Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Simple Observation

Based on Presidential decisions, we committed to a military intervention in Vietnam that lasted from 1954 to 1973 at a cost of what would have been trillions in today’s dollars. The troop level commitments varied but by 1967 were estimated at 500,000. There are 58,195 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of those who lost their lives. The estimate on wounded and disabled is upwards of 150,000. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 vets of the 3,000,000 who served over the years of engagement suffer from post-traumatic stress. It is estimated that civilian lives lost in Vietnam were at least 1.5 million and another 600,000 in Cambodia. This was to insure against the “domino theory.”

We invaded Grenada an island (surrounded by water). We supposedly needed to rescue 800 American students. We sent in about 10,000 troops and spent approximately 150 million dollars to subdue a population of 91,000. We subsequently spent another 85 million dollars to repair the damage we did once they had a government we considered appropriate.

We went to war with Iraq (never declared a war by Congress) believing there were weapons of mass destruction. In 2007 there was a study done by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes that this war was costing 720 million dollars a day. The initial invasion involved 248,000 troops and was supported by another 120,000 troops of U.S. allies, most notably British. According to there have been 268,000 lives lost directly related to our presence since 2003.

We are now being told (not asked) that we will be upgrading our force in Afghanistan. We have been fighting this war since 2001. The financial cost for the post 9/11 wars is estimated to be about 4.8 trillion dollars with the death count to civilians and servicemen in the millions.

According to recent reporting by Vice News things are worse for everyone involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan than they were before 9/11.

The point that this all hopes to make is that we do not hesitate to place troops in harm’s way and devote almost unlimited resources bought with borrowed money to effectively kill people. 

According to Google, the pentagon and related spending totaled $598 billion, about 54% of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. discretionary budget. Whether you believe these efforts justified or not and whether you agree with increasing the military budget it seems that everyone would agree that the image of the American Military, when focused properly, can accomplish anything man can envision and that it could benefit from a marketing program that portrayed it as a rebuilding force as well as an effective killer.

With this as a mantra, the proposal could be to bring the entire resources of the U.S. Armed Forces to rebuilding Puerto Rico. The empathy optics that would come with this type of restoration would be good image for the administration that put it in play. The other dynamic with this catastrophe is that this is the only solution that has any chance of being meaningful.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Appointment

There are a number of sales reps in the industry who are regular readers of this blog and while we have discussed in numerous entries how important it is to use them as a resource, this is a repost of an entry that is focused on giving them something to use.

The job of an account manager has become more difficult as the cost of traveling and over-nights has increased, buyers are reluctant to commit and the industry’s competition has grown while sell-through has shrunk. With this in mind it is most important that each appointment with an account have purpose and accomplish certain goals. Those goals should be to establish meaningful relationships as well as to get the order. This involves some of the following including a close "based on space" that hopefully will eliminate the dreaded "waiting on paper" syndrome.

The underlying theme of this discussion of closing a sale by selling to space can be used with any category of goods and in almost any retail situation. We will illustrate this concept with the hypothetical of the apparel rep attempting to place spring apparel for the first time with a head pro with which he/she has been unable until now to get an appointment.

The Appointment:

Arrive early and study the shop as to the type of fixtures, location of fixtures and wall displays and their capacities for apparel both in terms of number of skus and total units.

Pay attention to the extent that the shop is departmentalized. Also make a mental note, albeit a cursory evaluation of how many vendors would comfortably fit in this space.

Introduce yourself to everyone available on staff who typically will be the representative of your product when you leave.

The Presentation:

Make the company prescribed presentation of the line pausing often to ask open-ended questions along the way.

Attempt to determine with these questions the nature of the shop’s business in terms of turn of product, type of clientele, competing brands (successful and unsuccessful) and what price points are important - or not. Obviously the other information you are looking for is what the buyer/head-pro that you are presenting to likes most about what you are showing.

Use this opportunity to express your empathy with their business. Develop the skill of being a good listener as well as presenter. Conveying the impression that you are adept with your product line and are very articulate is important. Conveying that you care about your potential customer’s business is at least as important and starts with being a good listener.

Bob Phibbs (the Retail Doctor) makes the point that “sales are most often lost early in the interaction because the customer for your brand, service or product simply doesn’t trust you.”

The best way to overcome any chance of mistrust is to create trust and the best way to accomplish that is to ask the right open-ended questions, be a good listener and convey empathy.

The Close:

This frankly is where many sales meetings fail. The presentation can be rehearsed but a good close is almost always the result of customized ‘thinking on your feet.”

Distill all the information that you have learned to this point and determine from a merchandising standpoint where best to put in the shop what the head-pro has intimated he likes and may work with his clientele. This becomes the close.

Remember that the close you are now ready to suggest is just that – a suggestion, an idea – and should be put forward with a “how about we try this” attitude.

The ‘Visual to a Yes':

“Mr. Nye you mentioned you particularly liked our ‘Merion Collection’. That lead nesting table as you walk in the shop looks comfortably well merchandised with 18 skus and a bust form.  Let’s put together this look (lay out 18 skus that look great folded together and make sense). We can book it in a typical 1-med, 2-lge, 2-xl, 1-xxl which would make the delivery 108 units and would cost approximately $xxxx.xx.”

“You had also mentioned you thought our Performance Solid was perfect for your membership. This is an in-stock program so we can manage this staple all season and make it a real money-maker. How about we take the four-way that sits behind the lead table and which has 15 inch straight arms and put eight colors of the solid (2 colors per/arm) eight deep per color. Hang the eight shirts on a grid. We can consider this a par-level of 64 units and logoed will cost $xxxx.xx. I would like to come back at your convenience and work with someone on your staff to understand the business importance and the how-to of counting and filling this program.”

“We can book a back-up order for the fashion table assuming a turn of product in 4-6 weeks with another 18 skus that would look like the following or if you are more comfortable we’ll wait and see how the ‘Merion group’ sells through.”

What have you accomplished?

You have created a total visual of your product line in the head-pro’s space with goods that he/she has already specified liking or thinking appropriate. You have taken any and all mystery out of how to move forward with the process. Instead of asking for the business you have suggested exactly what the partnership would involve and assuming the close to be well received only needs a "Yes" to be completed.

Without announcing that you are about to deliver a primer on buying, that’s exactly what you have done. The buyer/head-pro should be realizing that your paint by number close is the way they should be thinking through the rest of their pre-book.
You have established yourself as a good listener and empathetic to the success of your product in their shop. Along these lines you should suggest at this point that at an appropriate time you would like to come back and have a round-table sit-down with the entire staff to discuss your brand, product knowledge, salesmanship and service.

You have established yourself as an “Idea-Man”. You not only know your line but can suggest and describe the important points of the partnership from “buying to space” to raising the level of service of the staff. The sales associate in the territory deemed the “Idea Man” usually gets the first call when there is a tournament or corporate need or any other extra-curricular occurrence.

This is not the only way to close a sale or handle an appointment but it is effective. A typical close in the industry goes something like this. “Our records show that you did $8000.00 with us last season, would you like me to work you up an order for you for that amount and email it to you for approval?” At this point my response is always “What would this order look like and where will we put it?” These are fundamental questions that need to be answered before any ordering should be done and better that those answers be the idea of the rep, especially if we don’t have that sales history yet.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In-House, On-Line

 About the same time as the Y2K scare there were a number of companies competing to own and IPO the online tee-time business -, etc.  Part of the marketing strategy of these efforts was to promise the shops they were partnering with free in-store kiosks where members/customers could make tee times online and/or shop with participating vendors in real-time inventories tied into POS systems, which were also going to be provided. As it turned out most of the promises were smoke and mirrors, most of those companies are gone and the only thing remaining is the bad reputation of the term shop-kiosk.

Daniel Island Club

One of the first entries on this blog in 2009 entitled ‘The Climate in Orlando’ references reducing inventories by cutting back the space you need to merchandise with a sitting area. One of the asides mentioned in that discussion was that this area could be a spot where shop staff could sit and go through readily available catalogs of partnered vendors and make special order recommendations.

This entry will suggest taking that concept one step further by adding a laptop to the area with a desktop of icon links to all of the major vendors affiliated with the shop. Envision this laptop sitting on a coffee table in front of a small sofa that used to be functional only as a place to sit and try on golf shoes and where now customers can basically point and click to the entire inventory of goods that you have access to by virtue of the shop’s accounts. The backdrop for this desktop of links could be the message that the shop is in the business of servicing the members/regulars corporate and tournament needs. This is obviously an effort to drive the special order and corporate business, but it also accomplishes some things that are more subtle and perhaps, not quite so apparent.

Most customers today fall into one of two categories: Customer A – the computer savvy, who like most of the population, are increasing their online shopping exponentially every year; or Customer B – the computer fearful who have trouble opening their email let alone point and clicking to drill down to a leather jacket from Peter Millar.

Sand Hills Golf Club

 The laptop kiosk being suggested would intrigue Customer A to take the time to become increasingly familiar with all the goods and services your shop can make available. More interesting perhaps is the opportunity for your staff to teach Customer B how easy it is to navigate the desktop and shop online; more of the ‘above and beyond’ service to which we keep aspiring.

The process of creating this desktop should involve asking the following questions:

·        Do the vendors you are researching have web sites that sell to the public? If they do you may want to reconsider your account.

·        Does your mix of vendors include categories such as tailored clothing, lady’s handbags, luggage, crystal, blue jeans and tennis shoes. This is the perfect way to provide these categories with a minimum of - or no inventory?

·        Does the shop want to go after ad specialty categories such as pencils, name-tags, key chains, tee shirts; who are these vendors and how do we open accounts with them?

·        Do we have someone on staff that has the computer savvy to make this seamless and can they be incentivized to take ownership of the project?

·        Could this concept work better in the locker room or the 19th hole?

·        What is going to be the best way to introduce and market this concept to the customer base or membership? Obvious are newsletter and email announcements, but a special order contest among staff members could be fun also.

 Make the screen saver a rolling slide show of pictures from the member guest or corporate outing.  Also icons to vendor videos would provide in-depth product knowledge that could enhance sales. This will certainly attract attention and promote conversation.

For many shops, whether at private clubs or public facilities with a regular customer base, the special order business can represent as much as 20-25% of the total revenue per year and with a healthy hard-goods business, maybe more. Special orders other than the result of a lesson and club-fitting are almost always the idea of the customer. The kiosk will help inspire more of these ideas in-house. If you are already doing this or something similar please leave a comment.