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  • Reaching Your Peak
    Evaluating Your Sales Team

    One of the fastest and least expensive ways to make money is to convert more of your shoppers into buyers. Close just two more sales each day and you could add $1,500 or more per month in sales.

    You probably already use a variety of professional selling techniques, but are you leaving some important steps out of your sales process? Are you conveying to your employees what techniques they should use to be more effective? Chances are, you aren't getting all of the sales you could. This self-assessment can help you see areas that need improvement. Improving the performance of everyone in your shop in just one area could mean thousands of dollars in additional income.

    1. Are you introducing yourself?

    What's in a name? A lot. Most people prefer to do business with someone they know. So, when customers come in your shop, use your name when you greet them: "Hello, I'm Mary. How can I help you?" Make introducing yourself a habit, so you never forget.

    The same is true for greeting telephone callers. Develop a standard greeting for all of your employees to use when answering the phone. That way you can be assured that every customer is welcomed in the same professional manner: "Mary's Flower Shop, this is Susan."

    2. Are you asking the right questions?

    Most people have a purchase in mind when they enter your shop. To use your expertise and experience to help them make the best decision, you need to efficiently determine their needs for the item. Open a dialog by asking "How may I help you today?" when you introduce yourself. This shows customers you are ready to serve them. And it gives them the opportunity to explain their wants, needs and concerns. "I'm looking for a Mother's Day gift." Or, "I need a silk arrangement."

    If the person doesn't offer hints about what he or she is looking for, gently ask a few probing questions, "Are you looking for something for yourself or a friend?" or "Are you looking for an arrangement or cut flowers?" Use any approach that suits your personality but be thorough in determining the customer's needs.

    3. Are you making good recommendations?

    After you understand what a customer is looking for, offer two or three options that will satisfy their needs. Surround the best option with a higher- and lower-priced option.

    If the person doesn't like your first recommendations, find out why before you offer another. The answer should give you some clues that will steer you to the right product: "You don't seem too enthusiastic about this arrangement. What would you like to see different?"

    If they're looking for an item that you simply do not carry, offer alternatives. However, don't pressure them to accept. You will have a better chance of keeping them as a customer if you refer them to another shop. If you call the shop on their behalf to be sure that they have the item, you'll win a customer for life.

    4. Are you letting customers leave?

    Some people truly want to browse around your shop to get ideas. When this is the case, give them free reign with some directions as to where they might find some popular items: "Please feel free to look around. You'll find our greeting cards on a rack in the back, and the giftware, plants and candles are to your right. If I can be of any help, please let me know."

    However, keep an eye on them. After they have had a few minutes to look around, approach them and say, "I noticed you've been looking at silk arrangements." Then remain silent so the customer will have a chance to ask a question or tell you what he or she wants.

    5. Do you know your products, services and policies?

    Customers buy more from people they trust. If your sales team knows your products well, they will earn the trust quickly. Everyone needs to be familiar with all of the products your shop sells — recipe arrangements, wedding and party designs, giftware, greeting cards and wire service designs, for example. They should understand the characteristics of particular flowers — how long they should last, care, handling and price.

    Employees need to know your shop policies, prices, delivery schedules and fees. Also, they should know your order-processing procedures, including how to handle new or prepayments. An uninformed employee can inadvertently promise something you cannot deliver. When this happens, customers can feel betrayed and trust is eroded.

    6. Do you handle dissatisfied customers well?

    You can't please all of the people all of the time. So prepare for unhappy customers before they appear. A deliberate, rehearsed "script" designed for simple situations can help your employees handle complaining customers like a pro: "I'm sorry your bouquet arrived wilted, Mrs. Smith. Can we bring a new one to you on our next delivery this afternoon?"

    Empower front-line employees to handle complaints whenever possible. Only when the problem cannot be resolved should it be referred to the shop manager.

    7. Do you ask for the sale every time?

    Many sales are lost simply because the sales person never asks for the sale. Good questions and active listening will give you good clues for ways to close a sale. Many times customers will place an order without being prompted. But, other times, you'll need to move them to a decision. "Would you like us to deliver the roses or the spring bouquet?" or "When would be the best time for us to deliver this to your mother?"

    Add-on items rarely sell themselves and should always be offered. "Will you need a birthday card, mylar balloon or plush toy to go with that?" or "Would you like that in a ceramic or brass container?"

    8. Are you recording customer information?

    Starting with a customer's first visit, lay the groundwork for their return visit. Keep a record (card file or computer record) on each customer, including name, contact information and each purchase they have made.

    Knowing the customer's personal preferences will cut down on the amount of time you'll need to spend in the "discovery" phase of the next sale. When they return to your shop, pull out their record, use the information it contains and update it. Your customers will be impressed with how much you "remember" about them and with the level of appreciation you show for their business.

    9. Are you teaching your employees to be sales professionals?

    Few employees will "just pick up" all the information they need to sell at their peak. It's vital that all of your salespeople be trained so that your team delivers a consistent level of service. Conduct regular orientation and training sessions. Make up a checklist of various items you think they should know. This may differ from one area to another, however, some cross-training can be helpful, especially when someone is out sick or on vacation.

    Use articles in publications, video or audio tapes that will heighten their awareness of sales techniques and service excellence. Bring your team together and discuss examples of how professional sales and customer service principles can be applied in your shop. And be sure to give employees positive guidance and instruction when they could have performed better, as well as a pat on the back when they do a good job.

    Setting a good example is one of the best ways to influence the behavior of your employees. If you are a sales professional, they will learn a lot from how you treat customers.

    10. Do you formally reward your employees?

    Your employees will be even more motivated to sell more if you reward performance with incentives. A formal incentive program can be simple and effective. Reward individually or as a group when specific goals are met. Use this assessment to help your sales team develop the skills they need to improve their sales.

    Obviously, you aren't going to send all of your employees to outside classes. However, you can make a significant difference in their ability to convert shoppers into buyers by providing regular training and feedback on their performance.

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