CSD Associates’ Ashley Evans outlines the need to present a clear message — and one that your customers can engage with.
The scene opens with a dishevelled middle aged man sat on the pavement in the bank district of London. In front of him is a tin cup and, propped against the wall beside him, is a piece of cardboard with “I’m blind” printed on it.
People are strolling along in the spring sunshine and the odd one drops some loose change into his cup as they pass. A well dressed city lady does so — smelling her expensive perfume he calls out “thank you miss”. As she carries on she hesitates, turns back, picks up his cardboard, turns it over and writes something on the back of it — putting it back against the wall.
The blind man knows something is going on but feels for his sign and, finding it still there, waits patiently for other kind people to pass by and contribute. Gradually he is aware that more and more people are stopping and tossing money into his cup — then an hour or so later, when his cup is virtually full, he smells the same perfume and hears the clack of heels on the pavement. “Miss, Miss”, he calls out, “what did you do with my sign?” “I just wrote something different on it,” she said. “I put, ‘It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it’. That’s all,” and she walked on…
This is the ‘story board’ from a video clip I acquired for use on Leadership and Management courses that we used to run before business development largely squeezed out the training side of the business. It was used to stress the importance of having a clear message for the team you are leading in order to get the right reaction and ensure your staff buy-in to the corporate philosophy.
It is difficult to achieve this without clearly stated objectives — to achieve this, we used to recommend the definition and focussing on the so-called CCP1. The Core Purpose should highlight the three key aspects of the business, for example — look after the customers, look after the stocks and keep the admin up-to-date. All activities should contribute in some way to one or more of these objectives.
You may well have different Core Purposes for you business and / or you may define them in a different way, but it is a useful process to think about the business in this way and discuss your thoughts with colleagues to define these for yourself.
Having defined these, you should then ask yourself ‘what would be happening’ and ‘what would the business look like’ if these Core Purposes were being achieved.
Taking the ‘look after customers’ objective, you would probably come up with things like:
I am sure that there are many more, but these are your SFT4 (as Bamber Gascoigne would have said!).
The really effective part of this approach is then to take the above and discuss it with colleagues, asking them to come up with actions which will contribute to achieving the above. You may need to lead them in the right direction, but the important things is that they are involved in the process and see themselves as having come up with the answers. These can then be set down as standards to which all company personnel are expected to operate. Managers will need to lead by example and then manage staff in relation to these standards.
The beauty of this approach is that, in difficult times, it does not need any significant investment. Largely the ‘cost’ is in terms of time and ‘brain energy’. The spin-off is not only achievement of objectives through more targeted activity, it will also lead to higher levels of staff motivation through involvement, more success and a better working environment. This, in turn, rubs off on customers in that they pick up on a positive and interactive atmosphere when they visit your premises — which helps the positive spiral of service and sales.
Customers don’t want to visit a supplier manned by miserable so-and-so’s but, given the hard times, it is easy to get stuck in this rut. Getting stuck in a rut is not a problem in itself — it is staying stuck that is so, get unstuck!
That’s the operational side of a clear message through simple objective statement and defining the route to achieving them. However, the principle can also be applied to the sales side. A key ‘statement’ for merchants is that they are there to serve the trade, but the message can often become unclear in relation to the way that they project themselves in the Trade Counter area.
Too often there is a tendency to attempt to generate extra [cash] sales through the introduction / extension of self service facilities in a retail way which gives out mixed messages to the core [trade] customer — i.e. “they’ve gone DIY” because there is a lot of nice pretty gondola shelving in a carpeted area with suspended ceiling and soft lighting displaying the ‘pretty’, pre-packed, retail products whilst keeping the ‘trade products’ out of site in an inaccessible warehouse.
To satisfy Trade Customers, achieve high levels of FCR2 and CTA3 it is necessary to ‘put your whole range in danger of being sold’ [yes!! – not managed to get it in for a while!], using the whole site —warehouse and yard, as well as Trade Counter — as a ‘sales site’ and using equipment creatively to display / present as well as store products. To achieve this, you need to be creative in the mix and use of racking used. Put another way, we have not yet come across a product in a merchant’s premises that we could not ‘merchandise’… Now there’s a challenge!
So, don’t just tell people you are blind; tell them it’s a lovely day and you can’t see it OR, more positively, say what you mean to the customer, making your offer clear and unambiguous and your tin will be filled!
1 Corporate Core Purposes
2 Frequent Customer Return
3 Customer Transaction Analysis
4 Starter for Ten