALITY: The iPad is the new laptop. The smartphone is the NOW communication device, growing by millions weekly.
BIGGEST REALITY: The easier it is for people to access what you have, the more they will buy from you.
CONFESSION: WE ARE IN THE SAME PREDICAMENT. That’s why I’m writing this. To put myself on notice that my own offerings need to be ahead of the market and ahead of my competition.
Here’s my present situation and what I’m going to be doing to ensure my leadership position for the next decade:
• I have an app. Unfortunately it’s only available for the iPhone. BUT, we’re adding an additional cross-platform mobile application that will allow easier access to my website and all of my existing books and CDs. This app will be easier to use, easier to navigate, and easier for customers to purchase and pay.
• All of my products will be available as downloads.
• We will be providing an on-demand subscription service to all of my training offerings and all of my books on laptop, tablet, and smartphone – oh yes, even for desktop.
CAUTION: Don’t just think about how business is being done today. Think of how “mobile” has progressed it, making it faster and easier to conduct and how online, tablet, and smartphones have transformed the e-commerce economy to the mobile economy. It’s here, and it’s not going away.
Look around and take notice of the non-traditional changes taking place:
• Coffee shop offices. Any Starbucks will reveal people running their business from their iPad and their app.
• Mobile accessibility both for the purpose to connect and to purchase is becoming dominant among retailers.
• In sales calls and presentations, iPad (tablet) mobile brochures are replacing print, and iPad (tablet) presentations, and GoToMeeting appointments are replacing traditional sales presentations.
TODAY’S CUSTOMER: Be where they are, when they are – on demand. It’s not just smart business – it’s smartphone business.
TOMORROW’S CUSTOMER: When our four-year-old daughter hands me my iPad and says, “Papa, download this,” you know what the next generation will be doing and buying (sooner than you think).

How To Use Pinterest For Small Business

Keeping up with the latest developments in marketing for your small business  means staying up-to-date on the world of social media. Aside from the challenge of simply staying informed about new platforms and changes to existing platforms, figuring out how to maneuver within the sometimes overwhelming sea of actual socializing to make your company’s presence felt – and not ignored or resented – presents a serious challenge to small business owners and marketing professionals.
Not to add to that challenge (but we’re about to), the time has come for all small businesses to take a look at the new kid on the social media block, Pinterest. Realizing that you could be using Pinterest to engage with your online audience is a far different thing from knowing how. And even knowing how is sometimes a far cry from knowing how to best engage with them. So to start sorting all that out, and to build a plan for your small business to start “pinning”, here are some tips to follow:
  • Think visually
    • Across all social media avenues, posts with strong images attached to them get on average three times as much user engagement as those with no images. This is especially true on Pinterest. The more immediately captivating your pin is, the more likely it is to be repinned. No matter what your content, find a stunning image to accompany it. Or better yet, translate your data into charts and infographics. Infographics are insanely popular. Not only will it appeal to your audience based on the content, but it will reach a whole new audience just for its sleek design.
  • Pin book covers
    • If you, or someone in your company, has a book or e-book, pin that cover! This is a visual medium, but people do dig deeper into posts. So if you want people to download your book, or read a specific excerpt, post that cover. They’ll know what to do.
  • Have a guest pinner board
    • Getting your followers involved in your boards (collections of pins) is a great idea for small businesses. It increases your user engagement, makes your followers feel more personally invested in your brand, and gives you automatic feedback and insight into the interests and opinions of your audience. Similarly, creating a board specifically to share stories and feedback from customers is a great idea to represent how deeply your small business wants to connect and service its clients.
  • Introduce yourself
    • As is true on all social media, your small business will have a stronger brand if it’s built on the actual people running the social media outlets. Introduce yourselves! Pin a photo of an employee’s face, attached to a profile or fun interview with them. Post one per week, and collect them all on a board that serves as a truly personal, vibrant company profile. It’s thePinterest version of an “About Us” page.
  • Pin videos
    • You’re surely getting the idea by now that Pinterest is a hyper visual environment, and the extends beyond just 2D images. Post videos either produced in-house, or from relevant industry sources. This can either be content that directly communicates something from your business to your customers, or something you think would interest them. Remember: social media for small business is almost entirely about becoming a hub for information that’s of interest to your clients and customers, not just about selling your particular business. Online users want to see brands that are about their needs and wants, instead of just about your business agenda.
  • Promote deals with graphics
  • Translating any deals, sales, or special offers into smart-looking graphic coupons is a powerful way to boost their circulation and further develop your company’s brand as one that doesn’t just offer great deals, but looks chic while doing so.
article taken from Forbes publication

Planning for the Best 2013 Ever!
by Lydia Reza

We may not have a crystal ball but planning for the New Year, in good times and bad, brings a load of benefits to your business.  The first few months of the year are the most critical. The first quarter is the best time to plan for results that will last all year long.  

We all have a story, what is yours? For many years my story was that everything and everyone else came first before focusing on my business – my kids, family, friends, church, etc.  I know those are all very important but so was I and I just never put myself or my business first. 
Setting goals and focusing my actions to achieve those goals has made all the difference in the world.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started planning for a successful 2013:

  • Plan a brainstorming session.  Get together with a group of like-minded people and help each other come up with creative ideas to achieve your goals. Two years ago I asked a few entrepreneurs to join a mastermind group.  Since 2012 we have met monthly and shared our goals, got valuable advice from each other and set new goals to achieve and to be held accountable for by the next meeting.  The results to our businesses and creative endeavors has been phenomenal.  I cannot say enough about how effective this is as a tool.
  • If you haven't been using social media the new year would be a great time to start.  Create a blog; sign up for a business Facebook page and get customers to "like" your business; create a Twitter account; join Pinterest.  Then set a weekly appointment to blog.  Tweeting and posting on Facebook should be done once a day or as time permits. Pinterest can be so addictive that you may have to set limits.  You will be amazed at what effective marketing tools these are.  And they're free!!  I have customers that will only respond to texts or facebook messages and that’s alright by me.
  • Make reservations to attend the wholesale trade shows in January.  It's a great way to see the trends.  Make an appointment with a local sales representative.  They will be able to tell you about new lines, promotions, discounts and vendors that offer dating. Or it may be you are looking for a sales rep to sell your wares?
  • This is a great time to plan your yearly budget.  Prepare a forecast for the entire year based on your previous year. Review the last year's sales on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.
  • Read your industry magazines and newsletters.
  • Change your story.  Discover what the payoff is for staying in the same place you’ve always been and be willing to let go of that payoff. 
  • Make the decision to follow through on your business plan.  This is where the hard works begins to make 2013 your best year ever!
You will be amazed at the results!

I can tend to be a proscratinator and time waster so I am going to print the following article and post it on my bulletin board as a reminder of how precious time is.


The Opportunity in TIME

By Napoleon Hill

On the next occasion when you find yourself wasting a single second of this precious agent of OPPORTUNITY, TIME, copy the following resolution, commit it to memory, and start immediately to carry it out:
My Commitment to Doctor Time:
1. Time is my greatest asset, and I shall relate myself to it on a budget system which provides that every second not devoted to sleep shall be used for self-improvement.
2. In the future I shall regard the loss, through neglect, of any portion of my Time as a sin, for which I must atone by the better use in the future of an equivalent amount of it.
3. Recognizing that I shall reap that which I sow, I shall sow only the seeds of service which may benefit others as well as myself, and thereby throw myself in the way of the great Law of Compensation.
4. I shall so use my Time in the future that each day will bring me some measure of peace of mind, in the absence of which I shall recognize that the seed I have been sowing needs reexamination.
5. Knowing that my habits of thought become the patterns which attract all the circumstances affecting my life through the lapse of Time, I shall keep my mind so busy in connection with the circumstances I desire that no Time will be left to devote to fears and frustrations, and the things I do not desire.
6. Recognizing that, at best, my allotted Time on the earth plane is indefinite and limited, I shall endeavor in all ways possible to use my portion of it so that those nearest me will benefit by my influence, and be inspired by my example to make the best possible use of their own Time.
7. Finally, when my allotment of Time shall have expired, I hope I may leave behind me a monument to my name - not a monument in stone, but in the hearts of my fellow men - a monument whose marking will testify that the world was made a little better because of my having passed this way.
8. I shall repeat this Commitment daily during the remainder of my allotment of Time, and back it with BELIEF that it will improve my character and inspire those whom I may influence, to likewise improve their lives.
Source: You Can Work Your Own Miracles. Fawcett Columbine Book. 1971. Pgs. 118 & 119.
Napoleon Hill Signature

PHONE COACHING:  Coaching sessions geared towards product development, finished product, sales tools, putting it out in the marketplace. 

I found this great article in Entrepreneur Magazine:

So you've invented the next great gadget, and you're sure it'll be a hit. In fact, you've got cartons of inventory stored in every room of your house that you're itching to sell, sell, sell. Your test market said they love it, but how can you reach the legions of consumers you're sure will want to buy it?
Welcome to Sales 101. While there are countless books you can read about sales and marketing, here's a relatively simple, proven strategy that'll enable you to build your market and grow your sales.
Create a Sales Plan
First, define your market as accurately as possible so you have a deeper understanding of exactly who you're selling to. For example, instead of all women, it may be working women with above-average incomes and kids under age 5. Instead of all men, it may be divorced men in their 40s with six-figure salaries. The more specific you get, the more accurately you'll be able to target your sales and marketing efforts, choosing the sales channels most receptive to your product.
Next, you'll need to develop a sales plan. Before you groan, "Another plan," understand this can be a simple document for your eyes only that'll help you organize and think through your sales strategy. Write it in a way that makes sense for you. Typically, it should include the following:
  • Sales goals: These goals should be specific and measurable, not something like selling a million units. Base them on the nature of your product and try to break them down into manageable parts. For example, sell 50 units to end-users in 30 days and sell 100 units to local independent retailers in six months.
  • Sales activities: These are your tactics--how you plan to make the sale. You may say you'll sell direct-to-consumer through a website or via craft shows, for instance. Or this part of the plan may include activities like developing a sell sheet to send to independent retail stores.
  • Target accounts: Your sales plan should also include the accounts you want to sell to. If it's end-users, for example, plan how you're going to reach them through eBay, classified ads or your website.
  • Timelines: Put dates to all of the above elements so you can define your steps within a realistic timeline. Don't forget that your timelines should be fluid--if you're underachieving, your sales plan can help you figure out why and define the corrective steps you need to take.
Finally, follow a proven process for growing sales over time. While it would be fabulous to have Wal-Mart carry your product right out of the gate, it may not be realistic. Most large retailers want to see a track record of successful sales before agreeing to take on a new product.
Build Your MarketTo build your market, begin by selling directly to end-users. This'll give you confidence that there's demand for your product and will also create referenceable customers that you can contact for product and packaging feedback before you hit the bigger leagues. So where can you reach your end-users?
The web is one highly effective channel, and you can reach your market through your own website or via a site like eBay. You can also tap into your own personal network as you begin. Host a home party to share your product with friends and friends-of-friends, sell through local community groups and e-mail your network.
Once you get feedback directly from your customers, refine the packaging and price point before approaching your next market--wholesalers. You'll probably start with small, independently owned, local stores. It's a good idea to start with them before hitting larger chain stores because it's easier to get in touch with the direct decision-maker, and they're more inclined to take on new, unique or hard-to-find items to differentiate themselves from larger stores. To sell to these retailers, be prepared and bring a product sell sheet, photos, product samples (if possible) and a succinct introductory letter to explain what's in it for them, highlighting your product's profit margin, features and benefits, and proven sales record.
Expand to New MarketsOnce you've established sales strength with independent retailers and are ready to support new markets, it's time to sell to the big guns. Of course, exactly who those big guns are will depend on your product. For some, it's powerhouse general mass retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target, while other products will fit more specialized but equally powerful retailers, like Williams-Sonoma, The Sharper Image and Sephora.
Note that when dealing with these major accounts, the sale is just the beginning of the deal. Handling fulfillment, returns, rollbacks, slotting fees, advertising and more will require strengthening your business's infrastructure and resources.
But back to the sale. What's the best way to approach a larger retailer? Here's a quick cheat sheet:
  • Get the correct buyer: One of your biggest challenges is finding the right buyer within a large organization, so do your homework. If you're experiencing roadblocks, consider hiring a distributor or manufacturer's rep who already has established relationships in your industry.
  • Be prepared: Develop a presentation and have professional-looking sell sheets ready. Your product should also have packaging that's ready to go.
  • Know your target: Understand what products they already carry and how yours will fit in. Don't waste your time pitching to a retailer who's unlikely to carry your product.
  • Take advantage of special programs: Some mass retailers, such as Wal-Mart, have local purchase programs that give managers authority to try local items. And other retailers may have different initiatives, such as minority business programs.
  • Be patient: It can take up to a year or longer before you see your product on store shelves, so don't get frustrated. And if the final answer is no, try to turn it into a learning experience.
Finally, remember there are other sales channels besides the traditional brick-and-mortar retail store. Catalogs, TV shopping networks and online stores can also be excellent methods for reaching your customers
Top Tactics for Healthy Customer Service
By Barbara Wold
1. Hire the Best People You Can Find
The life blood of any service operation is the front line staff, the ones who have more contact with customers than anyone else.

2. Develop a Success Culture
The culture of a customer service organization is critically important. One or two bad apples can, and will, if not removed, ruin the barrel.
3. Look for the Real Source of Initial Customer Contacts
Most customers don’t contact your organization because of a customer service issue -- at least not initially anyway. Look for what has caused the contact.
4. Look After and Empower Your Front-line People
Make sure your front-line people have the systems, information and processes they need to satisfy their customers during the first contact.
5. Be Proactive
If you have an on-going customer issue, never wait for them to contact you to check what has happened about their problem.
6. Focus on First Contact Fix
Focus on tracking, analyzing and removing the drivers of repeat contacts. Never fall into the trap of driving down contact resolution times to the extent that it risks not satisfying all of the customers' questions or concerns.
7. Treat Complaints as a Blessing
Complaints are a gift -- cherish them. Every complaint is an opportunity to make things right, review and improve your processes, and impress your customer. It’s the customers who don’t complain that go to a competitor -- so make it easy to complain and put your best people at your complaint desk.
8. Coach, Coach and Coach Again
Training and then frequent coaching and feedback are a key factor in supporting customer service advisors to quickly achieve competence, and to build upon that to become role models for other staff.

Barbara Wold is an international speaking professional, author and business strategist. She can be reached at

Taking Your New Product to Market